Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Monday was an amazingly productive day for me.  Up early to pick beans before the heat; fed and watered the chickens, then watered flowers and trees in the yard; weeded flower beds; cleaned the chicken house; laundry, laundry, laundry....And all of that before lunchtime.  Wow!

The afternoon and evening were busy, too.  Washing all the sweat and grime down the shower drain that night, I thought, "Okay, Tuesday's over. Tomorrow is Wednesday.  What's on the To-Do list for tomorrow?  Appointment with the eye doctor, piano lessons, church..."  It was only later, as I crawled into bed that I caught my mistake.  "Today is not Tuesday - it's Monday!  Tomorrow is Tuesday!"

Whew!  Glad I caught that in time to reset my internal calendar!

After a good night's sleep, I got up the next morning confident that the new day was Thursday...and it wasn't until yesterday evening, after a brief flash of panic over not having gotten the trash bin to the curb, that one of the kids clued me in.

Okay, so yesterday was Tuesday.  Today is Wednesday, and I've already been to see Dr. Bugg, and tomorrow is trash pick-up day.  Maybe I've got it straight now.

Being Almost 50 is such an adventure!

When I was in fourth grade, I was in love with my fabulous home-room teacher, Mrs. L. C. Nichols.  She was the sun around which my little brain planet orbited.  Our class was taking a spelling class once which included the names of the days of the week.  Mrs. Nichols wrote in giant letters on the chalkboard:  W-e-d-n-e-s-d-a-y.  "Class, when I call out the word 'Wednesday' for your test, every one of you will want to spell it incorrectly.  Do not do that!  Look up here at the board and copy the word exactly as I have written it."  She continued, "You do not need to practice spelling this word incorrectly even one more time.  Write it correctly.  W-e-d-n-e-s-d-a-y.  And in the future, if you are not perfectly confident how to spell 'Wednesday,' ask me and I will tell you how to spell it correctly."  She looked at us over her black, cat-eye glasses.  "Do you understand?  Do not EVER let me catch you spelling the word 'Wednesday' incorrectly again.  You have no excuse!"

Now, in my little mind, looking at the chalkboard during a spelling test felt awfully lot like cheating.  After all, as a student, wasn't I responsible for studying the words and memorizing their correct spellings?  Was my beloved teacher asking me to compromise my integrity?  Maybe this was a different kind of test, something more than just a spelling test.  When Mrs. Nichols called out "Wednesday,"  I closed my eyes and swallowed hard.  I wanted so badly to look at the board, just to check, to make sure I had it right.  But even more, I wanted to pass the integrity test.

You can guess what happened.  Little Miss A+ Overachiever was the only student who misspelled "Wednesday" that day.  When Mrs. Nichols handed back our graded papers, she paused at my desk.  "Camille, I need to see you after class."

Mrs. Nichols listened calmly as I explained my inner dilemma and the reason for misspelling the word she had explicitly told us to copy from the board.  I felt like such a failure.  Placing her hands on my shoulders, Mrs. Nichols stared at me ever her glasses.  "Now, Camille, please spell the word 'Wednesday' for me.  Correctly, this time."

"Capital W, e, d, n, e, s, d, a, y."

"Will you ever spell 'Wednesday' incorrectly again?"  She raised her eyebrows.

"No, ma'am."  Nope.  No way.  Not ever, at least not intentionally.  No, because I loved Mrs. Nichols, and because I wanted more than anything in the world to please her, and because my gross disobedience and embarrassing mistake had worked to stamp "W-e-d-n-e-s-d-a-y" indelibly in my brain.

All this to say - funny how sometimes it's when we get something WRONG that we learn most assuredly what is RIGHT.  Our mistakes teach us in powerful ways, ways that our competencies can't even begin to instruct us.

The last day of school that year, Mom and I went to Mrs. Nichols room to pick up my report card.  "I have some sad news," Mrs. Nichols reported.  "I won't be teaching fourth grade next year."

"Oh," I whispered.  I couldn't imagine walking the halls of the elementary school next year without the sunshine of seeing her beautiful face.  This was sad news indeed.

"But I have some good news, too.  I have asked to be moved to the fifth grade," Mrs. Nichols smiled, "and I will be your home-room teacher next year!"

I bounced right up into her arms, laughing and smiling.  I couldn't wait for fifth grade - I just knew it was going to be an awesome year!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

BEAUTIFUL YOU (Bride, Part 4)

I've been writing lately about what things I would tell a young woman about to get married.  Today, Part 4.

Way back years ago in the murky soup of my brain, I got the mixed up idea that to be a truly loving, supportive, submissive wife, I should defer all my interests, preferences, and dreams to those of my husband.  Well, maybe not all of them, but at least those that were unlike his, or that complicated his plans and aspirations.  I saw this "dying to self" as a pursuit of righteousness.  (Self-righteousness, maybe!)  I equated submission of my will with suppression of my personality.  Very. Bad. Math.

I noticed something odd a few years back..  If Steve and I were out by ourselves (on one of those very rare occasions) and he asked, "Where would you like to eat/what would you like to do/etc.?" - I found that I had no answer to give.  He asked me once, "If you had a day free to do whatever you wanted, what would you do?"  I stared at him blankly.  Clean the bathroom?  Catch up on laundry?  Iron your shirts?  I knew that wasn't what he was asking.  I tried desperately to remember what it was I had enjoyed doing, way back when, back before marriage and babies, back when free time was a reality instead of a fantasy.  I couldn't think of a single thing.

A grim realization hit me:  Somewhere over the years, so gradually that it had been imperceptible, I had completely lost myself.  I had committed personality suicide.

Thankfully, God didn't leave me dead on the table.  He has repeatedly applied a defibrillator - a crisis, a conversation, a sermon, a friendship - to shock me back to life.  No, I'm not yet fully "awake," but, hallelujah!, there's at least a pulse on the monitor.  Feels like I'm slowly tingling back to life.  All this to say...

Dear Bride:  You are a particular, one-of-a-kind "gift" to your husband, your family, your church, and the world around you. God has given you a distinct personality with likes and dislikes, gifts, talents, and dreams that are peculiar to you.  Be careful in the busy-ness of life as a wife and mom and in your eagerness to serve and please that you do not lose the gift of who you are.  Rather, work to develop your talents and interests.  Be deliberate.  Look for opportunities to learn and grow as a unique individual, for your and your husband's edification and for God's glory.

Steve did not fall in love with and marry me because I was just like he was, and my foolish laboring over the years to become his clone robbed us both of much growth and delight.  Learn from my mistakes, little sister.  Don't leave the gift of You wrapped up and hidden behind the Christmas tree.  Bring it out, open it up, cherish it, nurture it, and share it with the people you love.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

WOMAN (Bride, Part 3)

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. - Genesis 1:26a,27

One of the treats of going to my grandmother's house as a little girl was that I got to watch TV.  We didn't have a TV at my house.  I remember a commercial for a particular brand of hair dye (was it Clairol?) that proclaimed:  "It's you, only better."  Even as a child, I thought that statement seemed nonsensical.  How could a product claim to be "me" and "better than me" at the same time?  Seemed like it should be one way or the other, but not both. 

I remember another commercial which featured a vampy woman singing in a throaty voice as she stared out of the TV with come-hither eyes:  "Who can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let you forget you're a man?"  She began the commercial in a business suit, switched to an apron, and finally ended up in a slinky nightgown.

Funny what sticks in your head over the years from watching television!

There is a philosophy of womanhood running rampant today that asserts women are just like men...only better.  Yes, we can dominate the corporate world, and we can cook dinner and be sex goddesses while we're at it.  Young women feel pressure to be it all, do it all.  The woman who genuinely desires to devote herself to seeking God, to loving her husband, to motherhood, home-making, hospitality, and the slow, unglamorous business of a life of service often finds herself pressed to "do more" with her life.  Like she's wasting her potential, sold out womankind, betrayed the sisterhood, by refusing to buy into the lies of the age.

Sara Groves laments this new age of womanhood in her song "Every Minute":  I can think of time when families all lived together, four generations in one house.  And the table was full of good food and friends and neighbors.  That's not how we like it now. Cause if you sit at home you're a loser.  Couldn't you find anything better to do?

In Genesis, we read that when God purposed to form a creature that would bear His image, He did so by making a man and a woman.  Woman was not a copy of man.  She was not man-only-better.  She was a unique representative of the God of the universe.  Whatever God wanted to communicate to this world about Himself through His image-bearers, He chose to do so through two distinct, complimentary beings - man and woman - each with their own gifts, strengths, and abilities.

Many woman today resent this distinction and labor to usurp the place of man.  Instead of gratefully receiving the good gifts and opportunities given them by God, they long covetously for another role.  Ironically, by doing so, they belittle the value of women rather than elevating women.

My challenge to you today, young bride, is this:  Never, ever forget that you are a unique image-bearer of the most high God.  God has made you different from your husband for a reason.  There is something about Himself that God wants to tell the world through you, a woman, that He has chosen not to tell through a man.  Because you are different, you have much to learn from your husband, and he has much to learn from you.  Don't be tempted to suppress the differences.  Celebrate those differences, and seek to use them to glorify God and to serve those around you.

And I'll caution you, young bride:  being a woman - a true woman - is hard work.  God's daughters are not pale lilies, locked away in ivory towers, eyes weak from embroidering tapestries.  No, they are strong women, warrior princesses, laboring against the lies and schemes of Satan.  Our service is right on the front line of Satan's attacks - our homes, our marriages and our families.

Don't get distracted.  Don't waste your time and strength trying to be something that you're not, "only better."  Suit up.  Stand strong.  Be a woman.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

BRIDE: BEWARE! (Bride, Part 2)

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me. - Genesis 20:2-3

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened...they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. - Romans 1:21, 25

I've heard it said that idolatry is when we take something good...and make it ultimate.  God is our ultimate source of life, security, purpose, joy, wisdom, hope, delight.  No thing - and no body - can supplant God.  Try putting something else in the place of God and you're headed for disappointment and misery.  Why?  Because nobody else can meet our deepest needs, satisfy our deepest longings, give us greater purpose or hope or joy.  Nobody.

A friend once described idolatry to me this way:  "I could never be happy in life without _________.  Fill in that blank, and you'll know what your idols are."  What would you put in that blank, young bride?  Hmmmm.  Tough question.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:11, "...I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content."  Earlier, in Philippians 1, we read this from Paul:  "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain....My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better."  Now that's a heart rightly devoted to Christ!

Dear bride, a husband is something wonderful to have.  A very good gift from a very good God.  But a husband makes a lousy deity and an inadequate savior.  At this young stage in your life together, it is easy to become completely wrapped up in and focused on the delightful companion that God has given you, even to the point that your world shifts - how easy it is to make your husband the very center of your life's orbit, to put him in a position that only God can fill!

Beware!  Don't make your husband an idol!  Don't put pressure on your husband to be for you and do for you what only God can be and do.  This will lead to disappointment and heartache on your part, and frustration and defeatism for your husband.  It will strangle the life out of even the sweetest relationship, begun with great joy and intimacy.

Love your husband.  Enjoy him greatly.  Respect him and submit graciously to his leadership.  Thank God for him every day.  But don't make him your life's purpose and substance.  Rather, walk together with your husband, side by side, toward that ultimate goal of knowing and loving Christ more deeply, trusting in His sufficiency and reveling in His goodness more each day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


There are some folks who find it difficult to think of "paradise" and "work" as compatible.  They consider the two mutually exclusive.  But we know that God instituted work before the fall (see Genesis 1:26-31).  The work appointed to man at creation was included under that grand statement, "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good."  Very good.

For many of us today, "very good" is NOT how we would describe our work experience!  Difficult labor,  stressful relationships with our bosses and co-workers, seemingly little fruit to show for long hours of this side of the fall often feels more like a curse than a good gift from God.  Indeed, this side of the fall, our work has been cursed because of sin.

My son explained once that bees in Central America - because of the long growing season and plentiful sunshine - produce so much honey that it literally flows out of their hives.  An abundance, an overflow, a cascade of sweetness.  These bees do what they were created to do, and do it so well, and in such favorable conditions, that their work is fruitful and very sweet indeed.

Can you imagine loving your job so much, and doing it so well, and in such ideal circumstances, that you just didn't even want to stop?  (Hey, bees, can you imagine a land literally "flowing with milk and honey"?!)  I am confident that in Glory, we will work.  We will do the work that we are appointed very well.  And, at last, we will know what it is for our work to be very good.

In the meantime, work this side of glory may be truly wearisome.  (Can I get an "Amen" from the night cashiers at MegaMart?)  Still, let us see our jobs as opportunities to learn more of Christ and His love for us, to experience and extend grace, and to increase our longing for the day when our work will be a blessing unpolluted by sin.

And on those golden days when our jobs truly are a delight, here and now, let us thank God for the good gift of work and for the assurance of even better work in Glory.  I'm kinda having one of those days today...

First thing this morning, I dressed and headed outside to tend my little flock of chickens.  They are such beautiful birds, and so funny in the morning - they run and flutter about, full of energy and life!  This little peep now has adult feathers, and will soon begin laying eggs.  Very good.  

The new bees are doing fabulously.  I guess they think life is pretty good, nestled among fruit trees on the edge of a hay field.  When I checked the hive this morning, I discovered that my queen has about a ba-jillion new baby bees, already hard at work.  It will soon be time to add more frames.  Very good. 
It's been a busy morning in the kitchen, too.  First, a date with my friend Donna.  Three loaves of sourdough now rising under the window - this afternoon, very good bread, hot from the oven.  As I write, a second canner full of Granny Mattie beans bubbles and hisses on the stove.  The seeds for these beans were passed down from my great-great-grandmother, and they're the best green beans on the planet.  Yes, they're very good.

Yes, I am very thankful for the work that God has allotted me today.  Thankful, and looking forward to the work He has for me in Glory.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

BRIDAL ARMOR (Bride, Part 1)

It's upon us again:  The Season of Love.

Twenty-eight years ago last Saturday, Steve and I stood before family and friends and committed to love each other "until death do us part."  This coming weekend, a dear young sister in Christ will stand before God, her church, family, and friends, and make a similar vow to her beloved.  Anniversaries, bridal showers, wedding must be June!

Honestly, even after twenty-eight years, I have to admit that I do not have this marriage thing down.  There are sweet seasons of delight, and then there are days when this feels more like the front line of a war zone.  But I guess that shouldn't be too surprising:  marriage is a war zone, and we have a cunning, ruthless, persistent enemy who wants very much to take us down.

In Ephesians, Paul spends a great deal of time talking about relationships within the body of Christ.  Husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants (or "bosses and employees").  And then, right on the heels of a lot of very particular instruction concerning these relationships, we encounter the passage that tells us to "put on the whole armor of God."  Why the leap from "love your wife" and "submit to you husband" - to - "put on armor"?  Doesn't that seem a little strange to you?

Not when you consider that Christ loves the church and that it is precious to Him.  This multifaceted jewel - the bride of Christ - reflects the radiance of the Gospel and of God's love for His people as we relate with one another.  And it is here, in our most intimate relationships, that Satan labors tirelessly to discredit the Gospel and to bring dishonor to the Bridegroom.  Paul exhorts Christian husbands and wives to arm themselves against Satan's attacks, and to STAND.  Yes, it's going to get messy.  Yes, we are going to get weary.  It may even get so tough that we want nothing more than to flee the battlefield.  But our command is to stand, stand, stand.

It's easy to get so preoccupied with The Dress that a bride forgets to put on her Armor first.  Sadly, the lace and the satin won't provide much defense against fiery darts.  All that said, what counsel would I give a young bride as she "suits up" for her wedding day?

First, young bride, always remain conscious of the truth that your eternal husband is Christ.  The handsome young man standing with you at the altar today will be your husband for only a season.  Five years, twenty-eight years, seventy years.  I don't know how many years God will bless you to have together, but I do know that one day, this earthly marriage will come to an end.  Enjoy your husband for the season God gives you, and let the delights of your marriage whet your appetite for the greater delights of Glory.  Walk together through the trials you and your husband encounter in this life, and let those trials increase your longing for the wedding feast of the Lamb, where there will be no sin, tears, sickness, or pain.

Just as you want to know and love and serve your earthly husband better throughout your lifetime, seek also to know and love and serve Jesus better.  Married life should not be a distraction that pulls you away from Christ, but a powerful vehicle for pulling you more and more towards Christ.  Marriage is not just an opportunity to know and enjoy another person in an intimate way...It is an opportunity to learn and experience more of the beauty, grace, and sufficiency of Christ, and to extend more and more of that grace to one another.

I like to think of it this way:  marriage is a living billboard of the love between Christ and His church.  It is an interactive, earthly picture of a greater, eternal marriage.  Yes, there will be times when we fall flat on this stage, or get our lines all wrong, but what a privilege to be part of this living drama!

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with jewels. - Isaiah 61:10

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church...Therefore, take up the whole armor of God...  - Ephesians 5:31-32; 6:13a