Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I don't have to be at Wal-mart until 7:00 tonight, which means I get to be home for dinner. Yay! On tonight's menu:

Meatloaf - the Pritzel recipe: ground beef (we use deer), hot sausage, bread crumbs, egg, and Heinz 57 sauce. Yum.

Green bean casserole - Thomas's asked particularly for this for Thanksgiving, but it wasn't part of the holiday meal. I'm making this just for you, Tom.

Mashed potatoes - because if you have meatloaf, you have to have mashed potatoes.

One of the things I strongly dislike about working away from home is having to frequently miss our family's evening meal. Two, three times a week, I leave before dinner. Sure, the kids and I have breakfast and lunch together, but dinner is different. Dad is most often home, bringing news from the outside world. There is a kind of settling together, a conversational processing of the day. Not infrequently, there is a serving of silliness, too.

Something else happens over a leisurely, routine family dinner, something I can't quite describe. Something about learning who we are as individuals, as a family, as a society. Something that gives cohesion and strength. Sort of like calcium being knit together to form strong bones.

No, I don't like missing the evening meal. I will be glad when this particular sacrifice is no longer necessary. And, I am so grateful that Steve and the kids keep this tradition going, even on nights when I have to be away. They set the table, cook the meal, and sit down together, whether I'm here or not.

Last night, I rolled back home at 10:30. Martha had saved me a plate of dinner, which I reheated in the microwave. As I sat at the bar eating, all of the kids filtered downstairs and gathered in the kitchen, telling me about the evening's activities, news from friends on Facebook, classes at Martin, etc. Someone pulled the bucket of ice cream out of the freezer and dished up bowls for everyone. I guess it was kind of like my own personal "second" family supper. I'm grateful for that, too...that even when I have to be away, the circle is expanded to keep me inside.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


This is a repost from a couple of years ago - seemed appropriate this morning!


January 29, 2010

When Steve and I lived in Nashville, we attended a small church plant in the Old Hickory area. Although I had been a Christian for many years, it was here, under the pastoral care of Larry Ferris and his wife Lisa, that the gospel was first given "flesh". Eighteen years later, I still think of Lisa asking me, on several occasions, "What are the practical implications of the gospel in this situation?" These two, whom I affectionately think of as my Mother and Father in the faith, were active, aggressive, and deliberate about translating what they believed into what they did, in every area of life.

Larry had a gift for coming up with great sermon illustrations. He could make seemingly far-off, abstract concepts suddenly clear and relevant. This particular illustration still comes to my mind often, and always brings with it a thrill of excitement....

You remember how when you were a kid, and the evening weather forecast predicted snow? You hoped against all hope that it would snow and snow and snow all night, maybe even a foot, and that school would be cancelled the next day. You went to bed anxious with anticipation, finding it nearly impossible to sleep. Your ears strained for the faintest sound that would indicate the coveted snow had finally arrived. You snuck out of bed, peeped out the window - nothing. Finally, exhausted and fearing morning would bring only disappointment, you dozed fitfully off to sleep. And slept, and slept, and slept. Until...

The next morning, Mom came into your room, same as she always did, to wake you up so that you could begin getting ready for school. Only this morning, as she shook you gently from your sleep, she didn't say, "Wake up - time to get ready for school." She simply whispered, "Go look out the window!"

Instantly, you were wide awake, your heart pounding! Throwing off your blankets, you planted your feet on the cold floor and bolted for the window, a jubilant smile plastered across your face. "Go look out the window!" Those words elicited a spasm of pure joy! You danced! You squealed! It was absolutely impossible to conceal the excitement you felt.

Dear Reader - after a long and dreadful night, God, in Christ, has whispered to us, "Go look out the window!"

Monday, November 28, 2011


I think the Plague has passed. All the towels have been washed with Clorox and the bathrooms scrubbed with disinfectant. No one has thrown up for over 12 hours - woohoo!

Thankfully, I didn't have the explosive eruptions the others experienced. My innards just feel like some kind of intestinal version of a lava lamp, and the muscles in my abdomen and lower back ache. Feels like I've been kicked in the stomach.

Today is Monday, and I woke up hoping that, after a rather hairy couple of days, I'd feel completely wonderful and ready for a new week. However, the churning in my belly as I rolled over in bed cautioned me that I'd better stick with moving slowly for at least a bit longer.

The intestinal burbling also brought to mind the passage about all things being made new - "He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'" (Revelation 21:5a) Yep, I thought, that's what I need: New. A new body, inside and out. This carcass I'm moving around in feels like a piece of trash, and my attitude isn't very lovely, either!

I'm a bit wiped out from working long hours at the Temple of Mammon last week. The Blitz. Black Friday. My family's a bit weak and weary from fighting the Plague. Except for making Polly's Pumpkin Pie, I didn't get to do any holiday baking this weekend. The long holiday weekend is past, and instead of feeling refreshed and invigorated, I feel like I've been run over by a steam roller. And I need to get groceries. And we need to tackle our schoolwork this morning.

Life doesn't stop.

I want New, and I want it now. Zappo! But God's timing isn't mine. Still, I find His promise very encouraging this gray, mizzly Monday morning: "Behold, I am making all things new...Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." I am not suddenly made new, right now. No, I am being made new. In process. And God has promised that He will complete the task which He has begun.

Nothing like a rough and woolly weekend to make the promise of Newness sweeter, to make the anticipation of Newness stronger.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Holidays. Family, feasting, laughter, non-stop TV sports.

And the plague.

While all bajillion of us Kendalls were gathered at Grammy's Thursday for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, one member of the family related how he had just survived a particularly violent case of Montezuma's Revenge. Like just the day before. Wednesday. But he was feeling better now, and thought he could eat a little without having to run to the bathroom.

You've been there, right? That tidbit of news, and suddenly you're afraid to inhale. "Oh, great. Are you still contagious?" you wonder silently. On one hand, you're half-way mad, thinking, "You jerk! If you've been sick, why didn't you stay home today instead of contaminating the rest of us?!" On the other hand, you're sympathetic: "I'm glad you're feeling better now and that you could make it to the party. It wouldn't be the same without you here." Conflicted emotions.

I think because we homeschool, our family has missed exposure to a lot of the bugs that other folks have to deal with. The kids didn't have chronic ear infections or colds or bouts of the flu growing up. A really healthy bunch. We didn't even know about head lice until my oldest was a teenager - picked up a batch of those at a family get-together, too, from the little cousins. Family. Gotta love 'em.

Anyway, Son #1 began bi-valve eruptions last night. Then Dad. This morning, Martha and Tom. The rest of us...we're just waiting our turns. Gonna be a long day.

Tom put it this way: "I feel like a hand grenade with the pin pulled and the lever held down, just waiting to go off."

One day last spring, I was frustrated with my kids for being particularly crabby with each other. Nathaniel commented, "Well, you know how it is. The family that crabs together." Just part of being a family. Guess the same is true for stomach bugs.

It's just another way of sharing the love.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


It's Thanksgiving week and we're all taking time to deliberately consider the things for which we are thankful. Me, when I start thinking, "I'm thankful for....," I seem to always think of a name, a person, someone who has encouraged me, challenged me, impacted my faith and life.

For a woman who lives a fairly simple, small life out in the middle of next-to-nowhere, I am kind of astounded at the number of amazing people I've known and who have plowed themselves into my life.

Consider one such remarkable woman...

When we lived in Millington, I looked forward each month to getting together with the Fray-Mill homeschool moms for food and fellowship. We would stay up until the wee hours of the morning, and although my body would definitely be a bit weary the day after, my heart would always be encouraged, my mood brightened. How I loved being with those ladies!

One woman - a bit older and much wiser than myself - always blessed me, and I loved to "sit at her feet." Not so much because she had all the answers, but because she always reflected Christ to me. Rather than denying the difficulty of this life, rather than giving me "Ten Steps to Being a Perfect Mom," she communicated truth and grace - "Yes, this is a really hard labor. But it is worthwhile. We need Jesus if we're going to be faithful to the task He has given us. You need Jesus, and I need Him, too...let's go to Him together!" So often, this dear sister exhorted us to run to the cross, to lean hard on Jesus. I told this friend once that when I spent time with her, it was as if I could hear chains falling off, falling to the ground. No wonder I felt lighter, brighter!

Funny thing is, this lady doesn't see herself as a "giant of the faith," as someone who has it all together. She is quick to testify that she is a sinner, that she is weak in body, and that she often must fight hard for joy and for greater faith in the midst of pain and trials. In fact, if I wrote her name here, she would be mortified. Yet, her life and example are paying dividends in the lives of others that she can't imagine.

Another friend (Hi, Jenny!) posted this quote from Christ in the Chaos' Facebook status this week: "The worst first impression we can make on other moms is that of appearing to have it all together. Be weak and let them be impressed with His strength."

Steve asked me once, after a Fray-Mill dinner, "What is it about L---- that encourages you so much?" I think that quote Jenny posted sums it up: L---- has not been ashamed to be weak, to be seen as needy, to live as one who daily depends completely on Christ for life and hope and strength and wisdom. In walking a path of humility, however, she has become a beacon of Christ's strength and glory.

We all have weak places, broken places, fears, huge battles we are fighting that we seem to be always in danger of losing. Me, I want to conquer some weakness, slay a particular sin, stand triumphant over some trial in my life, and then - maybe - as a victorious, puffed-up, has-it-all-together soldier I will share with you the struggle I once had, but that is now behind me. Let me master this, and then I will tell you about it.

I usually don't want to share what I'm going through right now. Not while I'm in the midst of it. No, let me see the whole reel first. I may need to edit some scenes, censor some dialogue, do a little photo-shop magic before the tape is "released." Want to be sure to present myself in the best light, right?

But that attitude robs me of so much...the support and encouragement of my brothers and sisters in Christ in the midst of my struggles. And it robs them, too. Robs them of the joy of working out the love of Christ in their ministry to me, and of the blessing of seeing Christ's strength made sufficient in a weak sister.

What supernatural power it takes to live a life of humility and weakness! I pray today that, like my friend, I will live honestly, transparently. That God will give me the grace to admit my frailty, that His strength might be displayed the more.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Okay, I've already mentioned my little conversation with the gentleman who thought he really needed the game Gears of War. Well, as the holiday season approaches, the feeding frenzy is gearing up and life at the cash register is getting just a little weird. Unique perspective, that of standing behind a cash register.

Last week, a frazzled mom and her two teenage kids came through my line. Looked like it had been a long day for mom. You know, that gray, bleary-eyed, dazed look. This wasn't a Christmas shopping trip - just routine grocery shopping. As I scanned groceries, Son plopped an item on the end of the belt.

"You're not getting that!" Mom protested.

"But Mom, I really need this..." The wheedling began.

"I'm not paying for it." Mom was holding her ground. "If you want it that bad, you can bring your own money next time we come and buy it for yourself."

"I want it now," Son protested. "I'll pay you back when we get home."

So went the check-out game. Son had Mom in a corner - she was exhausted, frazzled, too tired to carry on a prolonged argument. Surrounded by strangers, you could tell she really didn't want to make a big fuss and cause a scene, either. It's tough to hold your ground when everyone around just wants you to hurry up and pay for your groceries so you can get out of their way!

Mom's shoulders drooped a tad further. All the groceries had been scanned and totaled. All that remained was the offending item - and the nagging teenage son. I stood there waiting, really wishing I could give the boy a piece of my mind, tell him to be more respectful of his mother, to stop whining like a baby. Mom let out a long sigh...she was buckling.

"So," I piped in. I grabbed the item and held it up. "That'll be a 'No'?" I quickly set the item aside, beneath my register. Mom blinked and straightened, like she'd been pulled suddenly out of a dream. "Your total is $153.67." I turned to the son. "I'm sure we'll still have these in stock next week. Don't forget to bring your money!" Mom's weak smile looked like a big Thank You to me.

Maybe I'm not really the best person to have working in retail. Then again, if you're a tired mom and could use some back-up, feel free to come through my line any time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live. - G.K. Chesterton, in Orthodoxy

Yesterday, I was thinking through this Big Joy that powers our Christian faith. But, like me, you may be asking, "If joy is such an integral part of the Christian faith, then why am I so downcast?"

If we're honest, we have to admit this life is hard. We endure many trials. Our hearts get broken. Sickness, persecution, broken relationships, frustrated plans and dreams, addictions, death...this is not joyful stuff, people!

One beauty of Scripture is that it does not disregard one truth for the sake of elevating another. Just look again at those verses in Hebrews 12: "...let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (v. 1-2)

Odd juxtaposition of words, don't you think? Weight, sin, endurance (as in hard, exhausting, on-going work), the cross,

Here's another odd combination: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness..." (James 1:2) Trials,

Or consider the Beatitudes, in Mark 5: "Blessed are the poor in spirit...those who mourn...those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake...Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad..." Poor, hungry, persecuted, reviled...rejoice.

Christ Himself was called "a man of sorrows." He wept over Jerusalem, grieved the death of Lazarus, mourned the hardness of His hearers' hearts. He was misunderstood, maligned, ridiculed, beaten, murdered. Yet He endured all of this "...for the joy that was set before Him..."

So which is it? What are we to expect in this Christian life? Big joy - Or - big sorrow?

The answer is: Both. In fact, Scripture assures us that we most certainly will experience both. Well, if that's the case, then how is this Christian life any different from life as a non-believer? And how does joy play into all of this?

G.K. Chesterton put it this way: Everything human must have in it both joy and sorrow; the only matter of interest is the manner in which the two things are balanced or divided.

Picture in your mind planet Earth, surrounded by a thin layer of atmosphere, and beyond that space, stretching out further than we can even imagine. For the unbeliever, Earth and its atmosphere are all that they have - the present, small, immediate joys that can be scrounged in a short existence in a decaying body. "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Whatever makes me happy now. Climbing this mountain, sex with a new partner, advancing a level in this video game, reaching the top of the corporate ladder, eating this cake...whatever it is, that is as big as the joy gets. And when it's all over? The immense blackness of space - eternal separation from the God they were created to worship. Physical torment, and the never-ending consciousness of all that has been lost. Hell. Do you see how small is the joy, how vast the sorrow?

But for the Christian, this Earth and its atmosphere represent the very small travail of our existence. Decaying bodies, fraught with aches and sickness. Addictions. Broken hearts and broken homes. Unemployment. Poverty, hunger, disease, death. Persecution. Martyrdom. Those sound like pretty big sorrows, don't they? But in all this, we have the promise of God that these very trials are working to transform us into the likeness of our beloved Savior, Jesus: we are being made truly beautiful. Plus, we get "flashes" of joy (those things which the unbeliever confuses for ultimate joy) along the way to brighten our path - good music, mountain climbing, great sex, chocolate cake, cold beer. And then, finally, punch through the thin "atmosphere" of this short life into the vast expanse of "space" that lies beyond - an eternity of living in the presence of God Himself. Living with whole, healthy, vigorous bodies. With meaningful and satisfying work. Living with our brothers and sisters in relationships characterized by genuine and untainted love. No more sickness, no more tears, no more sorrow. Forever. Forever. Do you see how small is our sorrow, how infinite our joy?!

The pagan sees no further than the gray clouds suspended overhead, and says, "Such sorrow! There must not be a god. I will grab for myself what happiness I can, while I have time." The Christian sees past the nearer atmosphere of clouds and storms, sees past them to the brilliance of the stars and the sun, sees glimpses of the joy that lies beyond and says, "Glory!"

Yes, this life is hard. Yes, your soul will be downcast. But infinitely bigger than your sorrow is the great Joy that lies beyond. This is why we find the Psalmist and the Apostle Paul and gloomy Jeremiah, even while in the depths of melancholy, suddenly bursting out into joyful praise. Remembering anew the huge joy that lay before them, they could not help but sing, even in the midst of trials.

To quote G.K. Chesterton once more: Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man's ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something small and special...Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Deon made a statement during Sunday evening's sermon that went something like this: "The whole world is governed by God for our salvation. We have to move beyond relying on our experience and emotions, to relying on faith and God's Word."

We are going through Isaiah on Sunday nights. Israel, because of its idolatry and immorality, was being disciplined by God. One foreign army after another marched through the land, devastating the countryside, slaughtering its inhabitants, and carrying the few survivors off into captivity. Famine, sword, pestilence, bondage. Huge, bitter pills to swallow.

But in the midst of such severe discipline, God assured His people that He would one day restore them. He would bring them home and remove all that oppressed them. In chapter 14, we have God telling His people to "take up this taunt against the king of Babylon" - God Himself would break the oppressor. We learn that even Babylon was under God's sovereign rule, and that, while the king of Babylon thought himself independent and great and powerful, he was instead little more than a surgical instrument in the hands of Almighty God.

I think one of the points Deon was making was that even our afflictions - even our very great afflictions - are ordained by God to bring us to salvation and to grow us in holiness. If I were an Israelite living during the Babylonian captivity, I might be tempted to think that God had abandoned me, or to even think God didn't exist at all. It is only by faith - and by firm confidence in the veracity of the Word of God - that I can look at trials in this life as instruments of grace wielded by my loving, merciful, all-powerful Father.

So, back to Deon's statement: "The whole world is governed by God for our salvation. We have to move beyond relying on our experience and emotions, to relying on faith and God's Word." I looked over my sermon notes this morning and spent several minutes meditating on that statement. Truths I need to consider and reflect upon daily. Then, I turned to my daily reading...and guess where I found myself, by God's good providence?

Hebrews, chapter 11! "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Then, account after account of those who lived "by faith" - I counted that expression at least 13 times in chapter 11!

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for..." So, all these people mentioned in Hebrews 11 lived by faith, lived in the assurance of that great thing for which they hoped, which was...what? What humongous thing am I, as a child of God, assured? What sure hope do I possess that is so big that it grounds a faith such as the faith of Enoch and Noah and Moses? The faith of even Christ Himself?

As I sat pondering this question, having just read Hebrews 11, I thought to myself, "This Big Thing which powers a hope which in turn undergirds an unshakable faith...this Big Thing, I am certain, must have something to do with joy..." I flipped back to the concordance. "Where is that verse...the one about Christ enduring the cross because of joy?" Funny, that verse was in Hebrews, chapter 12!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:1-2, italics added)

Past the wretchedness and horror of the cross, Jesus saw something so big and glorious, some fountain of joy so great that it was worth walking through the nightmare of Golgotha to reach.

Can you imagine a Joy so great, so compelling? A Joy which, to attain, would satisfy every longing, erase every hurt, make every trial and tear fade to nothingness by comparison? A Joy so big that it swallows all the suffering of exile and foreign captivity? That it swallows the pain of childlessness? That it compels a prince to leave his palace and wander instead in a wilderness? That it swallows up even the horror of the Cross?

Jesus knew such a joy. It was the joy of being in the presence of the Father. Of unfettered communion. Of standing before the face of God, and knowing, under that omnipotent, omniscient gaze, that He was God's Beloved.

If we go back to the beginning of the story (well, the written beginning), we find this is exactly the purpose for which we were created, you and me. We were created for pure and unfettered communion with God, to be an object of God's delight, to reflect His glory, to worship Him in His very presence.

And, in Christ, this is exactly what He assures us. Later in Hebrews 12, we read, "But you have come to Mount Zion and into the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word that the blood of Abel." (verses 22-24)

We are promised a very BIG JOY, sisters and brothers! And that, in turn, gives us great hope. And, as it is God Himself who has promised, and He cannot lie, we are assured of what has been promised, which in turn gives us great faith. Hallelujah!

If you're interested in considering this great joy a bit more, check in over at Tim Challies's blog: Finding Joy, Finding Hope and I Can Only Imagine. Good stuff!

Friday, November 11, 2011


"I'm really looking forward to tonight!" Steve enthused as we were getting ready for the day.

"Why? What's tonight?"

"The Reformation Conference!"

Oh, yeah...Derek Thomas is coming to Dyersburg, and will be speaking tonight and tomorrow on Romans 8. "How the Gospel Brings Us All the Way Home." This is going to be awesome, people.

But me...I'll be at Wal-Mart, bagging up groceries for frazzled shoppers. Blech. Seems here lately I've been missing so many good times of teaching and fellowship. Instead of gathering around a bonfire with family and friends, instead of sitting under the teaching of Derek Thomas, I spend my evenings in the tiny box of a cash register. Blip, beep, beep, blip... "Your total is fifty-seven dollars and fourteen cents."

This morning, I was thinking, "What a lousy trade!" And, yes, I was feeling a tad bit sorry for myself.

Then, I spent an hour on-line, helping three students register for spring classes at UT Martin. Everyone got the classes they wanted, at the times they small feat. Yay! Once everyone was officially registered, we clicked over to check out the fee summaries. Wowzer!

Okay, NOW I remember why I'll be standing at a register at Wal-Mart tonight, instead of sitting in a pew at Dyersburg First Presbyterian Church. And, as much as I hate missing Derek Thomas, this is a trade I'm willing to make. This is only a season - a short season in my life and in the lives of my children. Very soon, college fees will be behind us, and, hopefully, this late-night job will be behind me, too. And when this season is past, maybe I'll have another opportunity to hear Derek Thomas.

If not, we'll have forever in Glory together, and I'll just have catch up with him then.

(If you're not scheduled to be on the clock tonight, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to enjoy excellent teaching and sweet fellowship. Tonight - 6:30. Saturday - 10:30 a.m. Click here for details.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011


So we've been looking at old photos and feeling a bit nostalgic lately, remembering dear friends and forgotten stories. Which brings me to today's post.

Steve and I married just weeks after he graduated from Middle Tennessee State University. We lived a few months in a duplex in Murfreesboro, before shipping out to Virginia and our new life in the Marine Corps. Wedding, honeymoon, a short visit in West Tennessee with family, and then, finally, we drove a few hours east to our very first home together.

420 West Bell Street. We rented one half of a very old house that had been sort of divided into a duplex. Mr. Woods, the 90+ year-old man who owned the house - and who shared it with us - lived in one side, and we occupied the other. On our side of the house, we had a living room (which we were never able to use because it was so heavily infested with fleas from Mr. Woods decrepit cat, Tom), a bedroom, and an enclosed back porch that had been converted into a kitchen just big enough for two people. We all shared the one bathroom in the house.

Steve moved into the duplex about a month before graduation so that he could begin cleaning, painting, flea-bombing, and making other badly-needed repairs. Let's just say that old Mr. Woods was way past the day of household maintenance, and things were in pretty bad shape! Still, the house was quaint, the rent was cheap, the neighborhood was old and established, and we had awesome next door neighbors.

Sadly, Mr. Woods died right before Steve and I married. His daughter Linda, who inherited the property, graciously agreed to let us continue renting. Actually, she worked out a sweet deal for us...instead of writing her a check each month for X amount of dollars, we agreed to put that much into the house each month in paint and materials. We would help her get the house ready to put on the market before we left for Virginia later that summer.

Two weeks after our wedding, Steve and I drove "home" to 420 Bell Street on a Sunday afternoon. Monday morning, Steve left for work at the city engineer's office, and I busied myself with the task of settling into our new abode. Cleaning, unpacking boxes, figuring out where to put stuff...a grungy kind of day.

Mid-morning, I heard a loud knock at the front door. Climbing over boxes and slapping fleas, I finally reached the door to find a lady holding a large bouquet of flowers. "Yes? Can I help you?"

"I have a delivery here for Mrs. Kendall." The woman held the flowers out toward me.

"Oh, there must be some mistake," I replied. "There's no one at this house by that name."

The woman pulled out a slip of paper with delivery instructions written on it. "Well, it says right here - 420 West Bell Street. This is 420 West Bell Street, isn't it?"

"Yes, ma'am, you've got the right address, but there's been some mistake." My brained whirred, trying to unravel the mystery. "Oh, you know what, the lady who owns this house...her name is Linda...Linda...Oh, I can't remember her last name. It's not Mrs. Woods, but I don't think it's Mrs. Kendall either."

Finally, the befuddled delivery lady turned and walked with the beautiful flowers back down the sidewalk to her car. Me, I closed the front door and headed back to work, still trying to think of Linda's last name. Mrs. Woods? Mrs. Stone? Wait a minute! I raced to the front of the house and bolted across the porch. "Wait! Wait!" I waved frantically as the delivery lady began pulling away from the curb. I ran over to her lowered window. "Hey! Those flowers are for ME! I'm Mrs. Kendall!"

After I'd worked so hard to persuade the delivery lady that no Mrs. Kendall lived at that address, it took a little effort to convince her I really was the intended recipient of the bouquet. "They're from my husband," I explained. "We just got married..." Steve had sent the flowers to brighten my first, very grubby day in Murfreesboro, while he was away at work. But, silly me, I'd forgotten that I had a new name!

Kind of like, sometimes still, when I forget that I have another new name, the name of my Eternal Husband. In the grunge and toil of life, sometimes I think He's "out there, somewhere" - like Steve was at work that day - and maybe He's not really thinking about me, or maybe it doesn't occur to Him that I'm tired and nasty and swatting fleas.

But He does care, and He is thinking about me. And when it seems that I have almost forgotten that I am His, He sends a "bouquet" - maybe in the Scripture I read today, or in the prayer of a friend, or in the beauty of the farm during a quiet walk. A message of tender, passionate, devoted love.

Steve was thinking of me that Monday morning. "Lots of love! - Steve"

And Jesus is thinking of me today. "To my beloved bride!"

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


"Mom! We found a picture of you in a bikini!"

Gack! This is how I was greeted when I drug in from my shift at Wal-Mart late last night. Seems Steve was looking for some old photos from his Marine Corps days, and he had recruited the kids to help him dig through boxes in the attic.

Sure, my kids had heard stories about the itty-bitty, black-and-white polka dot bikini, the bikini that couldn't quite handle the surf zone off the Pacific coast. But they'd never seen actual pictures of it.

The girls waved the offending photograph under my nose, giggling. "Look, Mom!"

So I pulled my reading glasses off the top of my head and checked out the thin, brown, long-ago me in the photo. "Girls, all I can say is, this kind of attire is not appropriate. Not even if your mom wore it a hundred years ago!"

A few other things hit me about that photo. For one thing, I was so thin. Funny, though, how that young 20-something me never felt thin. I don't remember feeling particularly fat, either, but I do remember a vague consciousness that fatness lurked like a hidden enemy, waiting to pounce on me if I let my guard down. I wasn't a dieter, but neither was I completely free to simply enjoy the body God had given me, the way He'd made it. Today, as a solid, "womanly" 50-year-old, I would not want to be as thin as that young woman in the photograph...but it's kind of sad, too, to think that Young Me didn't fully appreciate who she was at the time.

Another thought: how much we enjoyed that short assignment in California. Steve's school was at Camp Del Mar, right on the beach. At lunch time, I'd drive over to the base and meet him for a picnic on the beach, where we'd enjoy the sun and the wind and the crashing of the surf. Weekends, the beach was a cheap, relaxing date. And there were the after-dinner walks around the lakes adjacent to our apartment complex, at the park where Steve taught me to throw and catch a softball.

There were afternoon runs with my neighbor, Debbie Stevens. How I enjoyed the time to talk and decompress with this delightful friend after a day of work! Steve and I made forays into new and unfamiliar territory - touring San Diego with Pat and Teri Arter, California natives, in their totally cool VW bus. A weekend jaunt to Sequoia National Forest. The San Diego Wild Animal Park.

And once in a blue moon, we actually had a visitor from home, someone who spoke that sweet Tennessee twang.

Today, I am not thin, not brown, and you won't catch me dead in a bikini. I don't jog 5 miles every day, or try to see how far out from the shoreline I can swim. But I do not look at that picture of me from the past with longing, wishing I could somehow go back to the days of my youth. Nope. I look at that bikini-clad girl-woman and smile, and think how very grateful I am for the journey God has brought me on - thankful for where I've been, for the things He's taught me on this often bumpy and painful path, for the things He's showing me in this place today.

Anticipating the good things ahead, over the next hill, on the distant horizon.

Monday, November 7, 2011


Pastor Billy referenced a Scripture passage in yesterday morning's sermon that I noted to look up again later, when I could spend a little more time thinking about it without getting distracted from the message at hand.

Acts 1:6-8 reads, So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

Yesterday, it was the last verse of that passage that particularly caught my interest. I want to know what it is to be empowered and emboldened by the Holy Spirit to share the gospel of Christ, and I want to see and redeem opportunities to share this gospel with others, both here in my community and elsewhere. This has been a prayer of mine for some time now, yet I feel like I am still waiting to see it answered. God is not answering my prayer the way I sort of imagined - you know, like Peter at Pentecost. Nope, nothing spectacular at all. But I keep praying, and yesterday, this passage encouraged me to keep on praying and to keep my eyes open for opportunities, however small, to speak to others of God's grace shown to us in Christ.

However, it wasn't until this morning that I actually sat down and re-read the passage. Funny how, this morning, it hit me in a totally different way.

Today, I woke up with a heart heavy over a broken relationship that I have long desired to be mended. No, not depressed...rather, just a sad weariness. Despite years of praying, despite years of others praying alongside me, this particular relationship - once such a delight! - is still characterized by very little intimacy and no honest communication. Oh, how I long for restoration, yet it seems impossible. Lord, how long?!

Then, I sat down for my morning read - several chapters in Jeremiah and a few in Hebrews. Before setting my Bible aside, I pulled out yesterday's bulletin. What was that passage I wanted to look up again?

"Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" Christ's disciples asked Him in verse 6. For me, the question seemed vaguely similar: Lord, will you at this time restore this broken relationship? Lord, at this time will you make right what has gone horribly wrong? Lord, at this time, will you make all things new?

Christ's answer? "It is not for you to know..."

That might not seem like a very encouraging answer at first. I'm kinda tired here, barely hanging on, Lord. I feel like giving up. It really would be nice to know that soon - very soon - You are going to step in and make everything right. I think I could hang in here a little longer if You'd just tell me that restoration is very close at hand.

"It's not for you to know..." Not a very encouraging answer, except for what follows. "It is not for you to know....BUT..."

Don't you just love that word? BUT...

"But you will receive power..." God has assured me that He will give me the strength I need, when I need it.

"...when the Holy Spirit has come upon you..." That strength will be the presence and power of God Himself, dwelling within me in the person of His Spirit.

"...and you will be my witnesses..." The effect of the presence of God in my life will be that I will indeed be a witness to my Savior, Jesus.

I will receive power, through the Holy Spirit, and I will be His witness. The language in this passage is emphatic. It will possibility that it will not. That is huge encouragement indeed, both as I look for opportunities to share Christ with others and as I struggle to honor Christ in the midst of a broken relationship. Looks like I need to struggle less with When, and rest and glory more in the God who has made such a great and sure promise.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


One night out of the week at home. One single, solitary night, not of my choosing, but assigned by some computer program in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Last night - Wednesday - was my one night for the current week. And I stayed home. Steve and the kids headed out the door for Wednesday classes at church as I began carrying dinner dishes to the sink.

It was my choice to stay home - how I miss being at home! - but the choice wasn't made without a few pangs of guilt. I wanted to be with my family, and with my church family. But I also wanted, very much, to have the household chores checked off before a ridiculously late hour. Even more, I wanted some quiet time alone to read and think and pray. I had to make a choice - I couldn't have both - and I made the choice to withdraw to a quiet place, an empty house.

Dishes washed, laundry folded, floors swept...I took a long hot shower and then put on a kettle for tea. Finally, tea in hand, I settled in to catch up on reading J.I. Packer's Rediscovering Holiness. I was several weeks behind in the material we're covering in Sunday school.

In Chapter 4, Holiness: The Panoramic View, Packer describes several "takes" on holiness, different ways that holiness has been described or understood or practiced by Christians throughout the ages. Of the several schools of thought described, they all had one thing in common. Whether holiness was understood to be more internal (prayer, contemplation of Scripture, meditation, etc.) or more external (kindness and patience toward others, industry, self-discipline, etc.), all the views were built on the understanding that growing in holiness means growing in Christ-likeness.

Growing in holiness, therefore, involves growing in Christ-likeness in all these areas, both in the contemplative and in the acting out of this faith. This idea is not something new to me, but considering it anew last night provided such encouragement at this crazy, stressful season of my life.

I need periods of quiet. Without them, I get strung out, dis-oriented, disquiet. Yet, I have always felt somewhat guilty for needing such pauses - like, if I were physically stronger, or if my faith were greater, I would be able to take everything in stride, to walk unruffled through the muck of life. Other people don't seem to need so much rest. Some even seem to thrive on constant activity and stimulation. What's wrong with me?

So why did I feel so encouraged last night? Because I considered anew the truth that Jesus withdrew. Jesus - the God-man, my perfect Savior, the older brother to whom I desire earnestly to be conformed - Jesus Himself sought out quiet places of solitude, places of intimate communion with His Father.

What's wrong with me? Very much. But what about this weakness of needing quiet, still moments to study and think and pray? No, this weakness, felt most keenly in the frantic, crazy seasons of life, is a gift from a loving, gracious God.

But he (Jesus) would withdraw to desolate places and pray. - Luke 5:16


"I'm going to be the Incredible Hulk. You think this is enough paint?" The ginormous, muscle-bound body builder standing at my register laid six thumb-sized tubes of green Halloween face paint on the counter. His tight T-shirt testified to the fact that, yes, he was indeed qualified to play the part.

I've already told you I was a little crazy that Saturday before Halloween. I looked at the six tubes of paint, looked up at him, looked back at the paint. "Well, that depends. Are you just going to paint your face and neck - or your whole body?"

He met my stare, the gears in his head obviously turning. "Hang on a minute...I'll be right back."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I have sought to constrain the Holy Spirit, hiding Him away like pirate treasure in the banded, wooden casket of my heart, buried deep. Secret. Safe.

Today, instead, I would that He were as common a companion as walks each step of this mundane life with me, as familiar as air. Not secreted away, hidden, guarded, but exhaled easily and freely and naturally as breath. Exhaled into the world around me.

Not secret. Not safe.

Alive, visible, moving...moving me into that unknown, frightening, dangerous, and eternally safe place that is the will of God.

Today, Lord, disinter your treasure from the humus of my timid heart. Bring it out of darkness, to the light of day. Open the casket and circulate anew the gold that is Yours.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Where did we leave off yesterday....Oh, yeah, I remember.

It was Saturday morning, October 29th, and there I stood scanning groceries and cheap Halloween costumes, trying to sound sane and to not cry as I said, "Hello! How are you today?" At 4:30 that afternoon, a great horde of people - people I love and wanted so badly to fellowship with - were going to begin arriving at my house, and I wouldn't be there. Yes, the kids had cleaned up the house and the yard, but, nope, I still hadn't gotten out to buy foam cups and marshmallows and ingredients for hot chocolate and spiced cider. At 7:30, an angel choir would begin singing in the Union City Civic Auditorium - but I wasn't going to get to hear them. Sometime between 6:00 and 7:30, I would meet T---- and hand off the tickets.

My feet hurt, and my back hurt, and I was so tired that I was making all kinds of squirrelly mistakes at the register.

Yep, Saturday was NOT looking good.

Heading to the back of the store for a much-needed break, I spied my friend Melissa on the paper-goods aisle. I jogged over for a quick hug, then started crying. "I've got this, Camille. I'm on top of it..." Melissa wasn't shopping for herself. She was buying supplies for the party at my house. "Don't think another thought about it - get back to work." She hugged me again and shooed me away. What a tremendous burden she lifted off my weary shoulders! For now, I only had to worry about surviving my shift.

I finally trudged out to the car at 6:15 Saturday evening, unlocked the door and climbed into the driver's seat. Too tired and too numb to think clearly. I didn't want to go home...I didn't want to go to a concert...I didn't want to go anywhere. I just wanted to be still and quiet. So I sat there and cried. Yep, had a full-blown pity party.

Lord, I am crashing... How do you pray when your body and your soul and your heart are so very tired, so very at the bottom? I'm not inclined to ask for signs from God, but...Lord, I need some very direct communication from You right now...

Brrrrng! I blew my nose and dug in my purse for the cell phone. "Hello?"

"Mrs. Camille, this is T----. We're at your house right now at the Reformation Party. We're getting ready to head to Union City for the concert. Where should we meet you to get the tickets?"

I really needed to be getting home. At 7:10, I found my young friends on the steps to the auditorium. They had brought a few other folks from the party, too, including my daughter Martha. "Mom, just go to the concert." Martha is bossy like that sometimes. Emotionally, I was in something like a fetal position - I needed a little bossing around. "Mom, just stay with us."

So I did.

The theme for the concert was love. The first half of the program, classical choral music from Europe. Scripture set to music. God's love for His people. Christ's love for His bride, the church. At one point, the young girl sitting next to me leaned her head on my shoulder and whispered, "Mrs. Camille, if I woke up in heaven right now, and the angels began singing, I think this is how it would sound."

"Yes, I think you're right."

For two hours, God's messengers sang love songs straight to my heart. Thank you, Lord.

When I pulled into the driveway just before 11:00 Saturday night, only one car remained from all the guests who had been at my house that evening. Steve stood at the kitchen sink, washing the last of the dishes. Thomas ran out to the coals left from the bonfire and roasted a hot dog for my late supper. A hot dog, a glass of wine, and finally bed. Whatever good or bad, wrong or right, that had transpired during that long Saturday, it was over.

Sunday morning at Grace, the singing was awesome - and that's saying a lot, coming on the heels of a Chanticleer concert! The preaching - a passionate call to consider anew the glory and majesty and sovereignty of our great God. The Lord's Supper: "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 Spurgeon, Amidst Us Our Beloved Stands)

When I am bottomed out, exhausted, at my lowest, that's when I need most desperately to remember and to contemplate earnestly the great truths that God is sovereign, God is good, and He loves me very much.

This weekend, I was too tired to think, to weak to God tenderly told me again Himself.