Friday, October 22, 2010


My yesterday looked like this: School and babysitting little MaryAnna in the morning; two girls to Union City for piano in the early afternoon, plus a quick run to Wal-Mart and the bank while I had wheels; hurry home so Martha could teach a piano lesson, and I'm checking math tests and Chemistry homework in the background; a quick stop next door to see Grammy, then off for my walk on the farm; back home, time to cook dinner; mix a batch of snack mix (yum!) and then clean up the kitchen; kids tagged for daily chores; review two upcoming articles for the Soli Deo Gloria column and get them out to our writers' group; read through lesson for this Saturday's women's brunch again and begin reviewing material for next month's brunch....Time for a late-night pot of coffee!

You don't even want to know what my tomorrow looks like. Let's just say, for starters, I have three places to be at 10:00 tomorrow morning and am wondering how Hermione Granger pulled off being in multiple Hogwart's classes at the same time!

For someone who tries very hard to keep life slow and simple, I find that things have been a little crazy around here lately....and it looks like it will only get busier as we move into November and December. Seems crazy is the new normal.

I'm so glad I still remember my Lamaze breathing techniques. If you see me out racing around anytime soon, I'll probably be taking slow, focused, deep breathes...and maybe counting.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


My teenagers and I are currently working through a study/overview of the Bible produced by Ligonier Ministries (check out Dust to Glory here). First we looked at Creation, in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. Then, in Genesis 3, the Fall. Here, only three chapters into the Bible, we have our first parents willfully disobeying the God who created and loved them. Before they've even wiped the juice from their chins, Adam and Eve make several new acquaintances: guilt, shame, nakedness, fear, deceit. Terrified of the God in whom they had once delighted, our parents run for the bushes. God comes looking for them in the cool of the evening, just as He had before, seeking their fellowship. But rather than running toward the God they were created to glorify, Adam and Eve run even deeper into the trees.

This is what every human on the planet - save one - has been doing every since. Running from God. Whether vaguely aware of our inadequacy or painfully and undeniably certain of our guilt and shame, we run. Run away, and keep on running.

But here is an amazing twist to the story. In my honking big copy of the Bible, the Fall occurs on page 12. We fallen humans start running. Then, for the next 1862 pages, God pursues. God pursues His people, His beloved, beginning right there in Genesis chapter 3, and continuing on through the last verse of Revelation. God pursues His fallen children, redeems us, addresses our shame and guilt, restores us to fellowship, sanctifies us, causes us once again to truly delight in Him rather than to fear and flee from Him. And He does this, NOT because we are seeking Him...because we aren't. He does this, because He loves us. And, being our sovereign, wise, all-powerful Creator, God finds us in our hiding places and brings us back into the light. He doesn't lose a single one of His children.

A friend and I were reading together in the book of Jude Tuesday evening. This tiny, next-to-the-last book of the Bible ends with this doxology: Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Pursued, caught, held captive by the love and beauty of my Redeemer...and one day, as it was in the very beginning, standing in the presence of the glory of God, with great joy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


November will soon be here, and then Thanksgiving! Time to stock up on fall-colored paper, tape, and sharpie markers. I thought I'd share one of our family's annual holiday traditions....

Using red, orange, and yellow construction paper, we cut out a stock pile of fall-colored leaves (think hundreds). One of the kids creates a large brown tree trunk, which is then taped to the dining room wall. Each day in November, everyone writes down two or three things we are thankful for on the leaves and we add them to the tree. Some "thankful leaves" are serious - like gratitude for our church family and friends. Some are totally silly - like thankfulness for pizza (Tom's favorite food) and for indoor toilets! By Thanksgiving, the wall is completely covered with brightly-colored leaves. It's always fun to see what is added to the tree each day, and it is a blessing to share with each other what things we are grateful for in this life.

Family life at our house certainly has it's share of ups and downs, of difficulties, of crabby days. But making leaves for our Thankful Tree? That is always a happy occasion.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Lovely weather for a walk this evening (Thursday) - cool, sunny, just a hint of a breeze. The sun was burning up the western horizon while a sliver of moon looked on. Out walking - and thinking - I saw....

One red-tail hawk exploded from the top of a tall sycamore tree, a flash of white and red, his shrill kree! slicing the air like the wail of a bereaved lover.

Two owls, one hidden in the western treeline of the back hayfield, one in the eastern treeline. Their loud calls like the musical boom of timpani, back and forth. Hoo-ooo-OOO!

Three sleeping sisters. Three great ridges, tall hills, running parallel like giant fingers. Up (breathe!), down, up (breathe!), down, up (breathe!), down. Time to turn for home!

Four white-tail deer. Motionless, heads high, ears alert. A flash, a leap, and they were gone, their dusty brown coats disappearing among the trees.

Five shiny black crows. Stately gentlemen, offended at being disturbed, rose from the brittle grass and complained all the way to the nearest tree top.

Six wood ducks, impossibly fast, whirring overhead enroute to the old pond.

Twelve glossy black cows, smelling of earth and grass and fresh air. Rip, munch, crunch, grazing in the pasture.

Fifty-three Canada geese, a living, trumpeting Vee painted against the fading sky.

Brown leaves crunched underfoot. I wondered, Where do the fish go, and the snakes, when drought burns up the fields and licks the creekbeds dry as Egypt?

Back at the barn, three red horses nickered Hello and invited me to stop and scratch their ears. Three timid barn kitties bolted for cover, peeking from evening shadows as I passed by.

Home at last, one fat, furry tabby trotted up and escorted me down the driveway to the house.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


In our Sunday evening study of James, Deon tackled verses 5-8 this week: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God,who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."

As if James anticipates the struggles we will have "joyfully" facing the trials mentioned in verse 2, he moves right to the topic of prayer. What do we typically pray for when we find ourselves in the midst of a trial? Usually, we pray something like "Lord, get me out of this situation!" - or - "Lord, make this trial go away!" James, on the other hand, counsels us to pray for wisdom.

For wisdom? First, James says to "count it all joy." Pretty radical. NOT my natural response to suffering or difficulty. Then, when I'm screaming out "Lord, send me some relief!", James says, "No, ask for wisdom."

Deon explained it this way: We read about God in Scripture. We study to know God better. But, we need wisdom to know how to apply the truths of Scripture to the messiness and heartbreak of life in this fallen world. That kind of wisdom is not natural to man - it is going to have to come from God. This is the kind of wisdom that changes our cry from a frantic "Get me out of this!" - to - "Help me to grow from this, Lord, and to know you better."

James encourages us further: he immediately assures us that when we pray for wisdom in trials, we are petitioning a God who gives generously, who does not belittle or scorn us for our ignorance and weakness, who is eager to answer our prayers. But....

Then James exhorts us to "ask in faith." Verse 6 has always troubled me. I believe God can do anything He pleases. My problem is, I'm often uncertain if I'm praying His will. I want my friend Amy to be quickly healed from cancer. What if God has other plans for her? I ask God to supply my daily needs, and I have some pretty specific things in mind...but maybe what I perceive as needs are really only wants? I've long struggled with the fear that I am, as James puts it, "a double-minded man." That it's presumptuous of me to expect anything from the Lord.

"Faith is not believing God can. Faith is believing God will." Deon thus described the view he once had about this faith mentioned in James. That's my problem! I thought, I know God can, but I'm not sure He will! That uncertainty has long haunted my prayer life, but Sunday, God met my doubt head-on.

"That's what I used to believe," Deon continued. "But then I learned, if what I'm praying is not God's will...He won't. Faith is not knowing that God can, or knowing that God will. Faith is knowing God." He went on the explain that the kind of faith that stands through trials is faith based on knowing God, on believing what He says is true about Himself in Scripture. Folks, by the end of Deon's sermon, I felt like a tremendous weight of doubt and guilt had been lifted off my shoulders.

I don't know if God will heal my friend Amy. I don't know if He will give me a reliable vehicle to drive. But I do know....God is sovereign. God is good. God loves His children perfectly and gives us exactly what we need to grow in righteousness. I can pray with confidence, not because I am assured of the outcome I desire, but because I am certain, through the teaching of Scripture, that God is all-powerful and all-wise and He will give me nothing less than what is best.

My prayer is that the all-wise God will give this feeble, ignorant child the wisdom to see His purposes, to desire His will over my own, to approach trials saying, "Lord, teach me." I have no doubt - NO doubt - that, in time, He will do exactly that...because He told me He would, right there in the first chapter of James.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Seems like I've got a theme going on Tuesdays! Well, it IS apple season, and beautiful fruit is ripening on the trees. Today, I'm sharing a recipe from a young friend, Ashley, for a delicious apple crisp. She posted this over at her own blog about a month ago, and our family has prepared it several times already. I like to make this with tart apples (like Jonathon apples from my friend Gaye!), but I think it would also be delicious made with peaches, blueberries, or tart cherries. I'd cut back on the sugar for peaches or blueberries, and eliminate the cinnamon for blueberries or cherries. This recipe is SO EASY and is one worth commiting to memory!

4 c. thinly sliced Jonathon apples
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. oats
1/2 c. sugar
6 Tbsp. soft butter
healthy dose of cinnamon

Grease baking dish and spread apple slices in dish. Combine other ingredients and spread over the top of your fruit. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream. Yum!

(Note: The first time I made this, I used some really hard apples...ending up baking it 45 minutes to allow the fruit to soften. Also, I mix the topping ingredients w/ a fork, sort of mashing it all together until it's crumbly.)

Monday, October 11, 2010


The display on the printer connected to our house computer is flashing "Toner Low." Of course, it's been flashing that for over a month now. But we've discovered that, if we work things just right, we can almost always squeeze out several more copies. Even when it seems to really give up the ghost and the display switches to "Toner Empty" - if you turn the machine off overnight and let it "rest", by morning the toner will have settled in some way to allow printing yet another copy. Just don't be ridiculous and try to chug out 10 pages of text!

Me, I was thinking this morning (as I was squeezing out one more math test from the over-used printer), "That's me. I'm just like this printer." You could have stamped "Toner Low" on my forehead. Dragging along, too beat to contemplate more than the very next thing that needed to be done. Squeezing out one task at a time. I'd done no more than fix breakfast, yet I felt like I needed to sit and rest for a few minutes. Catch my breath. After a brief, blank-eyed pause at the kitchen table, I mustered enough energy to stand and shuffle to the next thing on my list. Honestly, I think if I'd even tried to consider all the things on my calendar for the day, I'd have crumpled to the floor screaming "TONER EMPTY! TONER EMPTY!"

So here it is almost 11:00 p.m., and I just now have a few minutes to write. To check in at this neglected blog. Dragging through the dregs of another exhausting day, hanging on until I can finally (soon!) collapse into bed. Turn off the power. Shut down the printer. Thinking, this mama sure needs a recharged "cartridge" - mentally, emotionally, physically. Hoping that tomorrow morning, the flashing message will still be "Toner Low," instead of "Toner Empty."

See you in the morning.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Hornbeak, Tennessee - our closest town - has an official population of 413. Average annual household income is just under $34,000, and property values here run significantly lower than the state average.

Hornbeak is a small town, and there's a lot we don't have here. No radio or TV station. No community college or YMCA. No McDonald's, no Wal-Mart, no Kroger, no Lowe's. No movie theatre or bowling alley. No coffee shop or bookstore. No dentist, doctor's office, or hospital. And not a single traffic light. Also, in the five years since we've been back in the area, there hasn't been a single murder, aggravated assault, or gang-related crime.

But we do have Lovette's Hardware store. The two ladies working the counter actually come out to wander the aisles with you, whether you're looking for a toilet, a radio alarm clock, or a jar of local honey. And they'll ask you if you're planning on going to the bean supper next Saturday down at the Fire Station, and they'll tell you who else is going to be there.

And we have Charles Harris's barber shop, which is the best place to find out who has died recently, whose uncle is in the hospital, how to grow good tomatoes, and where the fish are biting on Reelfoot Lake. Charles doesn't do hair styles - but, if you're kind of particular about your hair, you can walk to the back of the shop and his daughter will fix you up in her one-chair beauty parlor.

And we have BestWay, our local gas station/convenience store. The prices are a bit high, but if you're in a pinch and need diapers for the baby or ice for your cooler, it sure beats driving 25 minutes to Union City. You can check in your deer with the TWRA, and then brag about your hunting success to the old-timers hanging out in the parking lot.

And we have Blackley Chevrolet, the oldest Chevrolet dealership in Tennessee. Shoot, in a good economy, they may have 20 vehicles on their lot at one time.

And we have the junk store, the taxidermist's shop, the U.S. Post Office, and a tiny branch office of Reelfoot Bank.

In a hometown, what more could a person want?

(A quick aside in light of the media maelstrom surrounding the recent house fire in South Fulton: I think it incredible that people all across our country think there should be no problem with rural towns providing fire protection for home-owners living outside their municipalities. The average citizen of Hornbeak lives below the poverty level. There are not a LOT of these citizens, either. Their fire department is manned by volunteers, with very limited and dated equipment. These small knots of people get together, pool their meager resources, and figure out a way to try to help their towns. Then some stranger in New York or Oregon writes our local paper to say, basically, "Hey, if you guys are going to take care of your own little communities, then you have to take care of folks living way out in the hills and hollers, too. You're just a bunch of heartless, unfair hicks!" Perhaps instead of hammering rural fire departments, these concerned citizens should step up to the plate themselves and offer to personally sponsor one of these fire departments or help fund fire protection for out-lying communities. Folks, life is hard out here in the sticks, sometimes it's bone-crushing hard, and it comes with some pretty high-stakes risks. Most of us living out here know that, and we don't expect all the amenities of living in a big city. But we take our chances and choose to live here anyway, because we think it's worth it.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Sunday evenings at Grace, we have just begun a study of James, that "right strawy epistle." We're only four verses into the book, and already I am challenged and encouraged.

Who isn't familiar with the perplexing phrase: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds... Joy? Trials? Together, in the same breath? Come on, James, I need you to connect the dots for me.

In unpacking these first few verses, Pastor Billy said something that put this familiar phrase in a totally new light. The words used for "trials" (v. 2) and "testing" (v. 3) don't just mean all the truly difficult, painful, awful stuff that hits us in this life. Those words carry with them an additional meaning: trails and testing are circumstances designed to reveal, with the intention to validate. Kind of like exploratory surgery, to provide an accurate diagnosis.

Designed to reveal what? Well, to reveal what I truly believe. I claim to believe in the sovereignty and goodness of God. But, in hardship and grief, do I seek instead some other form of comfort? Do I find in the darkest valleys that there is, alas, no comfort? Do I doubt that a sovereign God is lovingly working all things, all things - even terrible things - to my good? That He is uses these painful trials to mold me into the likeness of Christ? That He will indeed accomplish that good work He has begun? That this is all for my ultimate good and His glory?

But here is how I was encouraged...When I am "under the knife" and my heart is laid open and bare, one of two things is going to happen. I am going to see sin, self, and idolatry - putrefying gangrene - which, having been exposed, can then be dealt with through repentance, prayer, and renewed reliance on my faithful surgeon. Nasty stuff. But God isn't afraid to give me a dose of hard medicine, and with it healing. OR, when my heart is laid open and bare, I will find that my confidence, my comfort, my assurance truly are in the atoning work of Christ on my behalf, in the great goodness of this mighty and merciful God. Through trials and testing, God shows me what I really believe, and He draws me inch-by-inch closer to Himself and to the truth. Either way, it all comes only to good for the children of God.

As a child, I memorized this verse from Ecclesiastes 7: When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: the Lord has given the one as well as the other. The happy and the heart-breaking, the pleasant and the painful - the Lord gives them both. The all-powerful, all-wise God, who loves me perfectly, He sends them both. For my good. And that knowledge, Dear Reader, brings me great comfort. Comfort and joy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Here in Northwest Tennessee, temperatures are dropping and it's finally beginning to feel like fall. The days have been beautiful - sunny, mild, maybe a tad bit on the cool side when the wind kicks up. Nights - you'll definitely need a sweater if you're headed outside, and, yes, we've had to run the heater already. It's not quite time yet to build a fire in the fireplace, but the change in weather definitely has us craving seasonal favorites - chili, hot chocolate, an evening cup of coffee. Today, I'm posting one of our favorite fall hot tea recipes. This yummy fruit tea recipe was given to me over ten years ago by a friend and makes a regular appearance at our house when the weather turns cool.


5 individual tea bags
5 cups boiling water
5 cups unsweetened apple juice
2 cups cranberry juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Place the tea bags in a large heat-proof container. Add boiling water. Cover and steep 8 minutes. Discard tea bags. Add the remaining ingredients to tea; stir until sugar is dissolved. Serve warm or over ice.

(Note: Since I usually make a large batch, I boil my water in a large stock pot and steep the tea bags in the same pot. Then, I add remaining ingredients and simmer on stove to keep hot.)

Friday, October 1, 2010


Ouch! My upper forearms were so sore yesterday morning. Any kind of movement triggered a twinge of pain. What on earth have I done to make my arms so sore?, I thought, rubbing the tight, balled up muscle in my arm.

Oh, yes, now I remember. I've been caring for a beautiful three-month-old the past three weeks. This week, MaryAnna has been a bit fussy - her tummy is adjusting to a new formula. Which means, I've been continuously holding a 20+ pound, angel-faced weight in the bend of my arm. I don't remember that it felt like a big workout at the time, but, boy, I sure am feeling the effects today!

I have a friend - we'll call her Jessica - whose firstborn is the same age as my oldest. When our girls were babies, we frequently talked baby stuff. Everything is new with the first child, and we both needed the reassurance that comes from comparing notes and sharing trade secrets. On one visit, Jessica shared that she had a rather serious health concern: periodically, her left arm would grow numb. She scheduled an appointment with her physician. The diagnosis? That thirty-pound baby Jessica was toting around on her left hip was straining her arm, causing it to fatigue and grow numb by the end of the day. Whew! It wasn't heart trouble after all!

Many moms of newborns may not be toned, trim, and tanned. In fact, they may be lumpy, bumpy, and pale. But you can just bet, underneath that soft exterior....good mothers have some awesome bi-ceps. Mr. Universe, meet Mommy.