Friday, July 29, 2011


Funny things I've heard while working as a cashier....

Me: Hello! How are you today?
Customer, riding a motorized shopping cart: I'm doing great! I've been rather ill lately and not able to get out much, so it was wonderful to come do my shopping here today.
Me: I'm glad you're feeling better and able to get out now.
Customer: Yes, me, too. And I always see so many people I know here. I find lots of people to talk to. Like you, for instance. You're stuck behind that cash register and can't go anywhere, so I can sit here and talk to you for as long as I want. (Yes, she actually said that.)
Me, laughing: I suppose you're right!
Customer: (Tells me about her recent surgery, and a blog she writes, and a recipe for mozzarella-tomato salad. Several minutes after finishing her transaction, she starts her scooter, smiles and waves.) Well, it's been nice talking! I'll see you again next week!

Customer, a lively older gentleman: This must be my lucky day - I got the pretty cashier!
Me, laughing: Well, I think all the cashiers working up front today are pretty!
Customer, leaning across the conveyor belt with a twinkle in his eyes: Yes, but I got the prettiest!
Me: Thinking, Okay, you stay on that side of the register and I'll stay on this side and we'll get along just fine...

Customer, to his small child: Put that down and come stand next to the buggy.
Small child: fuss, whine, wail (not obeying)
Customer: Stop that bawling. You're making everyone here miserable.
Small child: fuss, wail, whine...(still not obeying)
Customer: If you don't be quiet and get over here, that lady (points at me - the cashier) is going to come around here and spank you!
Small child: (Looks at me with cow eyes and quietly ooches over next to Dad)

Customer (a large, sun-baked man who looks like he just stepped off his tractor; he holds up in front of himself two gingham sundresses, the kind with spaghetti straps and eyelet around the hem - one red, one white): What do you think? Which one do you think looks best?
Me, laughing: Well, personally, red is my favorite color, but the white really looks great against your tan.
Customer chuckles and grins sheepishly: Oh, these are for her. (He motions toward an invisible woman standing next to him.)
Me: Ooooo-kay. (I look toward the invisible woman.) Which one do you like better?
No answer.
Customer looks over his shoulder toward invisible woman, then turns a deep shade of red: Oh. D***. Well, I'll just take them both.

Then there was the time I keyed in the produce code for pineapples, then for "Quantity?" entered "50." I know....simply defies explanation doesn't it? Anybody want to purchase a pineapple plantation? See cashier on register 19!

Or the time a customer dropped a six-pack of canned sodas. One of the cans exploded, sending up a geyser that sprayed everyone in the adjacent two lanes. Thankfully, a quick-thinking fellow dashed over and aimed the fountain downward, saving us from the sugary deluge. What a sticky mess, all over everything. Sometimes, you just gotta laugh!

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Buzzing home from errands in town one afternoon earlier this summer, I crested a small hill on Highway 21 and found the road barricaded by a 32-row planter. A huge tractor lumbered down the highway, dragging the immense piece of farm equipment. Well ahead of the tractor, another farmer drove a work truck, lights flashing, warning oncomers to find a driveway where they could pull off the road. The planter, it stretched from the white line on the right to the white line on the left. Our max speed as we doodled along for a couple of miles? I think maybe 15 miles per hour. We don't have shoulders on the highway out here, either, so there was nothing doing but slowing down and enjoying the ride.

Actually, I find ginormous farm machinery a bit fascinating. And there's something about the smell of diesel...not pleasant, maybe nostalgic?...perhaps it reminds me vaguely of pleasant times from my childhood. And then there's the whole thing about working the soil, planting the seeds, harvesting the crops: farming, although dirty and back-breaking work, really is a romantic occupation.

Yesterday morning, I glanced out the kitchen window toward the highway. A long line of cars, backed up out of sight, snaked along at a snail's pace. What's the hold up? Is this a funeral procession? I scanned the trail of cars and, just over the next hill, discovered the problem - a house in the road. Someone was moving a house. No, not a trailer. Not a double-wide. Not a modular home. A house. The front of the house bore scars where the porch had recently been removed, no doubt especially for this relocation. The creaking behemoth filled the entire roadway, hanging off on either side, lurching along at no more than 10 miles an hour. Three miles outside of Hornbeak, this slow parade still had a long way to go.

Some folks like the idea of living in the country, but then show their true colors when confronted with the particular realities of country living. Big machinery, slow traffic, mile-after-mile of snaking along behind a smoke-bellowing tractor...all a normal part of life out here in the sticks. Occasionally, I've seen someone lay on their horn (Do they really think the dude on the tractor can even hear them?), or weave agitatedly from side to side (as if there were a way around the blockage? Well, NO!), or even flail an arm out the window as if to say, "Get a move on up there!" Natives, we roll down the windows, turn off the AC, and turn up the country's time to get out of the fast lane and enjoy a slow ride.

Seems in life, I've often found myself barreling along lickety-split, busy working my plan and getting things done. Then unexpectedly, it's like I crest a hill and find a 32-row planter plodding along in front of me - Screee! Hit the brakes! Might as well be a wall. My plans, the important things I wanted to accomplish, the deadlines, the all goes out the window while I creep along riding the brake pedal.

Sure, I like the idea of trusting God...but sometimes God uses the difficult realities of living this Christian life to expose my true colors. He sends roadblocks, trials and difficulties, to show me the real condition of my heart. So what's my attitude then? Do I shake my fist at God for allowing circumstances to mess up my plans? Do I weave back and forth, mentally pacing as I look for a way around this obstacle? Do I lay on the horn - complaining, whining, bemoaning my unfortunate state?

Or do I trust God's sovereignty and goodness and thank Him for the opportunity to slow down, breathe the fresh air, and listen to the music?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


"What does this feed in you?" My friend was asking her young-adult offspring how a particular relationship served to meet needs that should be met instead by Christ.

What a powerful question.

When I am discontent because my circumstances weary me and I long for rest, I imagine sleep will satisfy my discontent. Enough Zzzzzz's will mollify my disquiet. No, sleep will not give me a tranquil soul. Christ is my rest!

When I am melancholy because a relationship that should be intimate and joyful is instead cold and strained, when I brood over what should be and fret over what is, I fall prey to the lie that this relationship can ultimately satisfy my longings for fellowship and intimacy. No, no earthly relationship will completely satisfy my desire to know and to be known. I can only find that in Christ, my brother, my King, my Bridegroom!

Maybe I would feel significant and secure if I had a snazzier resume, or an impressive portfolio, or an address book with a red-carpet catalog of friends. I would feel successful if my kids grew up to be Super Saints who rocked the world. I would know I was really somebody if I impacted lives for Christ. No, it's not what I do FOR Christ - rather, it's who I am IN Christ. Christ, Christ, Christ alone satisfies my need for security, significance, and purpose.

How about you - Are you hungry to be beautiful? To be financially secure? To be known? To do great things? What are you hungry for? And, on what are you feeding to satisfy that hunger?

Feed on the bread that nourishes true life, the bread that satisfies forever. Feed on Christ.

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink...Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. - Jesus, speaking in John 6:55a, 58b

What food luxurious loads the board, when at his table sits the Lord! The wine how rich, the bread how sweet, when Jesus deigns the guests to meet! - Charles H. Spurgeon, from his hymn Amidst Us Our Beloved Stands

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Baby MA is back with us for the new school year. Mommy has just started a new teaching job at one of those schools that doesn't really have a summer break. (Year-round school? Crazy!) I have no idea how I'm going to pack homeschooling four students, working at Wal-Mart, AND babysitting a toddler into each day. I am already tired, and we don't even begin our school here at the kitchen table until next week. But, all that said, it is such a delight to have a baby in the house!

Today's funny observation...

We have a quilt spread at one end of the dining/family room that serves as a collection site for MA's toys and as a launching off point for her toodles around the house. She never sits on the quilt for more than a few minutes - much, much more fun to play Chase around the sofa with Martha or Ben, or to bumble about the yard picking flowers.

On said quilt lies a colorful, high-tech assortment of toys: books that read themselves aloud as you turn the pages, a baby that cries when you squeeze it, a musical octopus that sings the colors of the rainbow in English, Spanish, and French. MA's toy of choice this morning?

A red potato.

She laughs hysterically as she and Reuben roll a small red potato across the floor to each other. Reuben sets the potato on the table, and she stretches up-up-up to just reach it with her tiny fingers. Reuben rolls the potato under the table, and she races on hands and knees to retrieve it, laughing baby laughs all the way. Bonk!-thud-thud. She throws the potato, giggling as it tumbles away from her, then races to pick it up again. (Is there any sound sweeter than baby laughter?!)

Me, I'm kind of fascinated that a small red potato has trumped Leap Frog story books and a musical blue octopus. Go figure!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


With 18+ years of homeschool experience under my belt, I've learned to recognize the "emotional cycle" of the school year. It's sort of like having birthed several babies. Braxton-Hicks contractions, labor, transition, delivery...don't get too freaked out by it all: just take a deep breath push ahead. (Bwahahaha!)

In April, homeschool moms look longingly out the window at yellow school buses driving down the highway. Looks so easy, so tempting. Sigh. Nope, back to work!

In January, there is this moment of euphoria: Hey, look! We're over halfway through your math book! It's all downhill from here, a race to the back cover.

But right now, late in July, my traditional homeschool emotion is PANIC! All the books are spread out on the table, piled against the wall, stacked in boxes...they are everywhere. And me, I'm mapping out lesson plans for the semester ahead.

Sure, there's a thrill of excitement and anticipation that comes with receiving new books in the mail. I love stocking up on looseleaf paper, notebooks, pencils, and markers at the back-to-school sales. And there is something comforting about the thought of settling once again into our regular school-year routine.

But definitely bigger than any buzz that comes from fresh notebooks and unopened glue bottles is the looming fear: How in the world are we going to get everything done?! Physics, high school English, trigonometry, world history, 7th grade math, piano lessons, art, grammar...Aiyiyiyi! I'm starting to hyper-ventilate!

Breathe. Slowly.

After 18+ years, I know...I know...that the first week of August, we will sit down around the table and open our books. We will do the first day's lessons. And then the next. And the next. This panic will pass. We will find our pace and our breath and will begin chugging through the work ahead.

And next May, we'll look up from our work and blink in relieved wonder: We did it! We finished another year of school.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I collapsed into bed at 11:45, exhausted from the day just spent and weary at the thought of another day to come. Physically and emotionally spent, too tired to even sleep.

The tears started, streaming into my pillow. Lord, I am so tired, I wept. I simply cannot bear all that You have laid on me at present. This yoke is too, too heavy...

I don't know what prayer is like for you, but for me it goes kind of like this: I pray, silently "talking" through something with the consciousness that God is listening and cares about me. Then I wait. Then, I pray some more. Often, during those pauses, God brings a particular passage of Scripture to my mind. Sometimes, indeed, it seems we are having a conversation: my prayer, His Word, my question, His Word again in answer....

Last night, this was the conversation: Lord, I am so tired. I simply cannot bear all that You have laid on me at present. This yoke is too heavy!
Empty silence, and then...

Camille, take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for you soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

No, Lord, no! Your yoke is NOT easy! This burden is NOT light!
I continued weeping, feeling crushed under a heavy weight.
More silence.

Lord? Are you listening?
Just silent darkness. I wracked my brain. What was God trying to teach me? My burden truly did feel heavy, overwhelmingly heavy. And yet I was confident that I was having to bear it because of God's will for my life at the present. How could Christ say that this burden He had given me was light? Light compared to what, Lord?!


Christ has borne my yoke and carried my burden. He has suffered the just wrath of our holy God. He has known the absolute darkness of separation from His heavenly Father. That...that was mine to bear, my burden, my yoke...unfathomable suffering and isolation. My burden forever.

Instead, Christ has given to me this other burden, under which I find my weak self buckling: to work for my family, to school my children, to pray for my church and its leaders, to grieve with the sick, to know the heartbreak of strained and broken relationships, to have too many demands and too little time, too many needs and too few resources. And He has promised to stand with me through all of these burdens. He gives the Holy Spirit to strengthen and encourage me - and to bring Scripture to mind when I need it most. He has secured for me the everlasting love of God the Father. He has promised me an eternity of joy in His presence when I am finally free to lay these burdens down. Lay them down forever.

My burden seemed too heavy, until I considered the one I had given in exchange for it. Now I find that, while this life's burden is difficult and truly exhausting, No, it is not so very heavy. Not so very heavy at all.

Monday, July 18, 2011


We practice a rather traditional order of worship at Grace on Sundays. We read Scripture responsively for our Call to Worship, then sing the Gloria Patri. Very early in the service, we have a time of prayer to confess our sins. At some point, the congregation recites one of the historic church creeds - the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed - or we read aloud the Ten Commandments.

Some people think creeds are old-fashioned, out-of-date. Personally, I love them. I love the bond it gives us as followers of Christ, locally and around the globe. While I am standing in a small church in Troy, Tennessee, verbalizing the truth that yes, I do indeed believe in God, the Father Almighty, it thrills and encourages me to know that in Millington this Sunday morning, my sister Jenny is articulating exactly the same thing. And Larry in Nashville, and Alan in Chattanooga, and Bill in Scotland...It is so good to remember as a body the things that bind us together in faith!

Intercessory prayer, giving of tithes and offerings, singing theologically-rich hymns, reading Scripture together. As Brother Billy puts it, we read Scripture, pray Scripture, sing Scripture, see Scripture (in baptism and in the Lord's Supper), act on Scripture. No wonder Sunday morning worship is such a time of refreshment!

I suppose every Christian has a favorite aspect of corporate worship. Some particularly enjoy the singing; others, the prayer. I like it all, but at a certain moment every Sunday morning, I confess I feel a brighter, more distinct joy.

We read the passage to be exposited for the morning, followed by a traditional call and response: "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Every Sunday morning, as we then settle into our pews for the sermon, I have this distinct thrill...Now we're getting to the good stuff!

I love the Word of God. I love to gather with my sisters and brothers in Christ to read and study and consider what God has written to us. And I am so very thankful for a pastor and for elders and teachers who devote themselves to thoughtful study so that I can feast week after week on such rich fare. This is the good stuff!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Something was eating our chickens. About every five or six days, Ben would put his flock to bed at night and find that he was short one hen from the day before.

This was back in the spring, the same time I was scanning brochures, trying to select what type of chicks to order for our next flock. "I am not ordering little chicks until we know what is getting the chickens. They'd just be easy pickings for this varmint!" We had to solve this mystery before we could move ahead with our chicken farming.

So we waited and sleuthed and tried to discover the chicken-eating culprit.

Whatever the critter was, it also tried to make a meal of our cat. Kitty was big enough to fight back and survived the encounter, thanks to several rounds of antibiotics and over a month of indoor confinement.

Patton, our ferocious rooster, also suffered at the hands/paws/teeth of the fiend. Our noble defender-of-the-hen-house lost his spurs and his beautiful tail protecting his biddies. Apparently, Patton fought valiantly enough to put the thief at bay for a while, although the encounter left him meaner, grouchier, and crazier than ever.

Finally, months later, we had a positive ID on the chicken-killer. Ben went to let his chickens out one morning after a particularly rainy night and discovered very distinct, large paw prints around the coop: fox!

Alas, now we had a different dilemma. "The pelt will be worth waaaay more come winter...we can't trap that fox now, in the middle of summer!" Nate had a point. What to do? Guess we'd just have to be extra careful about battening down the hatches early each evening in an attempt to frustrate Mr. Fox until trapping season. And Kitty spends every evening and night indoors now, whether she approves or not.

Sadly, this is not the end of the tale. Patton, a mean rooster at best, must have been pushed too far by all the stress: he progressed from being ornery to being the Terror-of-the-Yard. I couldn't work in the garden or hang clothes on the clothesline without taking a chance that he would come racing across the yard to attack me. We couldn't take baby Maryanna outside for walks because Patton was always on the look-out, vigilant to attack any would-be threats to his harem. Eventually, his behavior grew so aggressive that it felt like we were being held hostage in the house - by a rooster, no less! Something had to be done.

One evening at dinner, after I'd worked a long day at Wal-Mart, Ben delivered the news: "Mom, I got rid of Patton today." Translation for any city folks: Patton is now in rooster heaven. Yes, I was a bit saddened by the news - he had been such a beautiful, hard-working rooster. But relief far outweighed any grief. "Thank you, Ben. Thank you so much." At last, I could get back to weeding my strawberry beds.

The remaining hens seem to be managing fine without their severe overseer to protect them. They are more social now, too, and will flock around you when you work in the garden or yard. Such sweet, pretty birds! And this fall, Mr. Fox will finally get to meet Mr. Nathaniel, so that next spring I can finally order a new batch of peeps.

So here is a summary of not-so-romantic life on the farm: Fox eats chickens. Fox severely injures cat. Fox attacks rooster. Rooster whips fox. Rooster attacks Mom and Sister and anyone else on two feet (except Ben, who is obviously at the very top of the pecking order!) Cat lives. Rooster dies. Fox - his days are numbered. And the rest of us, we're back at work in the garden, keeping a keen eye on the hens.

So we were talking the other day about people who have very sensitive hearts for animals. I'm one of those people - I was truly sad that Patton had to go. But there are those who are so extremely tenderhearted that they become irrational. The kind of people who think it is cruel to kill a fox, even if it kills chickens and cats. The kind of people who think that surely there must be a way to rehabilitate a demented, hormonal, crusty old rooster. The kind of people who really don't have any experience with animals on a farm or with the difficult realities of this life. Those folks....those are the folks I'd like to introduce to Patton. Bwahahaha!

This morning, the cat went out on the porch and took up her watch post underneath the nesting Pheobes. These beautiful little birds return every year to build their nest and raise a new family. Last week, we feared Kitty had successfully pounced Mama Bird. Bad cat! Thankfully, Mama Bird escaped. No, we're not going to kill Kitty... No way! Kitty kills mice! But we will keep a watchful eye on the Pheobes.

The drama just never stops here in the country...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I've just finished reading the book of Job. Once again, new things were popping out at me in every chapter.

You know the story - Job, a righteous man, blessed of God, yet singled out and afflicted tortuously by Satan. Then, having lost everything - family, fortune, health, even the will to live - Job is joined by friends who just don't quite know the meaning of the word "encouragement." Over and over, Job cries out for an audience with God. Job knows he doesn't deserve the calamities that have overwhelmed him. He knows that his friends' accusations are false, and that their explanations of his situation don't address the deep hurting and the questions of his heart. Job wants to talk to God Himself - to ask God "Why?" and then have God answer. Only God can satisfactorily address his situation.

Job does get his audience with the Lord. He does NOT get his answers.

No, God comes to Job, speaking to him out of a whirlwind, and tells Job of His majesty, power, and sovereignty. Then God commands Job to "gird himself like a man," this frail creature who dares to contend with the Almighty!

Job is left speechless. All his questions fade away into silence.

I'm one of those people who likes a little resolution at the end of a story. You know, that "Aha, I see...yes, everything makes sense now!" kind of feeling. Like all the unexplained bits and pieces falling into place to complete the puzzle.

Job's story doesn't give us that tidy, tied-up-with-a-string kind of ending. Yes, Job is restored to health. He is given a new family. His fortunes grow to be greater than they had ever been before. And he lives to a ripe old age, enjoying the love and respect of his children and friends. You could say that Job lived "happily ever after" - but you can't explain the 37 chapters of affliction. You can't answer Why?

I love this story because it is painful and terrible and real, just like life. Not all tidy and squeaky clean. And I love it because, although I have never suffered anything like Job, I have often cried out with a broken and despairing heart, "Why, Lord?!" I love this story because, like Job, God has so often refused to answer my Why? Instead, He has simply overwhelmed me with His presence - I AM GOD ALMIGHTY! Job reminds me: that is enough. Even when life breaks my heart, it is all I really need to know.

Friday, July 1, 2011


"Hang on...I'm going to grab a cup of coffee for the road." As the family scrambled to get out of the house Sunday morning, a couple of us filed out the front door armed with foam cups of steaming joe.

"Hey, Mom, if you give up coffee, I'll give up video games!" Thomas is so funny, so playful, so mischievous. This boy makes me smile!

I stopped dead in my tracks...hesitated a second... "Okay. You're on."

We locked eyes. A moment of silence. I could tell by the expression on his face the dare had been only a way would Mom ever give up coffee! (No way would Tom ever give up video games!)

"Really?" Tom asked in disbelief.

"Really. No more coffee."

"Hey, I was just kidding!"

"No backing out now, buddy. Your word is your word."

"Well, maybe just video games at home...playing at a friend's house doesn't count."

"Stop trying to rewrite the rules, Buster."

So during the fellowship time between Sunday school and church, I grabbed a doughnut and a cup of juice. Normally, I just have a cup of coffee, no doughnut. The doughnut was compensation for missing that extra dose of caffeine. (Hmmmm, this new undertaking may have some undesirable consequences...)

Wal-Mart keeps a pot of coffee in the break room for employees, and I have to admit that even a bad cup of coffee tastes pretty good after two or three hours at a cash register. But not this week, at least not so far. Now I take my recycled Gatorade bottle and drink about a liter of water during break. ("Code 404," by the way, translates into "Cashier on register 7 needs another bathroom break." This no-coffee thing definitely has some undesirable consequences.)

But, hey, I've made it five days without coffee....never knew I had it in me! Kids can be sooooo motivating. If I keep this up another couple of weeks, I may try cutting out tea and soda - just stick with water and alcohol. (Wine and chocolate, of course, are non-negotiables.)

Come to think of it, maybe Tom's little game could be played out in all sorts of helpful ways...

"Hey, Mom, if you give up desserts, I'll give up the Disaster Area motif I've got going in my bedroom."

"Hey, Mom, if you give up fixing Brussels sprouts for dinner, I'll give up whining about not getting enough drive time in the car."

Bring it on, kids...let's work this thing!