Thursday, October 31, 2013


"I was 'saved' when I was twelve years old, at a summer youth camp." Maybe like me, you have often spoken of your salvation experience in the past tense.

I was saved before the foundation of the world. I was saved when Christ uttered the words, "It is finished." I was saved years ago when I made a profession of faith as a child.

I was saved just this morning when God reminded me in His Word that He has made provision for me - a sinner - by covering me with Christ's righteousness.

I was saved. Am being saved. Will be saved.

I am learning that salvation isn't a one-time experience based on a long ago prayer or a confession. Salvation is a past-present-future reality.

Right this moment, I need the good news of the Gospel of Christ.

God called Himself "I AM" - the eternally present One. Why am I surprised, then, that His salvation is an "I AM" kind of salvation?

Two recent quotes from Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York: "God's salvation does not come in response to a changed life. A changed life comes in response to the salvation, offered as a free gift." My salvation is not based on anything I have done or will do, but entirely upon what Christ has done on my behalf.

"Believing in Christ does not mean that we get a new start on life and must simply try harder to live better than we did in the past. If this is your mind-set, you are still putting your faith in yourself." The changed life that comes in response to salvation is not my opportunity to do better, to get it right. This new life is itself a gift of God, His transforming me into the likeness of my elder brother, Jesus. God saves, and He transforms.

God saves me and gives me new life.

By His grace alone, so that I cannot boast.

For His glory alone.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


"Did you know there are only eight more Saturdays until Christmas?" Had the young cashier checking my groceries at Wal-Mart been prompted to ask this by her manager? She is new at Wal-Mart, this young woman, and has only the comments and war stories of the old-timers to go on when it comes to the growing craziness that is in store for her in the weeks ahead.

Reminiscing about my days as a Wal-Mart cashier, I started browsing through blog posts from that era. Seems I was tired all the time - drop-dead, crying-buckets, hanging-on-by-my-fingernails tired. And I was fighting for joy, tooth and nail, while mucking about in the miry swamp of exhaustion and emotional weariness.

I am so thankful today to not be working at Wal-Mart any more. Yes, I miss my co-workers - but I get to see several of them each week when I go grocery shopping. Yes, I miss the income - even though I was only making minimum wage. Yes, I miss the holiday discount given to employees at Christmastime. And, in a strange way, I miss the trench warfare: the daily spiritual battle to live what I believe in spite of pain or exhaustion, to fight for joy, to seek Christ in the midst of adversity. Something about being on the front lines sharpens your awareness of the struggle, makes it more immediate, more tangible, more in-your-face.

All that to say, here is a repost from November 2011, when I was heading into my first holiday retail season as a cashier at Wally World - all still true, although from this distance I may not hear the cannons ringing in my ears.

-originally posted 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, October 29, 2013


I am NOT a very adventurous person.

My middle daughter jumped off 30-foot limestone cliffs into a river with her friend last summer. Just looking at the pictures makes me nauseous.

Number 3 Son actually thought Marine Basic Training was amazing. Seven hundred miles away in Tennessee, I had a stomach ache the entire thirteen weeks.

My young men make an annual tradition of swimming in the icy cow pond to mark the beginning of each new year. Brrrr! Me, I stand by with the phone, ready to call 911.

No, I have never had an urge to go sky-diving. Or bungee cord jumping. Or deep-sea diving with sharks.

Actually, I'd be pretty content to just sit at home with a nice cup of hot tea and a piece of buttered toast, curled up on the couch with Mr. Lewis. Or to take a leisurely stroll back on the farm. Or to lie on a quilt in the front yard and stare at the stars on a cloudless night.

My youngest IS very adventurous.

"Mom, wouldn't it be so cool to buy a couple of motorcycles and take a road trip to the Grand Canyon?" Um, nope.

"Ooooh, it would be so amazing to hang glide in the Andes." I don't think so.

"Mom, we should get a couple of dirt bikes and learn to ride motocross." Not going to happen.

Her idea of fun and my idea of fun are worlds apart.

However, most days now, it is just Mousy Mom and Intrepid Helen hanging out together, doing school, switching over the laundry, making grilled cheese for lunch. Poor Helen.

In the interest of not completely squelching my daughter's adventurous spirit, I am trying - really trying - to be a bit more "out there," a teensy more daring.

Last Friday, we woke up to below-freezing temperatures, pulled on a ridiculous number of layers of clothing, and headed to Reelfoot Lake for the Pelican Festival. And we canoed Reelfoot Lake.

Last time I went canoeing was nearly thirty years ago - I was very young and we were on a small river. Friday, Helen and I were on open water. Thankfully, the wind wasn't too high, or I'd have been completely freaked out. Yes, we saw oodles of pelicans (they are HUGE). But, of even greater significance, we totally owned that canoe. Paddled forward, backward, did turns and spins, raced our companions. And never flipped once. Oh, yeah!

A big THANK YOU to Alisha Weber, the Reelfoot Lake State Park staff, and Reelfoot Lake Outdoors Classroom for an awesome day on the lake. We can't wait to get on the water again.

Only next time, we're going for the kayaks. Oh, yeah!

Maybe not exactly "Master Paddlers," but we were pretty proud of ourselves at the end of the morning!

Monday, October 28, 2013


I was at a friend's house this weekend enjoying a wonderful feast she had prepared for my family, and we got to talking about how, here in the south, we love people by cooking them food.

You're new at church, but I sure am glad to see you - why don't ya'll come over and have soup and sandwiches with us for lunch?

Your grandma is sick and you've been running back and forth between work, home, and the hospital all week. Can I bring you a casserole?

Your family has just welcomed a new baby into the world? I'll be right over with some fried chicken and mashed potatoes!

I was telling my friend how, when you have a very large family, you don't often get invited over for dinner. Is it because cooking for so many folks is intimidating?

An episode came to mind when my family was in the middle of a terrible crisis. Driving down the interstate after a very difficult, heart-breaking emergency meeting in a distant city, I received a phone call: "Hey, girl, this is Melissa. I'm bringing you dinner."

"You don't have to do that," I protested.

"Yes, I do," Melissa insisted. "Because I love you. I don't know what else to do, and I've got to tell you that I love you some I'm bringing dinner."

When I arrived home that evening, Melissa showed up at the house with enough food to feed a mongol horde. How much food did she think it took to feed my family of nine?

She brought: a huge foil roasting pan of mashed potatoes, another of corn, another of beans. And she brought an entire flock of fried chickens, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, rolls, and dessert. We ate on that meal for the better part of a week!

Looking back on that incident, it occurred to me: Melissa wasn't saying, "I love you." She was saying, "I love you SO VERY MUCH." How much? Her love for me was super-sized, bigger than a roasting pan. Bigger than half a dozen roasting pans. If she could have, I think Melissa would have smothered me with food!

I heard an exposition of Psalm 23 once that has stuck with me over the years. You know the verse that says, "my cup overflows"? The preacher explained that in Middle-Eastern culture at the time this passage was written, there were very well-defined rules of hospitality. A host had a responsibility to feed travelers, and he followed a precise protocol when entertaining visitors.

If you didn't particularly enjoy a certain guest, you'd serve him an adequate meal, make polite conversation, then make gestures to indicate that the meal was over and it was time for him to move along. If you did particularly enjoy a certain guest - and you wanted him to stay longer - you made sure his plate never got empty and that he didn't run out of wine.

If a host truly loved a certain guest and wanted them never to leave his house, he had a way to communicate that, too. The host would stand to refill his guest's wine glass and would pour until the glass was filled completely to the brim. Then, he would make clear and deliberate eye contact with his guest, tilt the wine flask once more, and intentionally overfill the glass so that wine ran down onto the table. The host was communicating, "I want you to stay. Don't leave. My abundance is yours."

Can you imagine sitting at the Lord's table, and then Jesus standing to fill your glass, looking you in the eye, and deliberately overflowing your cup?! That's how much He loves and desires us! Gives me chill bumps just to think about it!

So, yes, here in the south we love people with food. And with sweet tea. And with a hot cup of coffee on the porch swing. Maybe somewhere way back in the long ago, we learned that practice from Jesus.

Today, I am thankful for Melissa, whose love for me is bigger than 20 pounds of mashed potatoes. I'm thankful for Lisa, who can cook up enough slap-yo-momma pinto beans for my entire family, plus our "special friends."

And I'm thankful for Jesus, because my cup truly is overflowing.

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Cookies for breakfast?

Heck, yes!

I started running a fever Tuesday night. Yesterday (Wednesday), I felt horrible - either because of this sneezing-snotty-coughing bug or because I piggy-backed Tylenol and ibuprofen all day long. Blech. Helen and I muddled through the school day. Cooked dinner. Gave up the fight and headed to bed shortly after 8:00. Not a good day.

This morning? I still feel a little "under the weather," as we say in the south, but so far, I haven't felt the urge to reach for the Tylenol. Things are looking up.

When I shuffled into the kitchen at six o'clock this morning, I discovered that the kitchen fairy had been here. Helen baked a batch of her fantabulous chocolate chip cookies sometime after I lost consciousness last night. A side order of cookies for breakfast? Absolutely! Mmmmmm!

After the college crowd hit the highway for Martin, I headed outside to tend the chickens. As water splashed from the spigot on the back of the house into a five-gallon bucket, it struck me how amazing it was that, with the turn of a small metal ring, I could have clear, sweet water in abundance, right there at my fingertips. Just like magic. Honestly, I stood there mesmerized by the running water. Almost let the bucket overflow.

I stopped by the shed to fetch a bucket of chicken feed. My beautiful mouse was stuck in the bottom of the feed bin, again. If I were a real farmer, I'd call him a rodent, or vermin, and smush him. Instead, I'm just amazed at how beautiful he is. If I weren't afraid it would cause him to have a heart attack (his little heart beats so incredibly fast!), I could stand there and hold him in my hand and look at him for....well, not forever. I need to feed the chickens.

My chickens. Here at Kendallville, we have established a home for reprobate chickens. My flock of Buff Orpingtons, decimated by a nefarious raccoon this summer, has been augmented by an assortment of the most peculiar looking, chicken-brained birds, castoffs from a would-be chicken farmer whose neighbors had problems with the noise and mess.

Among this motley assortment of fowl, we have a young Welsummer rooster. Helen has dubbed him Henry. He is very handsome. Looks something like a leggy, tripped out road-runner. Henry is just learning to crow, and he sounds ridiculous. Er-ah-erghhhh! He awlays chokes on about the third syllable, coughs, then tries again. Henry makes me smile every single morning.

Cookies for breakfast. Magical water. A quivering brown velvet dumpling in my hand. A ridiculous rooster.

Life is full of so many wonders.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


My mother-in-law and sister-in-law stopped by yesterday morning, a little before noon. "Thought we'd stop by and interrupt your schoolwork!" Grammy laughed. But they weren't interrupting - they were adding richness to our Wednesday.

It is a wonderful thing to live so close to extended family. Although I originally balked at the idea of moving back to the farm, right next door to my husband's parents, I have long since grown to understand what a blessing it is to have Grammy and Granddaddy for neighbors. Despite occasional friction or miscommunication, they have loved us and have graciously enfolded us into their daily lives.

Then there is the larger family, the one "out there." My sisters and brothers at Grace, in the community, south in Lauderdale and Shelby counties, East Tennessee, the family that is called the church. Are we all alike? Do we always agree? Are our relationships completely free of irritation or strife? Nope, but we are family none-the-less, and it is good to be together, to be part of the community of believers. These people do not "interrupt" my life - they make it richer.

Just within my own household, I am amazed at the diversity of personalities, gifts, temperaments, interests, and preferences. Expressive, emotive types. Serious, studious types. Flighty, fanciful types. Some are LOUD, and some are rather quiet. Some are animated, and some are demure. And one hormonal middle-age woman thrown in for good measure.

Do we get on each other's nerves occasionally? Absolutely. Do we sometimes offend one another, or take each other for granted? Yes. But we're still here, together, because we are family. We all have a lot to learn from one another.

I am so glad that God, in His wisdom, didn't plant me in a community of people just like myself. I think life with a bunch of Me's would quickly grow stagnant, stale, stinky. And I think that, very quickly, I would grow exceedingly sick of myself!

How much more wonderful to live in the midst of so much light and color and energy and variety! So much to learn, so much to glean, so much to treasure.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Friends and I watched a movie a couple of weeks ago in which the main character was a successful writer. In the opening scene of the movie, this woman (who looked way too together for a writer, in my opinion) sat at her broad, uncluttered desk, in a room flanked by a wall of windows that overlooked a picturesque canal. Hmmmm, I wondered, is that really what it looks like to be a best-selling author? Barbie with a typewriter? If so, I should just give up writing now.

This made me curious. What kind of set-ups do other writers have? Do "real" writers work in expansive spaces that are uncluttered and flooded with natural light? I did a little Googling.

I found this cool blog where Anne Nutschell posted pictures of the writing desks of several famous authors, including a few of my favorites: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Jane Austen. None of the desks pictured were particularly huge, none of the offices/libraries particularly expansive. In fact, some of the desks were tiny, and more than one of the desks pictured were cluttered with papers, files, pens, and whatnot.

So what does my writing desk look like? Well, my "desk" is a six foot length of the kitchen counter. (Proximity to the stove is one reason I'm not particularly fond of deep-fat frying - causes a greasy film on my keyboard, printer, manuscripts, etc.) Here's a picture, that I will attempt to explain:

Printer, laptop, and wireless router - obvious tools of the trade. Stacks of binders: these include notes, spreadsheets, receipts, and so forth for various writing projects. Bible - because, whatever you're doing (whether writing or scrambling eggs), you need to keep a Bible handy. A Year With C.S. Lewis - because I have a sweet friend who loves me and knows how to encourage me! Books I'm currently reading, either for pleasure or for studies at church or for research. Notecards - I'm trying to memorize Romans 8, and I write out a verse each morning to help print it into my brain. Jump drives, cell phone, stamps, letters to answer, cords, cords, cords. Japanese "poop" candy, because Martha thought it was funny and brought us each a box. A glass of iced tea (or a mug of coffee, glass of wine, a beer, or a steaming cup of ginger tea).

The elbow at the left edge of the above picture belongs to my daughter. She is sitting beside me working on her American Literature while I type a blog post. I love it. "What does appellation mean?" "Hmmm, I'm not sure. Let's check it out at" Lewis and Tolkien had the Inklings. Me, I have Helen - pretty sweet deal!

My filing system is eclectic. Electronic files on the computer. Manila folders in a box. Stacks of papers on the counter. And a plethora of sticky notes taped overhead on the kitchen cabinets. I like an old-fashioned calendar to hang on the wall at my elbow. Traditionally, Steve picks these out for me and puts a new one for the coming year in my stocking each Christmas. (October is looking pretty crazy, isn't it?)
My writing schedule/routine is probably a bit unorthodox, too. Yesterday, while I was majorly crunching away at Book #2, the day went like this: cook breakfast; feed chickens; wash breakfast dishes; write a little; start laundry; write a little; math with Helen; switch laundry over; write a little; go let chickens out of the chicken yard; fix lunch; write a little... As far as writing goes, yesterday was very productive.

Do I really need a private office, neatly organized and tastefully decorated? Nah. Working at the kitchen counter isn't bad at all - plus, it gives me easy access to the chocolate chip cookies.

So, Dear Reader, what's on your desk?

Monday, October 14, 2013


There was a day in the not-too-distant past when a watching a scary movie before bedtime would mean a long, sleepless night with me jumping at every creak (farm houses are notoriously creaky at night, especially after a spooky movie!). I'd be too terrified to look out the window or to run to the bathroom.

Last night was different. Yes, after a scary movie - not a good way to calm the mind before bedtime! - I had a long, sleepless night. But I was not afraid. Not spooked. I was just awake...thinking.

I find it fascinating that we humans ask questions like "What happens to us after we die?" I don't think any dog or cat ever lay awake at night, looking up at the stars and wondering, "I wonder what comes next? What life is like 'on the other side'?" They certainly never made a movie about their musings.

We humans, we recognize that there is evil in the world, and we seem to intuitively understand that evil is wrong and that things need to be made right. That wickedness needs to be atoned for. That death should not be, as some have said, a fact of life. We have a very real sense that "All is not right in the world!" I just don't believe that the cow in the back pasture, whose calf was torn apart by coyotes a month ago, ever imagines the ghost of her dead offspring popping up out of grass to bleat, "Avenge my death!"

And, while it is true that our dog Jessie once went ballistic at a canine barking from the TV screen, I haven't ever seen a dog or cat or pet chinchilla pee the floor because Bruce Willis's young psychiatric patient saw a dead person under the bed.

I saw a bumper sticker once that said, "Dogs are people, too." Not only is that unbiblical, it's just plain stupid. Putting a pink tutu on Tiny does not make her a human. I understand the emotional attachment we develop for our animals, but, no, they are most definitely not people.

Just ask my cat. Even after watching a scary movie with the family last night, Kitty slept like a rock on the end of my bed and was bright-eyed and ready to terrorize chipmunks at first light this morning.

Friday, October 11, 2013


"You're weird, and I'm tired of dealing with you. I wish you would just go away."

Even if you haven't heard those words spoken aloud, directly to your face, you have probably felt before that this is exactly what the person standing across from you thought or wanted to say. Hearing those words from someone you love really hurts. "Feeling" those words from another hurts, too.

Rejection from others is just a fact of life in this fallen world. It's something we all experience at one time or another.

  • I'm a wordy - I like to read; I write; I process things through words. You're weird.
  • I'm an introvert - I process thing internally, rather than thinking them through out loud. You're weird.
  • Graphic screen images impact me strongly - I can still recall an image from a horror movie that I watched when I was a teenager, and that memory makes me feel like throwing up, even today. You're weird.
  • I value personal integrity - Say what you mean; be what you are. Don't talk one way and walk another. Duplicity - in myself or in others - grieves me. You're weird.
  • I don't think jokes or comments that belittle women or make light of sin are funny. At all. You're weird.

This list could go on and on!

You get the idea, though. Whatever it is that makes You uniquely You - someone else, someone who is different in a particular aspect of personality or belief, is going to come along and label you as weird. Dismiss you. Give you the "Ugh, I wish you would just go away" treatment.

And when that happens, if you're like me, it's awfully easy to take that hurtful comment and get all wrapped up in it. To start thinking, "Yeah, I guess I am pretty weird. I don't belong. I'm undesirable. Unlovely. Maybe I should just go away." Then you spiral downward into a pit of life-sucking, soul-crushing melancholy.

But, whatever others may say to us, Scripture teaches that, in Christ, we are God's beloved. We are described as beautiful, a delight and a joy to God, the apple of His eye. We are the ones that the holy, sovereign Creator of the universe loves beyond measure. He does not belittle us. He does not dismiss us. He does not wish we would "just go away" - no, He draws us continually into His presence.

We are studying through Romans on Sunday mornings at Grace. Romans 8 is so incredibly beautiful, so full of life and hope and love and encouragement - even while giving honest testimony to the trials and hurts of this life - that I've decided I need to commit several verses to memory. Currently, I'm working on these verses:

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, 'For your sake, we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor death, nor anything else is all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35-39)

The knowledge and experience of that kind of love absolutely grinds to powder the barbs that others sometimes throw at us.

When I've had people throw the word "weird" at me, it's always been as a derogatory term. A slam. But, I looked up the word weird and it is also defined as: supernatural, extraordinary, fantastic.

Anyone who looks at me with a sneer on his face and calls me "weird" - well, he obviously doesn't have a clue what he's talking about.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


A friend recently suggested I write a post about things I used to believe about homeschooling, way back 20-something years ago before I started this journey. Here goes!


All homeschool moms wear shapeless denim jumpers and pull their waist-long hair into tight buns on the backs of their heads. Ummm, nope. While it's true that description fits some homeschool moms, it definitely doesn't describe us all! Me, I'm a jeans and t-shirt girl, with my hair cut above my ears. I know homeschool moms with cadmium red punk hair and Princess Di do's, and others that wear stretchy pants and overalls.

You need to have a college degree to teach your children. Wrong. Simply put, this is not rocket science, and you don't need a specialized degree to educate your children. Where in the world did that silly notion get started?

Homeschool isn't really school. So what do you call all that algebra, chemistry, foreign language, and history that we've been studying all these years?!

Because homeschoolers aren't getting a "real" education, they won't be employable or able to attend college. On the contrary, our family has learned that employers seek out homeschool students because they are reliable, respectful, and often have flexible schedules. A fellow who hired one of my kids for a summer job commented, "Two of your 'Bobs' could do the work of three of my grown men!" What about college? If a homeschool student wants to attend college and is willing to do the necessary work to get there, plenty of universities would love to have him. Most of my gang were offered full scholarships to attend university, and they were aggressively courted by colleges during their latter years of highschool. Homeschool students often make excellent employees and successful college students.

Homeschoolers are radical fundamental religious fanatics who don't want anything to do with people who don't think like they do. Let's clarify this a bit. I believe in one true living sovereign God, the God of the Bible. I believe Scripture is inerrant and infallible, and that it tells us accurately what to believe and how to live out our faith. I believe that every human on the planet is a sinner, and that we all justly deserve the wrath of God - but that God, in His infinite mercy and grace, lovingly seeks out lost sinners to save and to adopt into His family. I believe Jesus is God, and that He is the only means of salvation. So, yes, if that makes me a radical fundamental religious fanatic, I stand guilty as charged. However, I do not think Presbyterians are the only folks going to heaven, or that it's a sin to dance or drink alcohol, or that all "real" Christians homeschool their children. I have homeschool friends who are every stripe of Protestant, Catholic, even agnostic and atheistic; most folks in my circle of friends are not even homeschool moms.

Homeschool children are socially awkward and don't know how to "fit in" in society. Sure, I know a few homeschool children who are bashful and shy - but, hey, I was public schooled, and I was so shy in first grade that my teacher thought I was mentally retarded. The overwhelming majority of homeschool kids I know are outgoing and socially adept. Our barber commented once that he loved having my sons come into his shop, because, unlike with his other teenage customers, he could carry on intelligent conversations with them - about fruit trees, hunting, beekeeping, dancing, gardening. My eighteen-year-old is as comfortable sitting in the floor chatting and playing Legos with a three-year-old as he is talking WWII history with a 92-year-old veteran. And, he actually enjoys doing both. Social skills? Homeschoolers have 'em!

Homeschool students miss out on all the fun aspects of school, like sports, dances, graduation, etc. Not so. The Kendall kids swam with a competitive swim team. I know of two area private schools that allow homeschool students to participate in their soccer, track, football, and basketball programs. Dancing? Swing dancing, waltzing, guys really know how to boogie. And homeschool graduations - they are awesome!

All homeschool families have, like, a bazillion kids. Wrong. Most have two or three children. Me, I have seven. I do have a couple of friends who have 12 or more kids; so, yes, maybe large families are a little more common in the homeschool community. But homeschool doesn't necessarily equal The Duggars.

My kids will resent my depriving them of a "normal" education. Maybe not. After having been homeschooled themselves, my kids have expressed intentions to homeschool their own children. We've even had friends ask if they could come to hang out at our house and be part of our homeschool - must not be too bad!

If I homeschool my kids, I won't have a life. On the contrary, homeschooling IS a life, and it's a pretty dang awesome life at that! Sure, it takes a lot of time and is a lot of work, but you're going to have to use your time and energy somewhere, right?

Homeschool moms all think their kids are extraordinary. Well, yeah, because it's true. My kids are the coolest, most amazing people I know. So, this still stands.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


My last post, almost a week ago, was about the daily struggle I have to practice thankfulness instead of ingratitude. I wish I could say that, having identified the battle and having considered my circumstances in light of Scripture, SHAZAM!, I am now instantly, completely, and unceasingly thankful.

I'm not.

This is a daily, ongoing battle.

I was confiding to a friend earlier this week some of the frustrations I'm currently dealing with. There are so many things I just want "fixed" - made right, given closure, checked off so that I don't have to deal with them any longer. But, no. These nagging trials persist, day after day after day. And I am just so tired of them, so very weary, so on the brink of giving up, checking out, and just not caring any more.

My sweet young friend - because she is also my sister in Christ - just shook her head and smiled: "Camille, pray. Stop complaining and pray."

Now, if my friend wasn't also in the trenches, fighting hard for a heart of gratitude in the midst of soul-sucking difficulties, her words would have been meaningless to me. Trite. Easily dismissed. But truth is, she's right here with me, battered and bruised and praying desperately that God will give her the grace she needs for one more day.

Our conversation brought to mind a Scripture passage I memorized as a child: "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Monday afternoon, my friend and I prayed. Today, Wednesday, we are both still in the trenches - we may be barely standing, but we're still here. Our perseverance is a testimony not to our own strength or faith, but to God's faithfulness.

Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks.

Thank you, Lord, for friends in the trenches. Thank you for reminding me to pray. And thank you for one more day to learn how much I have to be thankful for!

Thursday, October 3, 2013


In her book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Ann Voskamp describes her journey to find God - and joy - in the midst of the harsh, sometimes heart-breaking realities of daily life. As her website explains:

Ann Voskamp's story is not happily ever after. As a child, her sister was crushed under a truck in front of her and her mother. Consequently, her mother checked herself into a psychiatric hospital and her father couldn't find God. As an adult, she stood beside her brother-in-law as he buried his first two sons. Voskamp is a wife and mother who does not grin through pain but battles to believe that God is joy, and that there are as many gifts amid the grittiness of life as in the moments of celebration.

In One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Ann strives to find the meaning of life and fully embrace the surprising truth from the final scenes of Jesus' earthly life. In the hours before Jesus' execution, he took bread and gave thanks. This fresh, heart-wrenching book unveils the long forgotten wonder that through the imitation of Christ's thankfulness, we too can experience a life of joy. (Read more at Ann's website here.)

Ann was challenged by a friend to make a list of 1,000 gifts - 1,000 things for which she was thankful. She accepted that challenge, and, notebook in hand, began jotting down simple things from her daily life for which she was grateful. This exercise of opening her eyes to the good gifts God placed all around her transformed Ann's thinking and her life.

A friend gave me a copy of Ann's book a couple of years ago, when I was struggling through a particularly difficult season and was feeling completely overwhelmed and discouraged. What struck me first about Ann's story was the foundation on which she built this journey: Ann was intrigued by the fact that Christ took bread and gave thanks...right before walking to the cross. Christ's earthly, physical circumstances were about to become unimaginably horrible, yet, only hours before His crucifixion, He prayed a prayer of genuine thankfulness.

Ann began a study of prayers of thankfulness in Scripture. What she found surprised her. Prayers of sincere gratitude were often recorded in the midst of - or just preceding - great trial or distress. This puzzled her. Ann's study - and her resolution to fill a notebook with "1,000 gifts" - led her to discover that she had been understanding joy backwards. She had thought that joy came first, that true gratitude and thankfulness to God were based on, were the fruit of, His tangible blessings in this world. On the contrary, Ann found that it is thankfulness that produces joy.

Looking over my notes from a couple of years ago, I find these thoughts jotted in my own notebook:  "To be free of ingratitude is to be free TO thankfulness." This observation from page 177 of Ann's book: "The demanding of my own will is the singular force that smothers out joy." Or this, from page 178:  "My own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy."

Ann found that she needed wider eyes to see the blessing of God in all of life's circumstances, instead of categorizing what God gave her into "good"/blessing - or - "bad"/curse. She wanted to learn to receive thankfully all that God put into her hand.

But I'm not writing all this to tell you to go read Ann's book. This is not a book review. I'm writing all this because, this morning...

Again, I am discouraged. Hurt. Weary. Longing for things to just be better. But, they're not.

I opened my Bible this morning to the book of Haggai, simply because it's what came next in my daily reading. Really, Lord? I wondered. Do you really have anything to say to me from the book of Haggai? What possible encouragement could an Old Testament prophecy about the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem give me?

But I read these words in Haggai, chapter 2: Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? (v. 3) Yep, Lord, that's about how things look from where I stand. I blew my nose and kept reading. My spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. (v. 5) What? I read that verse again, several times in a row, then continued onward. "The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts." (v.9)

Those verses in Haggai are not talking about circumstances in my life, Dear Reader. They're not about my family, or my marriage, or my finances, or my house. They are talking about the temple of God. But, these verses remind me that God is a God who redeems. They remind me that, yes, God's people (including me) have known Glory, and have, because of their sin, lost Glory. That now, we long desperately to get back, to be in the dwelling place of the Lord, to have peace. How my heart yearns for peace, aches for Glory!

God has promised that He will "shake the nations," that He will rebuild His house, and that He will "fill this house with His glory." (Haggai 2:7)

What about Ann Voskamp? What does she have to do with all of this?

In her book, Ann challenges readers to develop the discipline of thankfulness. To stop and see the face of God in the ordinary, and to rejoice in His beauty and majesty and goodness. Ann began with a spiral bound notebook and a pen. She stopped and said "thank you" for the colors that danced on the transparent film of soap bubbles in her kitchen sink. For the laughter of her children. For sunflowers on the kitchen table. This simple exercise of stopping to say "thank you" transformed her world.

Today, discouraged and hurting and tired, I read Haggai and found my faithful God. Thank you.

Tears. A reminder that my heart is still soft enough to be broken. Thank you.

When I went out to feed the chickens, I found a mouse scrambling to get out of the feed bin. Lifting him carefully with a plastic bucket, I studied the tiny mouse closely before turning him loose outside the shed. He was absolutely beautiful:  glossy brown velvet coat, bright eyes, ears and whiskers twitching. A frightened, quivering handful of beauty. Thank you.

A rainbow of chickens bursting out of their small door, racing down the gang plank into the chicken yard, fluttering and squawking and eager to find the morning's cracked corn. A gangly, adolescent rooster, cack-cacking an almost crow. They are such very silly birds, but they make me smile! Thank you.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


During my most recent bout with allergies, I discovered that my new favorite "tissue" is Bounty super-absorbent dinner napkins. They are tougher and more absorbent than facial tissues, such as Puffs or Kleenex, but not as scratchy as paper towels. This, I commented to friends on Facebook, is probably exactly the kind of information that someone like Angelina Jolie has absolutely zero use for. I can't imagine such a beautiful lady struggling with sinus congestion. Or with snot pouring out of her nose. Or fogging up her glasses every time she sneezes.

On a run to Wal-Mart a couple of days ago, the thought occurred to me that Ms. Jolie probably doesn't have to make emergency stops at the discount store for milk and toilet paper, either. I mean, I'm sure she uses toilet tissue (don't we all?), but, somehow, I just can't imagine her standing at a self-checkout machine at Wally World with a mega-pack of quilted Charmin.

Which got me to thinking...

Angelina Jolie knows a lot of things that I don't know. Like how to look beautiful on screen. How to walk in 3-inch heels. How to wear skin-tight leather. How to be skinny. How to ride in a limousine. How to evade obsessive fans. How to make a million dollars.

But I've got a few things on her, too. Like my discovery about Bounty super-absorbent napkins. Or where to find the mega-pack of toilet paper in the Wal-Mart store. Or how to pluck a chicken. I know how to eat an entire bag of Riesen chocolate caramels in one sitting. How to clean cat gack out of the carpet, and what kind of shampoo to buy to treat head lice. I know how to fry squirrel for dinner and how to build a compost box.

I'm glad there are all kinds of people in the world.  Svelte, elegant, beautiful people. Pudgy, gray-haired grandmothers. Snotty nosed toddlers. Academic gurus. Wal-Mart greeters. World-renowned scientists.We all add something valuable to this big candy bowl called human existence.

And Ms. Jolie, if you ever get in a losing battle with a thicket of ragweed, don't hesitate to give me a call. I've got all kinds of tips I'm willing to share.