Wednesday, September 25, 2013


(A re-post, for a friend.)

- originally posted December 3, 2009

...God Himself will be with them...He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

Heading into the Christmas season, it may seem a bit peculiar that my thoughts are on grief and grieving. But they are. I have a friend who will be celebrating the holidays this year without her husband, who was killed in a car wreck this summer. Another young friend will be "celebrating" for the first time in his life without his father. We all know someone who has lost a beloved spouse, parent, child, or friend this year, and who is facing a Christmas painfully different from their last.

I know some folks - I call them the Happy People - who seem to grieve hard and fast, and then move quickly back to an undiluted joy of living. A death, a disappointment at work, a breakdown in a significant relationship...nothing seems to knock these people off their dancing feet for very long. I'm not one of those happy people, but am instead the melancholy type. I grieve, come up for air long enough to catch my breath, and then grieve some more. Steve commented to me once, "I don't think you're happy unless you're depressed!" Life for a Happy, living with a Melancholy, must be very frustrating at times!

Several years ago, a friend of mine was killed in a horrible car wreck - she and her husband and four of her six children. I remember when I first learned of the tragedy. Fresh grief is raw, electric, soul-shaking, numbing. Then came the realization that the two survivors, fighting for life in a far-away hospital, would have to face the news of the deaths of the rest of their family, as soon as they were physically/medically stable...down crashed a new wave of grief, for the two children who lived. A month later, the thought that a bruised and scarred 16-year-old boy would have to begin the process of "going through" his father's personal things...the awareness that he was now the man of the family, and his sister's spiritual leader...years later, the wedding without Mom or Dad or the four lost siblings there to celebrate...much, much joy in the years since the wreck, but not without the breaking of the surf - of loss, of grief - in the background.

People grieve differently. There was a time when I honestly felt guilty for being so s-l-o-w about the process myself. I considered that maybe, in some twisted way, I really did enjoy sorrow. Or, that maybe my inability to grieve more quickly was evidence of a weak faith. I finally decided that feeling bad for feeling bad was kind of stupid, realizing that not everyone's grief mechanism is alike. I no longer feel guilty for weeping, but am not yet completely free of the wish to be understood by the Happy People perplexed by the tears that seem to ready too overflow even during happy times.

I think that for Happy People, grief is perhaps like a sudden violent storm that blows up on a normally peaceful and beautiful lake, transforming the still water into dark and turbulent waves. Before too long, the storm blows itself out and the surface of the lake grows calm, reflecting once again the familiar and friendly sunshine. For the Melancholy, grief is like the ocean surf crashing rythmically to shore. Peace reigns between each of the breakers, but the waves don't ever stop rolling onto the beach. But, in case you're thinking all of this sounds horribly depressing, let me remind you that the waves bring treasures from the deep that would otherwise remain unseen. Waves of grief are often followed by waves of grace. For example....

My friend Carol left this world (see this post) for heaven almost two years ago, and the grief I feel over her absence is older now, riper, less stinging. But from out of the blue, a fresh wave crashed down on me last week - I found myself once again weeping for the friend I had lost, whom I hadn't seen in so long, whom I truly missed. (Carol, by the way, was a Happy People, but was always gracious and patient with her Melancholy friend!) As I struggled to not be swamped by this unexpected wave, I was suddenly reminded of the greatness of our salvation. It's as if God was telling me, "Camille, you are crying because you can no longer have the old Carol. Have you not even considered how much more you are going to delight in the new Carol? Imagine the Carol who waits for you in Glory!" And remarkably, I turned from looking back through tears at the Carol I had lost - to - looking joyously forward through tears to the Carol I haven't yet met. And the Glorious Carol is probably laughing right now, saying, "What took you so long!"

Now, if only I can learn to apply this insight to the many areas of life where I am still "looking back" through a blur of tears, longing for what was and is no more, instead of for the wonderful things God has in store for me ahead. Oh, if only could say with Paul, "forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (2 Phil. 3:13)

Monday, September 23, 2013


I cannot breathe through my nose right now, and my eyes are running like fountains. Pressure headache. My soft palette itches. Reuben says it's probably ragweed.

Our neighbor, Mr. Raymond, is mowing the hayfield around our house this morning. Maybe getting the hay out of the field will help some with the allergies.

I was hanging a load of laundry on the line just a few minutes ago, enjoying the beautiful sunshine and cool air, admiring Mr. Raymond's handiwork as he passed in his big blue tractor. KA-CHUNK!! I grimaced. That was not a good sound to come from a tractor!

I watched as Mr. Raymond climbed down from the cab of his tractor and walked around to see what had caused the problem with his mowing. I remember that, way back when I was a young girl, my Dad seemed to have never-ending glitches with farm equipment. A job that should take one morning to complete would take two days, because something would break, a part had to be ordered, repairs made.

I watched Mr. Raymond working on his mower on the other side of the field. Maybe it would be something easily fixed. I headed back inside with my empty laundry basket and my apron of clothespins.

Yesterday, our community gathered to honor a dear, sweet cousin who died last week of cancer.

This morning at breakfast, Steve noticed that his shirt cuff was frayed. "Look at that," he sighed. "Seems like all my shirts are wearing out. Do you think it's a bad omen?"

Sickness, death, allergies, machinery malfunctions, frayed shirts...

No, it's not a bad omen. It's a reminder that we live in a fallen world. That things are not as they should be. It's a reminder that, Yes, Adam and Eve DID disobey God, and, Yes, there WERE consequences. We feel the consequences every day. We, their children, are sinners, and we live in a world cursed with the consequences of sin. Smaller consequences - like allergies and frayed shirt sleeves. Bigger consequences - like sickness and death.

Sound heavy? These frustrations and annoyances and griefs and heartbreaks would indeed be too heavy to heavy to bear, if it weren't for the fact that they also remind us that, NO, life should not be like this.

It's like we have wired into our brains the consciousness that things were not always this way, that they should not be this way now. We long earnestly for things to be different, better. There was a perfect world once, and a perfect life - we're sure of it - and we want desperately to be in that perfect world again.

Thankfully, if we are Christ's, we have the assurance that we are journeying back to that perfect world. Yes, we broke our home terribly, and it is very, very messed up. But Christ, the Creator, is also Christ, the Redeemer - and He's redeeming and making new, not just us, but also our home.

So, in an odd kind of way, this sinus congestion reminds me - I'm on a journey. The broken tractor tells me - I am a pilgrim, on a sometimes rocky road. The frayed shirt sleeve testifies - this world will wear out and one day be "rolled up like a scroll." The death of a friend proclaims - we are just passing through. And even these sorrows and frustrations encourage me, because they increase my longing to be in a better place. They make my heart tender with thoughts toward Home.

Mr. Raymond has the mower fixed now, and he's back at work, slicing swaths of thick, silver grass in ribbons around the field. The hum of the tractor, the whir of the mower blade, the sun shining on the freshly mowed hay - what a beautiful morning!

Friday, September 20, 2013


I know a six-year-old whose grandmother gave him a TV for Christmas last year. His very own TV, that he could set up in his room and watch all by himself.

Major. Gift. Fail.

Grandma, were you out of your ever-lovin' mind?

When my children were young, their grandmother came up with more creative gift ideas. One year, it was a family membership to the children's science center in Nashville. Awesome. Another year, it was a family membership to the Memphis zoo. Totally awesome.

With an annual family pass to such facilities, we could pack up a picnic and head out for a day of adventure whenever we needed a break from the routine. And I assure you, every time we loaded back up into a hot van, tired and hungry after a fun day of exploring, we thought, "Thank you, Grandma! You're the best!"

On November 1, right here in rural northwest Tennessee, a world-class museum/entertainment/hands-on educational venue will be opening its doors to the public. I cannot wait to set foot in Discovery Park of America. You can check out their website here. It's kind of hard to believe that we're going to have such an incredible facility, right in our own dirt-road/corn-shuckin'/coon-huntin'/tobacco-spittin' backyard.

So, Grandma, forget the TV. (As a matter of fact, you should tell Little Joey the TV was only good for a year, and that you want it back before this Christmas.) This year, for less than the cost of a television, you can purchase a gift that will stimulate Little Joey's brain and imagination, instead of anesthetizing it. A gift he will enjoy much more, and that will foster more gratitude. A gift that brings with it adventure and exploration and discovery.

This year, why not get Little Joey a membership to a local zoo, or a children's museum, or an art gallery? If you live in Obion County, how about a membership to Discovery Park? While you're at it, get a membership for yourself, too. You'll be giving yourself and Little Joey the key to a treasure chest of wonderful memories.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Let's just pause for a moment and think about how great Helen is. It truly is amazing how one person can have SO much talent and good looks...

(This, folks, is what happens when I leave the blog up when I'm away from the computer.)

Now, on to today's post...


I like to write. Writing is how I process life, think through things. It's also a way to dump garbage - get all the frustrations and icky feelings out when I'm in a dark hole. Writing is a way to remember, and to celebrate, and to say "Hello" to distant friends.

Yes, I love to write. Newspaper articles. Magazine articles. Blog posts. Letters. And recently, I've been working again on a much bigger writing project, my first fiction/novella.

I wrote the original draft of this story - practically vomited it into my computer - a couple of years ago. Then, I set it aside to incubate. When I came back to it after a year and looked at it with fresh eyes, I was appalled:  while the story had good "bones," the story telling definitely needed a LOT of work!

Which brings me to today's post, finally. Over the past several months, I have been blessed to enjoy the friendship, counsel, and mentoring of a beautiful and talented woman who is also a writer, a writer whose work I enjoy and admire. She has given generously of herself and her experience. The process of rewriting, and working to develop a completed manuscript has been such a delight. What have I learned through the rewriting process?

First, per my sweet friend's instructions, just finish the manuscript. Get the story down on paper or in your computer. Don't worry about going back to rewrite your beginning or to tweak that emotional scene in chapter 3. After you've reached "The End," then you'll have plenty of time to go back and work on weak areas.

Speaking of time, this writing game is a business that operates in some kind of a time warp. Way back when I first typed up this story, I had it in my head that I would write it, send it out to an agent, have it published within a few months, and be doing interviews on the Oprah Winfrey show before before the end of the year. Thankfully, the book didn't get out of the chute! I've learned that, while bad writing can be churned out fairly quickly, good writing takes time. Write, incubate, rewrite, incubate some more. Whatever you produce on your first draft probably needs to sit on your shelf for a while to ripen before you even think about showing it to someone else. I read once that every book needs to be written at least three times - that is not going to happen in a flash. Speaking of rewriting, that brings me to...

Be open to constructive criticism. Although it may sometimes feel like it, your manuscript is NOT a baby or a deity. It will not kill you as a writer - or anyone else - if you go back and lop off a couple of arms. Or rearrange the face. Honestly, I was afraid that when someone finally said, "I really think you need to rework this section here..." that I would draw a complete blank. Suffer severe brain freeze. Amazing how constructive criticism and sincere encouragement make rewriting a delight and a challenge, instead of a battle.

Sincere encouragement - I have another friend who often says, "Encouragement is oxygen to the soul." (Hi, Liz!) This is true for writers, too. Nothing like a positive, upbeat email when you're sitting blank-faced in front of your computer to suddenly get the creative juices flowing and the motivation geared up a couple of notches. I can't tell you how encouraging and helpful it has been to me to have another writer cheering me through this process. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lisa. When I think of you, I think, "Man! God sure does give good gifts!" You are such a blessing.

I've also learned that writing begets writing. If I miss a couple of days of working at the keyboard, it is way too easy to just miss a couple more. Then, how on earth did that happen?, I've been away for a couple of weeks or even a month. But, if I hustle to produce an article for this week's paper, then take time to post at the blog, then research possible magazine articles, then work on the book, then write a letter to Tom...well, the more I write, the more I want to write. So, if you are a writer, too, WRITE! And if you miss a day or two because life gets crazy, jump back in at the first opportunity. Just keep writing!

Finally, I've said it before and I'll say it again - writing is so dang much fun. I sit here tappity-tapping, and it's like happy juices are splashing around inside all my veins. Even on "bad" writing days, when my brain is sparking like cold oatmeal, writing feels less like work and more like figuring out the gnarly parts of an interesting puzzle or game.

My oldest daughter once said, "Mom, concision is not your strong point." Obviously! So let's sum up:

  • Finish the manuscript/article/blog post/whatever you are writing.
  • Don't be in a hurry - good writing takes time. Don't be frustrated by the time warp.
  • Seek out and learn from construction criticism. "My way or the highway" isn't good for your writing, isn't good for your readers, and doesn't work.
  • Pray for a cheerleader, someone who can encourage you over the long haul. While you're at it, be a cheerleader for someone else.
  • Write. Regularly. Just do it.
  • Welcome to the party - NOW GO HAVE FUN!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


We here at Kendallville are a homeschool family. This means that over the years, I have been my kids' primary teacher, and we have done the bulk of our schoolwork at the kitchen table. We do school at home. Homeschool - get it?

Except that, sometimes we don't. We don't do school at home, that is. Sometimes, we take school on the road. Or sometimes, we work hard at the books for a season, so that we can have a free day or two to tackle something else, something besides schoolwork, like setting up for a dance or taking a field trip or checking off a bazillion errands in town. And that's okay. One of the wonderful things about homeschooling is the flexibility it affords.


That said, home really is the best place to do school. And daily really is the best routine.

After a crazy-busy summer of running up and down the highway, of unusual opportunities and events, Helen and I have just enjoyed several consecutive days (not counting Saturday and Sunday) of just plain ole school. Breakfast, a cup of coffee, and then algebra. Then, American literature. Biology, French, U.S. government - click, click, click. Break for lunch and chores. Then, American history (& yoga for Mom). Piano practice. Time on the swing or curled up on the sofa to complete reading assignments. Free time, supper, a walk on the farm (or, for Helen, a run with big brother).

It is amazing - absolutely amazing - how much we accomplish when we stay home, settle into a rhythm, and dedicate our time to doing the work at hand.

Before I began this homeschool journey, way back 20+ years ago, a seasoned homeschool mom offered me this piece of advice: "Camille, you have to think of this as a job. Just like people who get up and go to work every day, you are going to have to purpose to commit to the time it takes each day to teach your children, and you're going to have to protect that time."

My friend was right. I've discovered that it is way too easy to become so busy with good activities outside the home - school related, church related, social activities, etc. - that I suddenly discover we are not actually doing a very substantial amount of schoolwork at all. Plus, we become tired and frustrated, running from this thing to that, feeling stressed from being stretched too thin.

And then I remember...

This is not car school. Or sitting-in-the-waiting-room school. Or hurry-up-&-finish-your-assignment-so-we-can-leave-for ________ school. Or we'll-just-get-to-that-later school.

No, it's home school.

And home, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


A story from my childhood, probably sometime in the late '70's...

Our family had a subscription to National Geographic when I was a child. One month, the new issue came with a bonus: tucked inside an article about research on whale songs was a square, floppy, black vinyl sheet. This magic page could be pulled out of the magazine, placed on your turntable, and - voila! - even in the hills of West Tennessee, we could hear the whales "talking" for ourselves!

Now, getting to hear the whales talk was going to be a rather exciting event. It seems the family agreed to wait until dinner that evening to play the little square record, while everyone was gathered at the table, so that Mom, Dad, and all us kids could together hear the whales for the first time.

This exciting event also occurred within a few days of Mother's Day. How do I remember that detail? Because at supper that night, Mom was wearing the orchid corsage us kids had bought her to wear to church the Sunday before. Mom had come home from work and changed into one of her house dresses - a light-weight, cottony shift that was something between an actual dress and a bathrobe. Loose, light, comfortable.

I do not remember what we were eating that night. But I do remember that Mom sat in her seat at the table, in her loose flowery house dress, with a fancy corsage pinned at her shoulder. The record player was set up in the kitchen near the table. Pop! Bzzzz! The needle hit the vinyl. Then the long, low melancholy oooooh-waaaaahhhs of the singing whales. All six of us sat transfixed, concentrating intently as we listened to this strange new music.

Then my brother's friend Terry walked in the back door.

A quick glance from someone at the table communicated, "No talking!" So, Terry just stood there, silent and motionless, with a confused expression on his face.


No one made a peep until the whales finished talking.

Now, no one who knows my family would ever make the mistake of calling us "normal." But what is "normal" anyway? I suspect most of us would define normal as simply, well, whatever we're used to. You know, just the way things are.

I was up early this morning cooking breakfast for the college crowd before they headed out the door for classes. Are they old enough to get breakfast for themselves? Absolutely. Would I really like an extra hour of sleep? Definitely. Was I tempted to turn off the alarm this morning and crawl back in bed after setting a box of Pop-Tarts out on the kitchen counter? Not at all.

Why? Because fixing breakfast and sitting down at the table with the kids in the gray morning dawn is normal. It's just what you do. Like brushing your teeth before bed. Breakfast with the kids is normal, because it's what my Mom did for me and my siblings every single morning when I was a child.

Sure, we have days when we sleep in and folks stagger downstairs willy-nilly, then grub about in the kitchen for a Pop-Tart or a bowl of cereal. But that is not the norm. That's the unusual, the "off" day. (The bleary-eyed morning after a late-night dance!)

And when it's time to eat dinner each evening, it's normal to all sit down at the table together. Even when we're having squirrel fricassee, which is not Helen's favorite. We eat dinner - or, in Helen's case, push our dinner around our plate with a fork - together. Every evening. It's normal.

So today's post is simply to say: THANK YOU, MOM & DAD, for all the normal, ordinary things about my childhood that I simply took for granted for so many years. Thank you for training me to think that breakfast together as a family every day is normal. Thank you for teaching me that sharing the things we learn each day at the evening dinner table is normal. Thank you for showing me that every bit of loveliness from even a days-old flower should be appreciated and enjoyed. Thank you for taking the time to stop, shhhhh!, and listen to the whale songs.

Maybe my childhood wouldn't have fit anybody else's definition of normal, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.