Thursday, June 30, 2011


Another one arrived last week. One of those emails from an acquaintance telling me how she could never survive life if she had to live in my shoes, and she was so very thankful for her husband and her home and her family, and, what with all the trips to the orthodontist and the gym and needing to have her manicure touched up and her tires rotated, etc., she just didn't know how she'd manage without her housekeeper Jane to help with the kids, and....

Reading her news left me exhausted. And jealous.

I need an attitude adjustment.

Maybe my friend was trying to imagine how I did all the things she does in a week, without Jane or Daddy Warbucks on my team. Maybe it didn't occur to her that we simply don't go to the dentist, or maintain our cars, or visit the nail salon, or participate in the debate team or high school choir. Shoot, if she cut out all the things on her calendar, she might discover she had plenty of time to hoe the beans, fold the laundry, and make a pot of homemade potato soup.

Seems these "holiday postcards" arrive twice a year - Christmas and summer vacation. You know, the three-page newsletters sprinkled with color photos, telling all about someone else's wonderful life. How Jack Junior got a full scholarship to Harvard, but he's spending a month in India this summer ministering to less fortunates before heading off to college. Sally Jane was selected for the U.S. Olympic equestrian team, so she's decided to give up ballet and playing first violin for the symphony this year. Mom and Dad loved their month-long anniversary trip to France, except for the rude waiter who almost ruined their last night in Paris. Blah, blah, blah.

Whenever I read these letters, something perverse in me wants to write a response that reads like something penned by Darth Maul. I want to write and send pictures about how all three vehicles went down in the same week or how the washing machine broke and flooded the laundry room. The chickens and the cat are being mauled by Mr. Fox, and cut worms have wiped out our squash and melons. The man from the electric company keeps reminding us that we really do need to pay our bill, please. We worry that Bubba is being unduly influenced by his disreputable friends, and Sissy is pregnant, again, and doesn't even know the father's last name. My cousin and her sixteen children came for a weekend visit back in May and still haven't left, and we strongly suspect our new neighbors are cooking up meth in the shed behind their house. Blah, blah, blah.

Okay, maybe I'm getting a little carried away, a little too close to the dark side of the force.

But what I could write, in good conscience, is that I am being broken in new ways and to new depths that I could not have imagined a year ago. That I am learning what it means to live each day in conscious dependence on God. That "Christ is enough" is easy on the lips, but sometimes devastating on the heart. That I can say with absolute confidence that God is sovereign, God is good, and He loves me very much - despite my circumstances, despite people's opinions of me, despite life's trials, despite my often dishonest emotions. Jesus truly grows more beautiful with each passing day.

When you're lying prostrate at the foot of the cross, the view is glorious.

Wish you were here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I'm the Mom. Oftentimes, that makes me The Heavy.

You only have your Learner's Permit. No. You cannot drive to Union City unaccompanied. That would be illegal. (But M-o-o-o-o-m.....)

You have been on the PlayStation for two hours. You are rotting your brain. Turn the machine off.

Yes, you have to finish reading Module 11 in Chemistry this week. I want the practice problems at the end of the chapter turned in by Friday.

No, you cannot eat this entire will make yourself sick.

It hasn't rained in over a month. You may NOT fire flaming cannon balls out over the hay field.

If you want to talk about getting another dog, first you do a little research and come back with some figures on just how much it's going to cost - up front and over the long haul. Get a year's worth of "dog funds" in the bank and then we'll talk.

I don't care if you think you are warm enough. It's snowing outside. Take a coat.

Has everyone finished their chores for today?

Eat your Brussels sprouts.

We need to talk...

It's not so much that I mind being The Heavy. I really don't. It's part of the job of being a mom, and it's part of what it means to love my children. Sometimes, however, I really would like to be more fun. But maybe fun is just one of those things that you only experience sideways, kind of like peripheral vision: look too hard for it and you miss it.

Monday, June 27, 2011


I picked up the Trins from the UT Martin campus, where they had just finished taking the ACT. Man, it was hot outside at high noon!

Pushing a tight deadline between morning exams and an afternoon wedding, we pulled through the drive-thru at Mickie D's and grabbed a couple of sandwiches. Me, I wanted nothing more than a gigantic, icy, $1 diet-Coke...heavy on the ice, please.

As I pulled back out onto the four-lane, I spotted a digital sign flashing the current time and temp: 105 degrees. Maybe the bank's thermometer was a little bit off, but it couldn't be by much. I was burning up!

Sweltering temperatures, the sizzling sun beating down on a dark un-airconditioned car, four large heat-generating bodies - no wonder I was melting.

Then, the I'm-almost-50 internal nuclear reactor kicked in, that mysterious mechanism that randomly decides that the world couldn't possibly be hot enough already: "You don't even know the meaning of the word hot, lady. I'm going to cook you from the inside out!"

My three teenagers are very fortunate their middle-aged mama didn't stop the car, strip down on the side of the highway, and douse herself with diet-Coke right then and there. By the time we reached home, my clothes were entirely soaked through with sweat. The driver's side car seat was soaked. Nothing sounded good to me except a cold shower. Aaaaaah!

Turning 50 gives a whole new meaning to the term "red-hot mama."

Friday, June 24, 2011


I'm one of those people who grasps at encouragement and inspiration anywhere I can find it.

This deal-i-o of working evenings is whipping my tail. Yes, I absolutely love being home all day with the family and having some sunny waking hours to doodle in the garden, write, and help with laundry and meals. I do NOT like missing the big family meal in the evening. And coming in at 11:00 or 11:30 and then not getting into bed until midnight or later? Well, let's just say that I'm one tired puppy!

Anyway, after falling into bed very late last night only to have to be up again early this morning to start breakfast for the vine-dressers and to get ready for baby Maryanna, I definitely felt my mood drooping (not to mention my eye-lids).

Today's encouragement?

The four-o-clocks growing next to my front porch are a precious gift from my friend Carol. I cannot see their bright pink blossoms and smell their sweet fragrance without thinking of her and smiling. I have missed Carol so much. The flowers are a little piece of Carol that I can see and touch and smell while I'm waiting to laugh with her again in Glory. Has she really been gone three years?

But the four-o-clocks only bloom in the late afternoon/early evening, and this week I've missed their beauty. I've been stuck instead amidst the electronic beeping, the metal and concrete, the fluorescent lighting that is the world of Wal-Mart.

I glanced out the kitchen window early this morning as I shuffled between starting the coffee and frying sausages. A flash of electric pink caught my eye. What?! I trotted outside and down the steps and waded through dew-heavy grass. Carol's flowers! Covered with blossoms! Mmmmmmm.... Sunshine for a weary, gray soul.

God's smile, four-o-clocks in the morning.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Speaking of my sons....

They were a funny squad of soldiers, banded together to negotiate the dangers of the church parking lot. Reuben, at the mature age of 5, was eldest and naturally assumed the role of sergeant. "Everybody hold hands!" He reached for little brother Nate with his left, and toddler Tom with his right. And then Toby trotted up to steady the stumbling Thomas. Toby, the 21-year-old man-child with Down Syndrome, delighted to be part of the gang, beaming as he joined hands with "The Brothers."

I'm not sure who articulated the label first - if it was Steve/dad, or Toby, or one of the other parents in our little church in Old Hickory. But it stuck. Soon, my boys were referred to collectively as The Brothers. "Here come The Brothers," someone would comment, rushing to open a door for the little soldiers. Toby was usually a part of their play and their tiny man conversations. "I love The Brothers!" He radiated such deep and sincere affection for his comrades.

Then we moved from Nashville to the Memphis area. New neighborhood, new people, new church.

My boys were bigger, and there were more of them. Four boys now - 2, 3, 5, and 7. Four boys growing into young men. God blessed my sons with more brothers, brothers in our fellowship at Unity. Michael and Joel and little Davy, Hadyn and Heath, Paul and Alex....This mob of boys tumbling about the green lawn so greatly expanded the fellowship of The Brothers that a new name was in order - and so we meet The Other Brothers.

"Hello, my Other Brother!" one would enthuse as he tackled a friend just arriving at the church.

Now, many years later, the band of brothers has grown and matured and broadened. While some are still little fellows racing about the church lawn, others are now men in college. Other brothers have joined the family - by marrying The Brothers' sisters. Others have knit their hearts to my sons' hearts over the course of a shared homeschool journey.

Similarly, I have so many precious sisters in Christ. (God has such a beautiful family!) I noticed recently a peculiar distinction I make when introducing various friends. "This is my friend ______." "This is my dear friend _____." "This is my sister in Christ, ______."

But there is a tiny knot of women I refer to simply as My Sisters. "This is My Sister _____."

My Sister. She sees my most broken places. She knows the hurts of my heart, my struggles with sin, the grossness of my pride and vanity. She understands both the strength and the weakness of my faith. She walks beside me as I struggle to practically live out what it means to trust Christ and to love Him supremely. My Sister loves me, weeps with me, laughs with me, admonishes and encourages me. She provides a safe haven and protects me, but has the courage and fortitude to wound me when it is needful for my sanctification.

I trust her with my confidences, and do not fear that she will gossip or abuse me. I am not afraid to tell her, "This is too hard! I need a bigger God!" She doesn't hesitate to answer, "God is bigger than you can ever imagine." She always, always, always challenges me to know and to love Christ better.

Warren Wiersbe once said, "The Christian life is not a playground; it is a battle field." So true. And I am so very thankful that God has not appointed us to be lone soldiers, living this battle at solitary outposts. He has appointed a band of brothers, a band of sisters to fight alongside us.

Yes, Toby, I feel the same: I love the Brothers...and the Sisters.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


...when thou wakest in the morning look for Him; when thou liest down at night look for Him. - from last week's Charles Spurgeon quote

I wake up slowly. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I am slow to rise. I'm awake alright, and have been awake for some time - I just need several minutes (an hour?) to lie quietly and think and pray. Like Spurgeon, I want time in the morning to look for Jesus, before my feet hit the floor, before the demands and obligations of the day press upon me.

This morning, I was greeted by the sound of my three teenage boys talking and laughing in the kitchen. I'd heard first one and then another shuffle quietly downstairs. What kind of moods are they in today? What are their attitudes as they head off to work? Are they enjoying each other and the time they have together? My prayer this morning was that these young men would be diligent workers, honoring Christ with the labor of their hands and with their attitudes and conversation. My prayer was that they would encourage and edify each other and that somehow they could understand how precious this time is they have together.

These three are working in a vineyard this summer, pruning and training grape vines. They make an awesome team. No, I don't anticipate that they'll be having lengthy theological discussions as they pull wire, trim vines, and haul brush. But between singing bad country songs and conversations about fishing and cars and guns, they will communicate to one another much about faith, about grace, about Christ, as they labor side-by-side. As they labor together under the watchful eye and in the graceful presence of the Master vine-dresser.

And it blessed this mother's heart to hear them beginning another long sun-soaked work day...with laughter.

You shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace....Isaiah 55:12a

Thursday, June 16, 2011


This morning before breakfast, I headed outside to work in the garden. I love being outside in the morning...the early birdsong in our little hayfield is spectacular. I had not been in the garden long when Reuben wandered out and joined me. After weeding around the cucumbers and melons, I took a break to fix breakfast for the chilluns, then tackled the strawberry beds. The strawberries Donna gave me this spring are doing so well and putting out so many runners that we already have enough new crowns to start filling out the second bed!

While Reuben weeded around the herbs, I watered the garden. Then we watered the plants around the house and yard, and weeded a few of the flower beds. My grandmother used to say, "Everyone needs a little dirt to scratch around in." She's right - scratching around in the dirt felt glorious after so many days of standing under fluorescent lighting at a cash register.

This week, I'm cashiering short evenings instead of long, long days. Which means, the kids and I have the days together. Not that we're spending "quality time", we're just living life together. In the garden and the yard. In the house, as we clean and dust and mop. In the kitchen, washing breakfast dishes or fixing sandwiches for lunch. In my room, folding laundry with the girls. On the porch, eating freeze pops while Nate cleans out the car, country music blaring from the radio.

But that is quality time, isn't it? It's not spectacular holidays and events, but rather the day-in-and-day-out mundanity of living life together. I am so truly thankful for this very special, very ordinary day together with my children.

(I wrote this post on Tuesday. Today - Thursday - is my one day shift, so I'll be heading out soon. I'm going to miss being home!)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


A couple - friends from our young church - came over Sunday evening for a little musical fellowship. Let's see...we had an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar, a banjo, a fiddle, and a little bit of penny whistle. Musical selections ranged from old-time favorites like "Shady Grove" and "Wildwood Flower," to classic hymns such as "It Is Well With My Soul" and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," to Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" and a bit of ZZ Top.

We played music. (Actually, I didn't play anything - I mainly listened!) We sang. We harmonized. We laughed. We reveled in the bond that was ours in Christ.

Too. Much. Fun.

I am amazed and absolutely delighted at the variety, beauty, and vivacity of God's children. I have heard it said that we cannot profess love for Christ and yet dislike and spurn the company of His church. Granted, His church is a collection of messy people with messy problems and messy lives. But I don't know how anyone can spend time with God's people and not grow to love them and to love their Saviour.

These truly are the Beautiful Ones, made beautiful by Christ Himself.

You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. - 1 Peter 2:9

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


1. Most of the people you meet in a day - probably 98% of them - are very, very pleasant.

2. The cashiers and CSM's at the Union City Wal-Mart are super patient and gracious to new trainees.

3. There are approximately 478 different ways you can pay for a purchase...and they all must be processed differently. And you can actually use all of them in the same order. Gack!

4. No, cashiers absolutely CAN NOT make change. That's what your bank is for.

5. Standing 8 hours on concrete makes your knees and feet ache and makes your calves burn like they're on fire.

6. The Federal government very badly needs to overhaul its food stamp program. This is a service that is so grossly abused that it would be difficult to even begin to describe. As a taxpayer - and a poor taxpayer at that - I have to say: we can do better.

7. Even though I say "Have a great afternoon" about a bajillion times a day, it still truly boosts my mood for someone to say "Have a great day!" to me.

8. Make eye contact, smile, and say "Hello" when you pass another person today - I guarantee they'll smile back.

9. I cannot sell tobacco products to anyone under age 18. I cannot sell alcohol to anyone under age 21. But I can sell condoms to a 12-year-old. Something is tragically wrong with that.

10. My children are amazing. (Actually, I didn't just learn this - I already knew it.)

11. People are beautiful.

12. We all need Jesus.

Monday, June 13, 2011


This is just what I needed to hear/read yesterday. And again this morning. And, no doubt, this evening...

Remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee - it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee - it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument - it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou doest that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down...

There is one thing which we all of us too much becloud in our preaching, though I believe we do it very unintentionally - namely, the great truth that it is not prayer, it is not faith, it is not our doings, it is not our feelings upon which we must rest, but upon Christ and on Christ alone. We are apt to think that we are not in a right state, that we do not feel enough, instead of remembering that our business is not with self, but Christ.

Let me beseech thee, look only to Christ; never expect deliverance from self, from ministers, or from any means of any kind apart from Christ; keep thine eye simply on Him; let his death, His agonies, His groans, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind...When thou wakest in the morning, look for Him; when thou liest down at night, look for Him.
- C. H. Spurgeon (The Forgotten Spurgeon, Iain Murray)

Amen! Hallelujah! Glory to God!

Friday, June 10, 2011


A young friend was considering beginning her own blog, but was concerned that maybe no one would read it. Why write if nobody reads?

Good question. Writers write for many reasons, but certainly a primary reason we write is because we hope to communicate, to connect in some way with another person. Musicians play to move their audience through music, to elicit in listeners feelings of joy or sorrow or delight or wonder. Actors act, and if they do so well, they transport us for a few short hours into another world. Whether you paint or dance or sing, you hope that somehow your gift will touch other people, that they will engage with your work and say, "Aha! I understand!"

But writing and dancing and playing music also spring from an even more basic motivation than the desire to connect. It's part of who we are. I met a young woman yesterday at Wal-Mart who will be completing a degree in dance education this fall. "I just love to dance!" she enthused, her face glowing.

"But what will you do with a degree in dance education?," I asked.

"Well, I'm going to law school after I finish my undergraduate degree, and I hope to one day practice law."

"I'm not connecting the dots here," I confessed.

"The dancing...I'm just doing that because it's what I love. It's not my job, or my's who I am."

What did I tell my young friend who was considering writing her own blog? "If you want to write - then write. Don't worry about whether or not anyone will read it." Sure, it's a tremendous blessing and encouragement when someone does read your words and tells you that they value them. But, feedback or not, sometimes you've just got to write.

So, people write to connect. We write because it's who we are. And, at least for me, writing is a way to process life, a way of thinking things through in printed words. Spoken words sometimes get a bit squirrely inside my head...but putting everything down on paper (or in a Word document!) helps me sort through stuff, make sense of it, determine how to respond. Sometimes, writing things out simply helps me be free of a burden - getting heavy thoughts out of my head somehow frees me from having to mull them over and over and over. Not writing often makes me feel exhausted!

A new job, demanding huge chunks of my day. A moody computer (is this thing sulking?) that wants to exasperate me. Very iffy internet connection - We're up! No, dang it, we're down again. Aaargh! These are factors currently frustrating my few opportunities for and efforts at writing. I feel like a horse that's been too long shut up in the stall...legs aching to run.

But all that said, I am thankful that this morning - the wireless connection is working. And, I have a few minutes before I have to head up the highway to Wal-Mart. And, my brain is working. Just the tappity-tapping of the keyboard soothes me! Aaaaah, it feels so wonderful to write again.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Tom and Ben talking and laughing together as they painted the posts around the porch.

"Now that's what I'm talking about!" Tom showing off his REAL farmer's tan - the v-shaped outline of overall straps painted on his back by the afternoon sun.

Hummingbirds bobbing in the breeze on long day lily stems.

First pink blossom on the four o'clocks.

Wildflowers on the table at dinnertime.

Sausages cooked on the grill, roasted potatoes, sauerkraut, and cold beer.

Nate and Martha, back from early class, toasting bagels together in the kitchen Sunday morning.

Reuben passing out honeycomb, dripping with honey... "Here, taste this!" First of summer's golden harvest - Love. Those. Bees!

Line-dried sheets, baked crisp by the sun.

A hand made card on my pillow at bedtime.

Everyone piled together on the sofa for movie night.

Hay drying in the field, filling the air with the aroma of fresh-baked bread.

Three kids sprawled in the floor, gathered around a keyboard, laughing and chatting as they work out the script of a new movie.

Ice cream on the porch swing.

Singing with the saints on Sunday morning...and being reminded - again - of the absolute faithfulness of our great Saviour.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Be careful what you pray.

Because God WILL answer.

My friend and I prayed together the last evening in January. I prayed for her, that she would know and love God better. "That's it. That's what I want more than anything else in the world," she confessed. Scary prayer...knowledge of and intimacy with God isn't something gleaned from daisy fields. And God isn't in the business of raising frail, delicate daughters. No, He's bringing up warrior princesses.

Three months after that prayer, my friend was diagnosed with a serious life-threatening illness. Out of the blue. Totally unexpected. One day, she was at work, doing her normal routine - the next, racing down the highway to the isolation of a cancer ward in a hospital two hours away.

Then a long, dark, horrible, terrifying month.

My friend is home now, recovering from her first round of treatments. Two weeks ago, she was gray and weak and so very soul-weary. Today, two weeks post-chemo, she is finally feeling alive and joyful and is pink and glowing. Seeing her bright smile this morning was like having the sun come up inside my heart...I thought I would absolutely burst with delight!

My friend has truly walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and that shadow still hovers over her today. But her face shines like Glory - because she has stood close to God, has seen His love and faithfulness, has known Him more intimately than perhaps I ever will.

* * * * *

Today, my friend asked me how I felt about my new job at Wal-Mart. "I have very mixed feelings about it," I admitted. "I enjoy the work and meeting new people...but I truly hate being away from home and, physically, I'm not quite adjusted to the demands of this new routine. I am constantly wondering, Just what is really going on here?"

My friend laughed. (Can anything be more beautiful than the laughter of a friend that you recently feared was lost to you forever?!) "God is answering our prayers, Camille!"

Several months ago, my friend had asked what she could pray for me. I answered, "I feel like I live in a very small world - I have so few opportunities to share the Gospel with others. I really wish God would bring me in contact with other people who are not already in church, people who don't know Christ..."

In a round-a-bout way that was so subtle, so gradual, so convoluted that I couldn't possibly connect the dots, God did exactly that. Is that what this job is all about? Perhaps this job is not a burden, but is instead an opportunity to share Christ. Wow.

* * * * *

I am so thankful I serve a God who hears my prayers and answers them - in ways I can't even begin to anticipate or imagine.

And I'm so thankful that tomorrow, by God's great mercy, I get to stand alongside my beautiful, radiant, smiling sister as we worship Him together.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


How'd you spend Memorial Day weekend? Did you attend a parade or memorial service? Chill by the pool? Grill out with friends? Judging from the folks I checked out at Wal-Mart and from their purchases, most folks in Obion County spent the holiday either fishing or hanging out at the pool. A few tackled projects around the house, like resealing their deck or painting a bathroom. Someone a couple of farms over even fired off a few fireworks that night.

Here at the Kendall house, we just had pretty much a regular weekend. I did get to read Tim Challies's latest book, The Next Story, and write my first-ever book review...that was kind of cool!

Something I've discovered over years of living with lots of kids is that holiday weekends are typically occasions for situations requiring the attention of folks who are out of the office for a three-day weekend. This past Memorial Day was no different. One son developed a fever and a red, nasty looking throat. Another broke his glasses. Something tried to eat the cat. And not only were the doctor's office, the optometrist's, and the vet's closed for the weekend AND for Monday - but I had to work.

Yesterday - Wednesday - was my day off this week. You know what I want to do on my day off? Nothing. At home. But life doesn't stop just because the calendar says you don't have to be on the clock. So yesterday, I made a trip to the bank, then to the optometrist's, and to the vet's. Home for lunch, then back to town. Another trip to the bank (this time, one of my kids had an errand to run), piano lessons (where I fell asleep on Mrs. Linda's sofa), and back home. Dinner, school paperwork...

My holiday weekend didn't feel much like a holiday. My day off didn't feel much like a day off. And summer break isn't feeling much like a break...although it is definitely feeling like summer! It's going to take me a while to adjust to this new routine.