Monday, December 22, 2014


I read this in Habakkuk last week:

"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places." - Habakkuk 3:17-19a

Which made me think of these words from Job:  "Though he [God] slay me, I will hope in him" (Job 13:15a).

Which was echoed in this excerpt from Carolyn Custis James's book, When Life and Beliefs Collide:

"God's plan isn't defined by happy endings; neither is it about getting answers to all of our questions...God's plan for Job, as for all of us, went much deeper than material blessings or divine explanations. In the furnace of affliction, God was revealing himself to his child. Through the eyes of suffering, Job saw more of God than he would ever see through the eyes of prosperity...By the end of his life, Job's theology had taken a quantum leap. God had gotten bigger, and his relationship with God had been reinforced with deeper truth.

"It is a startling truth that God doesn't work around our troubles; he works through them, orchestrating events to ensure that the outcome will benefit the souls of his children and draw us closer to himself...Sometimes we see God more clearly in the dark, when he has our undistracted attention and we struggle to know if the hand that rules the night is as good and powerful as the hand that rules the day."

I love Carolyn's synopsis of the book of Job:  "If we read carefully, the central issue in the story is not what Satan is doing but what God is doing...The book of Job drives home the point that God is the central figure behind even the tragic events in our lives. He is the one who is in charge and who holds us in his hands."

I don't know about you, but I often pursue God because I want the blessings I hope He will give me - peace, direction, purpose, meaning, hope, health, security, salvation for my children, etc. I frequently find that I desire these good things rather than/more than I desire to know and love God himself better.

But God doesn't promise that I will have all those things, all the time. And Scripture doesn't tell me that God will answer my questions of "Why?" or "How long?"

No, God promises me something infinitely better.


God, grow me until, regardless of my circumstances, I can truthfully proclaim with Habakkuk:  I will rejoice in the LORD!

Friday, December 19, 2014


Just over a month ago, I wrote about my renewed determination to do something about my stacking-ring physique. If you're curious, you can read that post HERE. When I first shared my intentions here at the blog, I thought, "Hmmm, I'll check back in after a month with an update, to see how this new strategy is working."

Well, December 12 came and went, and I did not post an update. I was preoccupied with welcoming my brand new granddaughter into the world!

But now, a week late, here is the update:

Drum roll...

Over the course of five weeks, I've lost 9 pounds, and the stacking rings have shrunk by a combined total of three inches. Yep, I'm pretty psyched!

I want to let y'all in on a few secrets I've learned...

I did not radically change my diet, just opted for smaller portions. Yes, I ate Helen's brownies, and Grammy's cornbread dressing (those five weeks included Thanksgiving weekend), and fried fish and onion rings at Boyette's.

I had "good" days, when I stuck to my smaller-portions strategy. I had "bad" days, when I became a human locust and mowed through more food than a teenage boy.

In the MyFitnessPal food diary for one particular evening, I recorded the following snacks: a bowl of Lay's potato chips, a bowl of ice cream, an apple, a bowl of Cheerios, two pieces of Dove dark chocolate... This was in addition to the substantial dinner I had just consumed. (Must've been the day before I started my period, huh?)

I'm sharing this because I want to encourage others who, like me, are struggling with maintaining a healthy weight. Guess what I've learned over the past five weeks? I don't have to, in the strictest sense of the word, be always on a diet. I don't have to ban carbs or desserts or greasy french fries. I don't have to feel like a failure because I ate my body weight in fried chicken and mashed potatoes at the family reunion. I overindulged last night - so what? Today is a new day, and today I can make healthier choices. Seeing the results of a few days of healthy choices has motivated me to make those healthy choices more consistently. And knowing that chocolate chip cookies are not on the taboo list has kept them from becoming a type of irresistible forbidden fruit.

So, what about exercise? I try to work out at the fitness studio in Troy four or five days a week. This is not CrossFit, people - it's a class of mostly middle-aged women, who have knee problems and back problems and balance problems. If I'm correct, all but three of the group are grandmas. I've learned that I don't have to do a Ninja workout to notice a difference in how I feel - I just need to do something, even if it's low-intensity - every day, if possible.

In the past five weeks, we've been through the Thanksgiving holidays. I missed several days at the studio, but I managed to take walks on the farm most (not all) of those days. I missed over a week of exercise at Caroline's when the baby came, but, again, I did get out for a few short walks in the fresh air. (Mind you, I was walking with an extremely pregnant daughter, so they were not power walks!)

Again, the point is, I've learned that I don't have to do something impossibly difficult or intense, just something that gets me moving.

What else have I learned?

Well, I've learned to not be discouraged by what I see in the mirror. I've lost nine pounds, but I still have a jelly roll around my belly and the waistband on my jeans is still snug. It would be tempting to think, "What's the point? This isn't making a difference!" But Caroline explained to me that we lose weight from the top down. You notice it first in your face and neck. Then in your arms and chest. Then in your middle.

Yes, I may still be lacking a waist, but the Octo-boob is in retreat. (You know, all those "extra" boobs that hang out the top and sides and back of your bra.) My neck is thinner, and a bra with only two cups is finally sufficient - I call that progress, folks, and I am encouraged!

I have learned the value of having a wonderful support team. Helen is my number one cheerleader, and Caroline is running close second. Neither of them nag or reprove me for occasionally pigging out or skipping exercise, but both consistently encourage me and celebrate every success. "Great workout this morning, Mom!" is SO much more motivating than, "You know, you really shouldn't eat that."

I've also learned that this is a slow process. Nine pounds in five weeks - that's less than two pounds a week, folks. You know those magazines in the check-out line at Wal-Mart, with covers that promise you can lose 20 pounds before Christmas, which is next week? Ummm, I don't think that is really possible, at least not without amputating a significant body part.

If the number on the bathroom scale doesn't change this week or next, that's not failure - that's a plateau. And with patience and perseverance, you can move past the plateau. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

I have learned a little bit about the importance of being honest with myself. That day when I personally cleaned out the kitchen pantry (nom, nom, nom)? When I sat down to fill in my food diary on MyFitnessPal that evening, I fudged the data. Yep. Pretty ridiculous. Two butter cookies...hmmm...well, they were actually both pretty small, so I'll just enter one. No one was going to see that entry but me, and I knew better. I was flat out lying to myself. What the heck was that about? I thought, as I corrected the entry. I decided that evening, whether my new strategy worked or not, I needed to at least be honest with myself.

Finally, I've learned that some of the people I most expected to care about and notice the changes I've made - haven't. Haven't noticed. Haven't cared. And that's okay. They are not the ones who have to cram their booties into my size 14 jeans or who have to walk around on my stiff knees. I am. And I have noticed a positive difference in how I feel and how my jeans fit, and that's enough for me.

Christmas is less than a week away. That means parties and food and missed exercise classes and lots of celebrating. I'll check back in after the holidays and let you know how the "One Egg" fitness plan is going!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


A couple of quotes by two of my favorite theologians:

"Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid." - G.K. Chesterton

"Simply learning to be 'spiritual' will not heal anybody's soul. It simply helps numb them to the pain in their minds. Christianity is about the only one who can heal us; the only way to God:  Jesus. It is therefore the opposite of any worldly religious system of doing the right thing until God accepts you, and also the opposite of awakening you 'spiritual side' until you are at peace with yourself. Any gospel presentation that begins with learning to be okay with yourself without Jesus, and then offers Jesus as an optional religious study second, isn't the gospel...offering a a spiritual fix grounded in anything other than Jesus is the type of deception and soul-destruction that hell was made for." - R.W.K.

* * * * *

My first yoga instructor, Clara, would often shoot me disapproving looks in the mirror during the final relaxation portion of our practice/class. While we sprawled on the floor in the corpse pose, Clara would instruct the class in a sleepy, musical whisper to "Empty your minds. Feel yourself floating...drifting away to some favorite place or memory...Soften your brains..."

Back in those days, my brain seemed to always be pretty "soft." The thought of deliberately softening it even more...well, I could picture my brain turning into gray goo and dribbling out my ears onto the polished hardwood floor of the yoga studio.

So, Clara's exhortation to soften my brain usually made me snort or giggle, which, of course, broke the hypnotic tranquility of the atmosphere Clara was trying to create with our relaxation poses and her buttery smooth voice.

Thankfully, Clara never kicked me out of her studio. I guess she thought that maybe, over time, she'd reform me.

Some people think Christians should not do yoga. (Click HERE to see my thoughts about that.) I agree, in the strictest yogi sense of the word. Emptying one's mind may be a great way to step away from the concerns and stresses of the day, but, eventually, we all have to bring our minds back into the present and into reality.

I think of the relaxation part of yoga as a great yawn, an opening wide of the jaws of my mind in preparation for biting down firmly on solid truth and doctrine. The apostle Paul exhorts believers to continually engage our minds. Much sounder advice than Clara's instruction to float out of our bodies to our mystic happy places.

Today's post is prompted by this video clip that a friend sent me:

Yeah, I'm a little messed up, too. And releasing thoughts of that negative truth might make me feel temporarily better, freer, but it doesn't do me any lasting good. When I leave yoga class, the truth is: I'm still a little messed up. (A LOT messed up, actually.)

Thankfully, there is Jesus.

No, Clara, I am not going to empty my mind. I am going to endeavor to be continually filling my mind with Him.

Monday, December 8, 2014

AH, AH, AH....!

My college kids are taking the first of this semester's finals today. Long hours studying over the past weekend, more long hours of study in the days ahead. Friday evening, they will finally be able to put the textbooks away and enjoy a much-needed break from school work.

My youngest is psyching up for the ACT on Saturday. This will be the first time in her life that she has taken a standardized test. We've been practicing filling in bubbles and taking timed tests, so that Saturday morning won't feel so strange.

My second youngest and her husband are expecting their first baby ANY DAY. She's nesting:  keeping the pantry stocked, laundry caught up, chores checked off her to-do list, timing Braxton-Hicks. The Chicken and I, while we're chugging through math and science and practice ACT, we are waiting for a phone call. Bags packed, gas tank full, going through the day like we're living in the middle of an almost sneeze.

This, my friends, promises to be an exciting week at the Kendall house. Come Sunday, I think we're going to be due for one blowout of a party!

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Yesterday, a friend shared a link to a dialogue between Lecrae Moore, Voddie Baucham, Phillip Holmes, James White, and B.J. Thompson, addressing the situation in Ferguson, MO. I strongly recommend that when you have time, you go HERE and listen to the entire discussion.

What was my take-away from hearing these godly men share their thoughts on Ferguson, the gospel, the church, and culture? How am I a different person after sitting in on their conversation, different from the person I was yesterday morning?

First, I am challenged anew to earnestly pray for the church and for the effective proclamation of the gospel. Not just my local church, not just in my hometown, but across the nation - and especially in areas where people are greatly discouraged and hurting desperately.

Second, I am convicted of my lack of intentionality in pursuing meaningful relationships with people who are very different from me. Relationships that are more than surface acquaintances - relationships that are intimate, honest, concerned, and committed.

Change in this area is going to be hard for me. Out here in the middle of a hay field, I don't have very many opportunities to engage with people of any kind, whether they are like me or not. And my personality - I tend to be quiet, introspective, more comfortable hanging out in the shadows that form around the edges of social opportunities.

Yes, Pastor White, this is going to take intentionality. Work. Persistence. Prayer. I begin this day with no clear vision of just exactly how to go about this and with no small amount of trepidation. But I know that I have been passive too long, and that must change.

Third, I am tremendously blessed and encouraged by the thoughtful, biblical counsel of these men - Voddie Baucham, Lecrae, James White, B.J. Thompson - and I am thankful these brothers in Christ took the time to call this sister to task.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Today's post is in response to a recent comment by a young friend who seemed to think that if I and others like me (Christians) could get over our religious baggage - "throw away your Bibles" - and instead embrace the technology, progressiveness, and modernity of a country like Japan, then the world would be a much better place.

While I appreciate this young man's passion and his boldness in expressing his opinion, I am afraid that he has been looking at Japan through Thomas Kinkade eyes.

I have two family members who have planted their feet on Japanese soil. They wanted to see this amazing country for themselves and to get acquainted with the people. They have invested their hearts, time, prayers, and energy in the people of Japan.

What they saw and what they learned in Japan broke their hearts. By extension, my children's knowledge and experience have also broken my heart, and have created in me a burden for the people of Japan.

Japan is one of the richest nations in the world. The country has little poverty, low unemployment, healthcare for almost everyone, and 100% literacy. You're right, Daniel - Japan is a wonderful place.

Japan also has the second highest suicide rate in the industrialized world, in spite of the fact that it dispenses more anti-depressant medication than any other country in the world. Martha said that daily, commuter trains are delayed due to "technical difficulties" - a euphemism for "another person just committed suicide by throwing himself in front of the train, and we need a few minutes to clear the track."

This occurred so frequently that other passengers seemed to think nothing of it. Just a normal part of the daily commute.

Yes, Daniel, there is much that is very, very good about Japan. There is also much that is broken and dark and hurting.

So, no, Daniel, I am not going to throw away my Bible. Instead, I am going to open it and read about a good and sovereign God who loves the broken and hurting people of Japan - people who are so discouraged that throwing themselves in front of a high-speed train seems a better alternative to living one more day in such a "perfect" world - and I'm going to get on my knees before that God and plead for mercy, grace, and hope.

(For those who really would like to know more about Japan and about gospel work in Japan, click HERE to read more,  or you can watch a short video HERE.)

Monday, December 1, 2014


Different folks have different attitudes about marking in books.

Myself - I'm a book marker.

When I read a book - especially a nonfiction book - I usually do so with a pencil in hand. I underline favorite passages, make notes in the margins, and jot down questions that come to mind as I read. If I come across an unfamiliar word, I'll look up the definition and write that in the margin, too. Sometimes, I'll make a note of the date and particular circumstances in my life at the time.

Occasionally, something I read is particularly relevant to a problem or struggle I am currently facing. I make note of that, too. When I go back and reread a text a year or two later, it is interesting to see where I was then, and to consider where I am now.

At least one of my children has picked up the book marking habit. This turns the rather solitary act of quietly reading a book into a conversation that transcends time and place. For example, in G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy, my daughter occasionally commented on the notes I had written in the margin. Now, when I read through Orthodoxy again (a book every one of you should read at least once!), I encounter not only Mr. Chesterton's thoughts, but my own thoughts from the past and my daughter's thoughts as well.

I read my Bible with a pencil in hand, too. Reading through Scripture year after year, and documenting my life in a small way as I do, the Bible becomes my own story in a very real way.

Every time I read Psalm 91:15-16 - When he calls to me, I [God] will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation. - every time I read that passage, I see the note in the margin - 5-29-11/Melissa - and I thank God for bringing a sweet friend through a terrible illness and adding years to her life here on earth. Three and a half years ago, I read that passage with pleading and with tears in my eyes (Please, Lord!); today, I read it with joy and thanksgiving for God's mercy and goodness.

One of my children thinks that marking in any book - and especially the Bible - borders on sacrilege. I, on the other hand, think that books talk to us. Jotting down thoughts and notes in a book transforms a manuscript into a conversation between me and Mr. Chesterton or Mr. Lewis or my heavenly Father, and with the person who pulls a book off my shelf to read it after me.

Books and I - we've had so many lovely conversations!

How about you? Are you a book marker, too?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Hundreds of independent bookstores across the country will be hosting local authors on Small Business Saturday, November 29, thanks to a movement call Indies First.

In conjunction with Indies First, Braylee's Cottage & Zoo in Union City, Tennessee, is welcoming several local authors for a meet-and-greet from noon until 2:00 pm. Featured authors include:  Lisa Smartt (the Doug & Carlie series; The Smartt View); Merry Brown (the Exiled trilogy; the Four Families series); Kenny Luckett (Across the Pond; Story in the Shadows; Miles Across the Pond); and myself, Camille Kendall (Slow Sun Rising; Bethel Road).

Braylee's Cottage & Zoo is a specialized bookstore serving Obion County and the neighboring communities and is located at 228 South First Street in beautiful downtown Union City. Business hours the day of the event will be 11am-9pm, and the authors will be on hand from noon until 2:00.

If you plan to be out shopping in Obion County this Saturday, stop in to say "Hi!" and enjoy delicious refreshments while you support your local book store!

(To learn more about the authors and the books they have written, click HEREor visit the authors' personal websites by clicking on the names above.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


In the past, I have addressed a few myths commonly believed about homeschooling, myths such as:

Homeschooling takes money out of the public schools - false.

Homeschoolers are naturally smarter than their public-school peers - wrong.

A parent must have a college degree to homeschool - nope.

Today, I want to look at a myth commonly believed by homeschoolers themselves. It goes something like this...

"If I homeschool my kids, they won't buy into the humanistic philosophy of today's culture."

"If we homeschool, our kids won't do drugs or have premarital sex."

"If I homeschool, my kids won't be the victims of bullying and they will not bully others."

"If I homeschool, my child will get a full scholarship to college, earn a degree, and have a fabulous career."

"If I homeschool, my kids will become mature, responsible, productive, godly adults."

In other words, we believe that if we homeschool, our kids will be protected from whatever horrible thing we want to save them from, that they will adopt our faith and worldview, and that they will become beautiful people living beautiful lives.

That is an awful lot to deliver.

Research indicates that, yes, homeschoolers generally are better educated, they perform better in college, and they end up with higher-paying jobs as adults than their public-schooled peers. Homeschoolers usually grow up to be more socially and morally conservative, and they also tend to be more religiously and politically active and more involved in their churches and communities.

But homeschooling is not a magic bullet that guarantees "happily ever after" to us and to our children.

I know godly, dedicated homeschool parents who have grieved to see a son trapped in drug addiction, a daughter running away to become a night-club dancer, or a child renouncing his faith as an adult. There is the young woman who moved in with her boyfriend, and the young man unable to find or keep steady employment.

We live in a fallen world where sin touches every single aspect of our lives. That is a reality that even homeschoolers must face.

So what are we to do?

First, for you homeschool parents out there who are also Christians, I encourage you to remember that it is Jesus - not homeschooling - who saves sinners. sinners such as us and our children. Remembering that Jesus is sufficient, able, and willing to save our kids should give us great hope, even as we witness them struggling with sin or disappointment in their adult lives.

Second, I exhort you to be persistent in prayer. I once heard faith defined as "a conscious dependence upon God" - and parenting, whether you homeschool or not, requires a lot of dependence upon God! The challenges we face as parents should keep us mindful of our need for God as we raise our children and should move us to continually seek Him in prayer.

Third, persevere. This calling - parenting, and homeschooling - is not easy, but it is a good work. Let us not tire of doing good, but rather let us press on with endurance, hope, and joy.

Monday, November 17, 2014


When my oldest child was just reaching the age of 36, I realized that zombies would invade the earth in exactly three days. I had to do something. But what?

* * * * *

This, folks, is what happens when my youngest discovers that I have left the blog up unattended.

This morning, my own brain is rather like the snowy landscape outside my kitchen window - smooth, white, blank. I don't think there is a single coherent thought or interesting idea rattling around in my skull. Not one.

So, I asked Helen, "What would be a good idea for a blog post?" When I came back from switching the laundry over to the dryer, I found the above "prompt" waiting to stimulate my creative juices.

Helen is supposed to be working on chemistry. She is doodling on the banjo instead. Seems we are both having difficulty staying on task.

So, with banjo music echoing in my otherwise empty cranium, I am going to simply share some of the fun "leaves" on our family Thankful Tree. Can you guess who in my family is thankful for:...?

romantic, moonlit walks
my math genes
groovy music
my beautiful twin
good preaching
cumulonimbus clouds
(the fundamental theorem of calculus, which I am not even going to try to type out)
my amazing husband
fried food
wild parties

What are you thankful for today?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


"I would like one egg."

"How would you like that cooked?"

"Fried, over easy."

"What else?"

"Nothing else. Just one egg."


"No, thank you."

"We have really good raisin toast."

"Just one egg, please."

"Just one egg?"

"Yes, thank you."

"One egg." The waitress cocked her head to the side and smiled. "Alrighty, then, just one egg!"

I admit it. I'm at it again. Once again, trying to whittle away a little bit of my middle. (That sounds like something Dr. Seuss would say, no?)

Very early this morning before exercise class, I ate a toasted bagel, topped with crunchy peanut butter. I LOVE crunchy peanut butter...can eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon. Yum.

When I met my friend for coffee at the Huddle House later this morning, I really intended to just order coffee. But, after a vigorous step workout, my toasted bagel was ancient history and I was feeling quite hungry. So, I ordered an egg.

Just one egg.

Initially, the waitress looked at me like she was confused. I don't think she'd ever had an order for just one egg. When she headed toward the grill behind the serving counter, she laughed and called out to the cook, "I have an order here for just one egg!"

We Americans eat so much food. Absolutely, I could have put down two eggs, bacon, and a stack of pancakes. I've done it before.

That's why my boobs sit right on top of my belly roll.

Which sits right on top of my thighs.

Just like one of those colorful ring-stacking toys for babies.

Red - my head. Orange - boobs. Yellow - belly. Green - thighs.
Well, you get the idea....

All of this to say, I have some power tools in my toolbox this go 'round:

Power tool Number 1 - I now know for a fact that it is possible to eat smaller portions, even in a breakfast diner where the air is thick with the intoxicating incense of waffles and pancake syrup. If I get hungry again later, I can eat another small portion. Makes much more sense than "tanking up" ahead of time, on the off-chance that I might get hungry later. Which I will. So my strategy is eat a little now of whatever I want, and then eat a little bit more later when I get hungry - instead of eat a lot now, and then a little more later when I get hungry. I'll let you know how it goes...

Power tool Number 2:  The awesome support of the ladies at ADBC Fitness, particularly Caroline and Melissa, who challenge me to work harder and to make healthy choices, one small change at a time.

Power tool Number 3:  A cool free on-line program called MyFitnessPal. I know from personal experience that I will not keep a food journal, or count calories, or eliminate carbs, or give up Helen's amazing brownies, or drink aloe-avocado-green tea smoothies. It's just not going to happen. MyFitnessPal lets me set goals, and then helps me see how my food choices and daily exercise contribute to reaching those goals. (MyFitnessPal even helps folks who want to gain weight, which I think is totally awesome.)

So, here's to not giving up, to failing and then trying again, to eternal-springing hope...

Anyone else up for a game of ring toss?!

Monday, November 10, 2014

THE FOUR P'S (Groom, Part 3)

Over at Carmel Conversations, Noel posted in "Praying Friday" that she prays for her sons that, in their marriages, they will be the Four P's - Priest, Prophet, Protector, Provider.

Priest - praying over their homes and seeking God on behalf of their families.

Prophet - talking to their families on God's behalf, and teaching them the word of God.

Protector - gatekeepers, watching over who/what comes into the home.

Provider - doing what it takes to put food on the table.

Young groom, I think you can glean much from Noel's earnest prayers for her sons. And, concision NOT being my strong point, your own mother (who also prays for her sons) wants to add...

Priest - Pray for and with your wife (and future children) every day. Your prayers do not have to be long or eloquent, but they should be consistent and sincere. I can't tell you how much it will bless the heart of your wife - and how much it will contribute to her sense of union/oneness within your marriage - for her to hear you, her husband, lifting her name to the throne of God.

Prophet - Read Scripture together with your wife every day. Don't make this complicated, or you'll end up not doing it - read a chapter a day, or even a few verses. As the head of your new household, you initiate this, making it a priority to develop a family habit of looking at God's word together daily. Also, talk with your wife about what you are reading and learning on your own, and about what she is reading and learning in her personal study.

Protector - Endeavor to be a vigilant gatekeeper, watching over who/what comes into your home. This is more than just getting a handgun carry permit and packing heat. This is protecting your family mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, as well as physically. What do you allow into the home - when you put that movie into the DVD-player? When you click on that internet link? When you talk about the pastor's Sunday-morning sermon? When you relate conversations from the office? Be mindful of your wife's conscience and protect it. Do you know her particular frailties and do you endeavor to gently strengthen her in those areas - or do you run roughshod over her and tell her she needs to just "toughen up"? Be her protector.

Provider - Do what it takes to put food on the table and shoes on the feet. This may mean working multiple jobs. It may mean passing up that once-in-a-lifetime deal on a new deer rifle or skipping this year's fishing trip with the guys. It will definitely mean working hard, planning ahead, budgeting, delaying gratification, and dying to self.

Priest, Prophet, Protector, Provider. It's a big calling.

In fact, I can guarantee that it is bigger than your ability to fulfill.

Thankfully, you have an Elder Brother who does all of these things excellently, who is exactly the type of husband you should strive to be. He is very gracious, and He is eager and able to help you in this journey - to strengthen you when you are weak, to cover you when you fail, to pick you up and push you forward when your endurance wanes, to carry you when your strength is completely spent.

Young groom, learn quickly to lean hard on Him.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Yes, I admit I am SUPER EXCITED about participating in W. G. Rhea Public Library's annual Cornucopia of Talent this year!

I met Connie McSwain, the Director of W. G. Rhea Public Library, at a book review club meeting several months ago. Do you believe in love at first sight? Connie is one of those enthusiastic, lively people with an infectious joy for living - spend a few minutes with her and your day is certain to be made brighter!

I don't know who else is on the program for the afternoon, but knowing Connie, this is going to be a wonderfully fun event. I hope you can join us Saturday, November 8th, from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. at the library. W.G. Rhea Public Library is located at 400 W. Washington Street in beautiful Paris, TN. I will be there along with several other area authors, to interact with visitors and to hopefully sell a few books. (A book by a local author - signed with a personal inscription - sounds like a GREAT Christmas gift!)

Books, good company, delicious food...come to Paris!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

ADIOS, LONE RANGER (Groom, Part 2)

Yesterday, we looked at how the woman was created as a help "meet" for the man. Today, I want to explore the implications of that idea further.

Dear Groom,
There is no room in marriage for a Lone Ranger mentality.
Your Mother

Some men - perhaps because of that same skewed Greek philosophy I mentioned yesterday - seem to think that as the man/husband/head of the household, they are responsible for making every decision and facing every difficulty on their own, independently of their wives. They do not seek input from their wives, and resent input when it is volunteered. They perceive suggestions and opinions different from their own as challenges to their authority.

Big things (like career changes, relocations, major purchases) and little things (children's bedtimes, entertainment, home decorating) - these men feel it is their responsibility to make all decisions without consulting their wives, and it is their wives' responsibility to act on those decisions without commenting or asking questions.

Such men are, as the old saying goes, "shooting [themselves] in the foot."

God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." (Genesis1:18)

I think we can safely conclude from this short passage that:
1.) It was not good for man to be alone.
2.) God created a helper for the man.
3.) The helper which God created - the woman - was fit for/suitable for the man.

The husband who asserts that he does not need his wife and who does not seek her help is basically saying:
1.) I am fine on my own.
2.) I do not need a helper.
3.) I am perfectly capable of doing everything myself.
...all of which sounds very contrary to to what we've just read in Genesis.

Some husbands think of the wife as a "helper" strictly in terms of someone who cleans the bathroom, keeps the laundry caught up, and takes the dog out to pee. Yes, these are valuable services - take a minute to find out just how much you'd have to pay an employee to perform all the household services normally done by your wife! But the term ezer communicates an idea of help which is much larger and more potent.

Ezer help is more than valet service. It's the intensely personal, vigorous, sometimes uncomfortable help of someone involved in Kingdom work, work that is physical, mental, and spiritual.

When you play Lone Ranger, you not only "shoot yourself in the foot" - you also squelch your wife's ability to express her God-given helper design, and you run the danger of crippling her spiritually and emotionally. Play the Lone Ranger in your marriage long enough, and you may very well end up finding yourself alone.

So, young groom, today I want to exhort you to not only recognize your wife's helper design, but to fully appreciate and utilize the gifts, skills, and insight that God has given her.

Setting family goals, making major decisions (career, moves, etc.), planning a budget, parenting - all of these should be done in dialogue with your wife, not independently of your wife.

Yes, you are the head of your young family. And if you are a wise head, you will value the suitable help of your wife. Do not waste the good gift that God has given you!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

HELPMEET (Groom, Part 1)

(The first of several letters to the new groom...)

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. - Genesis 2:18, ESV

The King James Version calls the woman "an help meet" for the man. Other Scripture translations refer to this helper as "suitable," "corresponding to," and "complementary to."

A couple of things in this short verse stand out to me - 

"...the LORD God said" - I am not just reading someone's opinion in this verse, but I am encountering the very words of God.

"It is not good..." - God says that it is not good for the man to be alone. Up until this point in the creation narrative, God closes each creative act with the grand benediction, "It was good." But here, we seem to have hit a snag. God pauses in His creative action and pronounces, "It is not good..." Only after God has created the woman and presented her to her husband do we read that "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." (Gen. 1:31)

"I will make him a helper..." - The word for "helper" used here - ezer - is the same word that God uses when He refers to Himself as the helper of his people (See Psalm 10:14, 33:20, 72:12-14, and 86:17). Take a few minutes to wrap your brain around that.

 Ezer is not a diminutive term. It does not imply that the woman is some how less than man (that is Greek philosophy, not biblical doctrine), either in value or, as an image-bearer of God, in glory. Rather, ezer refers to a strong one who comes alongside. Erase the image of June Cleaver from your brain, and consider instead Deborah (Judges 4 - 5), who rode out alongside Barak to meet and defeat Sisera.

"...a helper fit for him" - I'm going to be honest with you, young groom: there will come a time when you look at the beautiful young woman standing next to you and you think, "This is not what I signed up for! This woman is going to drive me crazy!" Maybe she has opinions that you don't agree with. Maybe you are baffled by her emotional makeup. Marriage may start feeling more like a tug-of-war than like two who are "equally yoked" and pulling together in the same direction.

Those are the times you most need to remember that God created this woman especially "fit" for/suitable for/corresponding to you. She is an extraordinary gift from God: a helper meet.

God didn't give you this woman to make your life easy-breezy and exciting (although she may do that to an extent). He didn't give you this woman to help you chase your pet rainbows (although she may help you do that, too). God gave you this woman so that together you can reflect something of His image to a fallen world. God gave you this woman to stand alongside you as you journey together toward greater holiness and a deeper knowledge of your Creator.

God created her especially "fit" for that job. He did not make her different (physically, emotionally, etc.) to exasperate you, but to teach you something about himself. It is exactly at the point of difference that you have the most to learn, and the most to gain.

"Helpmeet" - Reuben Kendall
18"x24"/acrylic on canvas
(To purchase, click HERE for info.)

Monday, November 3, 2014


After a riotous weekend - and a noisy, overflowing house - I am sitting at my computer in an empty, silent kitchen. The house is not completely empty. The Chicken is here with me, but she has not yet ventured out of her nest and down the stairs.

Today is going to be Recovery Day.

At my house, when we clean up in preparation for a party, we basically take the piles of junk that are stacked all over the house and shove them into closets and drawers and other secret places like the top of the fridge. Books we're reading, mail that needs to be responded to, notebooks for a research project I'm working on, boxes of books I need to sell, newspapers we're saving to put on the garden, car parts, fishing tackle,'s all stuff we use, but stuff I'd rather not have lying all over everywhere when the house is filled to bursting with company.

So today, I'm going to have something like a giant Easter egg hunt as I try to remember all the places we've stashed stuff so that I can return everything to its usual place. So that we don't forget to respond to the mail, or to finish that research project, etc.

It's like hitting the junk pile re-set button.

Maybe - just maybe - a few of the piles will disappear completely. Remain lost forever. Never make it back to the light of day.

A gal can dream, can't she?

Thursday, October 30, 2014


I work so much better with a routine.

I am more productive and less stressed, and I handle the inevitable disruptions with more grace.

Some folks eschew routine for uninterrupted spontaneity. But if every moment of life is lived "spontaneously" - doesn't that kind of negate what it means to be spontaneous? If every single action or decision is spontaneous, well, that's not really spontaneity - that's failing to plan or to prepare. Maybe you could call it passivity, or apathy, or reactivity, but I don't think you can correctly call it spontaneity.

All of this to say, I was very happy to exercise with the ladies at ADBC this morning, after a week away.

My morning routine - coffee and Bible, then a few pages of whatever book I'm currently reading (right now, it's N. D. Wilson's "Death by Living" - AWESOME book), exercise at Caroline's studio, home to tend chickens, fix second breakfast, shower and dress for the day...

Yesterday, after more than a month off, I was even able to sit down and begin working again on Book #3. It. Felt. Amazing.

I love that the routine of life is punctuated by unexpected situations and unforeseen twists, by special occasions and interesting opportunities. I love having the freedom and the occasion to  be spontaneous. To do something "just because."

And I love routine.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Like a water balloon filled to the point of bursting.

And another splash of water is added.

Then another.

The weight of the water, the tension of the elastic skin - you hold your breath.

So much fullness that it can barely be contained.

That's how my heart felt this past weekend.

A busy day Friday, packing and driving and setting up for the rehearsal dinner. The wedding rehearsal - so many dear friends and family together under one roof. So many smiles and hugs, so much laughter and delight.

The ladies at Salem ARP Church - many of whom I had never met before - gathered in the church kitchen, where they baked and decorated and served and cleaned. They loved me like one of their own. Loved my whole family. Loved my new family, too.

I woke in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday - that's what you do when you're 50 years old and you have achy bones and joints, wake up at 3:00 a.m. - and I lay considering the evening past and the special day ahead. And I felt like I was basking in the warmth of a ginormous, holy, heavenly smile. "Do you know how much I love you?!"

I smiled back in the darkness. "So very much," I thought, "that you have completely overwhelmed me. My heart is bursting."

"Oh, I love you that much, and even more! Wait and I have in store!"

I think He cracked my ribs. He so over-filled my swollen heart that it burst. And a great torrent of joy and gratitude and delight has been bubbling out ever since, so that I feel adrift in a flood of God's great goodness.

Congratulations, Nate and Abby!

Friday, October 17, 2014


With two flat tires on the van recently, I found myself stuck at home for an entire week.

I did...
mop the floors,
clean the bathrooms,
chug through a ton of schoolwork with the high school sophomore,
pull grass out of the irises,
walk to the neighbors' house to visit several times,
hose off the back porch,
catch up on some paperwork,
work a couple of crossword puzzles,
and read a book.

I did not...
exercise with the ladies at ADBC each morning,
make a run to town for groceries,
shuttle Helen to her piano lesson
or to the homeschool group teen meeting,
mail packages at the Post Office,
shop for a dress to wear to the wedding,
make my weekly stop at the newspaper office,
visit the expectant mother,
check out the deals at Goodwill,
or shop for fresh fall vegetables at the produce stand.

It was nice to have a clean house.

I love George MacDonald's fairy tales.

And I am very thankful for new tires on the van.

Friday, October 10, 2014

WOMAN (Bride, Part 3)

Continuing the "bride" theme...(You do know what's coming next week, right?)

WOMAN (Bride, Part 3)
- originally published June 19, 2012

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, selling out womankind, betraying 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.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

BRIDE: BEWARE! (Bride, Part 2)

Continuing with the wedding theme...!

BRIDE:  BEWARE! (Bride, Part 2)
- originally published June 14, 2012

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 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.

Monday, October 6, 2014

BRIDAL ARMOR (Bride, Part 1)

A precious, beautiful young woman is changing her last name to Kendall at the end of this month. In honor of the occasion, I'm reposting three "letters" written to a bride-to-be...

BRIDAL ARMOR (Bride, Part 1)
- originally published June 12, 2012

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

Thursday, October 2, 2014


"Fine," I answered. "Pretty good, I guess."

That was how I answered the man standing next to me at the coffee pot in the church fellowship hall Sunday morning when he asked how I was doing.

It wasn't a lie. I really was fine. I had food, clean clothes...and soon I would have hot coffee, too! My kids were all healthy. I hadn't had to sleep in a house that had raccoons fighting in the attic or that was infested with fleas. (Been there, done that, and it is NOT "fine" by any stretch of the imagination.)

Except that I really wasn't fine. Not on the inside. Still struggling with this penchant for duplicity, obviously. "Um, yeah, I guess I'm fine." I looked at the man standing next to me and managed a smile. "That's the short answer. You don't really want the long answer, do you?"

The fellow finished stirring creamer into his cup of coffee. "Nah, not really!" he chuckled. "That'll do!"

On the other side of the fellowship hall, a friend sat down next to me at the table. "How you doing, baby?" she asked as she leaned over for a hug. I looked at her and smiled, and then the deluge of tears began.

Funny, isn't it?, how some people can see right through the facade, right into your heart. And when they ask how you are doing, you don't have to pretend or be "fine" anymore. Such friends are a gift.

So, on a different note, I am currently reading through the book of Isaiah. I sat down to read this morning - strange how I can already feel so tired, so early in the day - and, after I had prayed - for my kids, for endurance, for stronger faith, for comfort and encouragement... - I read:

...I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine...I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you...I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you...bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made...

Funny, isn't it?, that God would have me right at Isaiah 43 first thing this morning.

Ever feel like God is speaking directly to you? Like He wrote the entire Bible just especially for you?

He is just that good, isn't He? :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


This is going to be a very eventful month for our family. To kick off October, Bethel Road is available for Kindle for FREE, today through Friday! Take advantage of this opportunity to get your free copy, and, when you're done reading, do me a huge favor and write a review on Amazon &/or Goodreads - I really appreciate your feedback!

Click HERE to request your Kindle download.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Speaking of old family sayings...

My Great-uncle Whit used to have a saying, "That's the cost of an education."

No, he wasn't referring to tuition and fees at the local university. Uncle Whit was talking about learning from our experiences, particularly mistakes, especially where money was involved.

I have a friend who loaned his cousin a substantial amount of money. His cousin was going through a rough time - a messy divorce, layoff at work, etc. - and was in a financial pinch. He asked my friend for a couple thousand dollars, "just to tide me over until I get my feet on the ground," with full assurance that he would repay the money as soon as possible.

Of course, you know the rest of the story. The cousin did eventually get his feet back on the ground. Found another job, set up housekeeping on his own, bought a new truck...seemed to be doing pretty well financially. Whenever my friend approached him about repaying the loan, however, the cousin never had the money.

After a couple of years, my friend suggested to his cousin that he set up a payment schedule to pay off the debt a little at a time. The cousin got mad and said something about that was what family was for, to help one another out. He accused my friend of being stingy and too preoccupied with money, and he swore he wouldn't repay one red cent.

Uncle Whit would say, about the dollar amount that my friend was out, "That's the cost of the education." My friend has learned, in a rather expensive and painful way, that his cousin is unreliable and doesn't honor his commitments.

I've heard another, similar saying:  "Once bitten, twice shy." If you've ever been bitten by a dog, you make extra sure you're careful not to saunter up too close to that dog again! But the saying also has a more general meaning - once you've had an unpleasant experience (like my friend with his cousin), you are extra careful to avoid similar experiences in the future.

Albert Einstein is credited with this saying:  "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." That sounds a little like refusing to learn from one's mistakes. Like reaching out to pet that toothy canine again, despite what happened last time. Yep, that sounds pretty crazy to me, too!

So, what are some of the old sayings passed around in your family?

Monday, September 22, 2014


"I can't get the lawnmower started."

"I can't get the horses into the barn."

"I can't work this math problem."

"I can't hoe this whole row of beans myself."

Seems that often as a girl, I was telling my Dad, "I can't (fill in the blank)!"

And almost as often as I said "I can't....", my Dad simply replied, "Can't never could."

Usually, Dad's reply really got up my nose.

You see, Dad knew that my problem wasn't that I lacked the ability to do whatever-it-was. My problem was usually that I simply didn't want to do it badly enough to exert the necessary physical or mental effort. Or perhaps I lacked confidence that I could do a particular task and simply needed a push.

"Can't never could" was Dad's way of saying:  giving up at the first sign of difficulty never enabled anyone to accomplish anything. If I say "I can't" and then quit trying, well, then, the truth is, I never will, regardless of whether I actually can or not.

I am beginning a new venture - this writing thing - and I feel like a very small boat in a very large and uncharted sea. Intimidated? Yes. Insecure? Absolutely! Do I really think I can do this successfully? Well...

I work out with a wonderful group of women several mornings a week. I love the physical exercise and social interaction, but, even more, I love the encouragement these women give me, both by their words and by their lives.

One has battled and beaten cancer. Another has overcome other chronic health issues. Broken marriages, challenges with kids, addictions - many of these women have looked in the face of truly difficult circumstances and, instead of giving up and saying "I can't," they have said, "I can overcome this."

Several of these ladies have begun new ventures - their own businesses and ministries - perhaps, some would say, rather late in life. When I look at these remarkable women and consider the challenges they have faced and successfully met, I consider my own little enterprise and I begin to think, "Maybe I can, too."

One thing I learned from my Dad:  "Can't" is often an excuse for not even trying.

And can't...never could.

Friday, September 19, 2014


I want to be competent. I want to be sufficient. I want to be understood.

I want to be able to do the tasks which have fallen to me, and to do them well. Teaching, cooking, writing, studying, ministering, gardening... I don't want to do a sloppy, didn't-think-it-through, that'll-just-have-to-do kind of job.

I want to be able to see a job through to completion. I don't want to fall short, or to pass my responsibility on to someone else, or to have to admit that I am simply not equal to the task at hand. I want my "Yes" to be Yes and my "No" to be No - I want to finish what I begin, every single time.

I want others to understand that excellence and integrity are important to me. That I'll do what I said, get the job done...or die trying. And if, for some reason, I fail - I want others to understand how heavily that weighs on me. I don't want them to think I skip out on my commitments lightly, or that I don't value them enough to give them my best.

I know people - we all do - who are way too comfortable with "good enough," people whose hallmark is consistently shoddy workmanship. And we all know people who assure us of their commitment to a particular thing, but who bail on their commitments as soon as another, more desirable opportunity comes along. They are the people who, when they tell us "Yes," we write their names in our planners with a pencil instead of a pen. I do not want to be one of those "good enough"/my-yes-really-means-maybe kind of people.


The truth is, I am not always competent. I work hard, give something my very best effort...and still fall so far short of the mark. Sometimes, I don't get close to adequacy, much less excellence.

And sometimes, I don't even make it to the finish line. I end up having to limp off the track half-way through an event, or maybe even have to be carried off the field on a stretcher. Blegh.

And people don't understand. They misunderstand my motives or my behavior, and they are often completely oblivious to the internal struggle that lies behind my actions.


I so very earnestly long to be competent, to be sufficient, to be understood.

I am currently reading in Galatians. I am amazed anew as I read in Galatians, chapter 4, that the "slave woman/Hagar" corresponds to "Jerusalem." When I think of slavery and bondage, I think of bondage to sin, to wickedness, to all the bad, yucky stuff I am prone to do. When I think of slavery and bondage, I do not usually think in terms of keeping the law, religious fervor, doing/getting it "right" - I mean, those are good things, aren't they?

Except that Sarah - the free woman - was not competent (oh, what a mess she made of things!). She was not sufficient (she was barren). And she was very misunderstood.

It is good to be reminded today that I am not a child of the slave but of the free woman. The incompetent, insufficient, misunderstood, free woman. It is good to be reminded today that it is for freedom that Christ - my brother and Sarah's greatest Son - has set me free.

Because unlike Sarah, and unlike her daughter Camille, Christ is competent. Christ is sufficient. And He understands.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Literacy Mid-South is hosting the Mid-South Book Festival at the Memphis Botanic Gardens (Memphis, Tennessee), Thursday, September 25th, through Sunday, September 28th. The event is FREE and open to the public; however, some events are ticketed, so check the Festival schedule if you would like to reserve a spot for one of those.

This year's Mid-South Book Festival features celebrity authors from around the country, plus creative writing seminars, multiple bookstores, live music and entertainment, food, and more. It promises to be an awesome weekend of fun for anyone who loves books!

I will have a table at the Author's Hall for local and regional writers, on Saturday, September 27th, from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm. I would love to meet you there!

To learn more about the Mid-South Book Festival, view a schedule of speakers and events, or register for a particular event, click HERE.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Do you ever pray to God about something, knowing that He has the power to answer your prayer but not really expecting that He will?

We just finished up an awesome Sunday school study at Grace based on J.I. Packer's book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. If you, like me, live in the middle of a hay field, way out in some sparsely-populated corner of rural Northwest Tennessee, you probably find that opportunities for evangelism are limited. I just don't run into very many people on a typical day!

So, in working through this study, one of my prayers has been that God would provide opportunities for me to share the gospel with others. Another of my prayers as been that when God does present these opportunities, I will actually recognize and act on them. I tend to be a bit slow on the uptake sometimes - you know, completely miss the obvious until, too late, my 20/20 hindsight kicks in. And I have been praying that when a clear opportunity arises, I will not be afraid or hesitant to take it.

I really have been trying to do a better job of keeping my eyes wide open.

A couple of weeks ago, an unfamiliar car pulled up in our driveway. I figured someone was lost and needed directions. As I headed out the door and down the front steps, an elderly woman got out of the car and walked over to meet me. "Can I help you?" I asked.

The woman's husband climbed out of the car and came to join her. "Yes," she answered, "We are looking for someone to talk to who likes to study the Bible."

I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning. Talk about a clear opportunity! I couldn't have missed this one if I'd had my eyes squeezed shut! I was so excited that I felt like I was going to pop.

"Oh, I love to study the Bible!" I replied. "Come up here on the porch where we can talk!"

Vernon and Delores and I talked about the Bible for almost an hour - about who Jesus is, about God's sovereignty, about why the world is so messed up, about sin and our need for a Savior. We read Scripture together, and more Scripture. They asked lots of questions, and I asked them lots of questions, too.

Finally, Vernon stood and turned toward the steps. "We really do have to be going, Delores." He reached for his wife's arm. "Can you tell us how to get to Reelfoot Lake?" he asked.

After I gave Vernon directions to Reelfoot Lake, Delores asked, "Could we come back and talk to you again sometime?"

"Absolutely," I answered. "I would love to talk with you again." I gave her my phone number and told her to call me next time they were out this way.

I don't know if Vernon and Delores will ever come back or not. I do know that I prayed for a clear opportunity to share the gospel with someone, and I know that God answered that prayer by sending someone - two someones - right to my doorstep.

There have been other prayers I have prayed, however, that God has not answered so clearly or so quickly. Sometimes, God's answers have been so subtle, so gradual, that they were almost imperceptible. Sometimes, the answers have come so long after the initial prayers that I foolishly assumed that God either didn't hear or did not intend to answer.

Then, when He does answer, after months or years of what seemed to me to be silence - that feels like Christmas morning, too. Or maybe more like Christmas in May, because it takes me so completely by surprise.

Monday, September 8, 2014


I guess you could say that when Steve and I got married 30+ years ago, our wedding was a big deal, but a small affair.

Steve wore his newly-issued dress whites. I wore a beautiful hand-me-down wedding gown and veil. Mom bought fabric and made the bridesmaids' dresses. My bouquet was a sheaf of lilies, freshly cut from my great aunt and uncle's yard that morning.

My sister paid for the invitations that we had mailed out earlier. She also played the piano at our wedding. My granddaddy performed the service, and we were married in the church that Steve's granddaddy had helped build.

The reception was at my parents' house, the only home I had any memory of - we moved there when I was two, I think. My cousin baked and decorated a fabulous wedding cake, and we served punch, nuts, and home-made cream-cheese mints.

I don't remember thinking that a single thing about the entire day was anything less than perfect. We were surrounded by family and friends, and showered with so much love and kindness.
Steve and I may not have been rich, but we were very richly blessed.

This past week, a woman who thought she knew a little bit about my family came up to me and introduced herself. In the course of our brief conversation, this lady commented, "I don't know how you and Steve have managed this year. You poor things...several kids going to college full-time, a daughter getting married in the spring, now another wedding coming up this fall!"

"Oh, you don't understand!" I exclaimed. But at this point, our little conversation was interrupted. I didn't have the opportunity to explain to her that...

The wedding this past spring? Grammy bought the wedding gown, a dear friend shared her wedding veil, and an aunt provided the flowers. Grandmother sewed the maid of honor's dress, and the MOB felt beautiful in a new dress given to me by my step-mother.

The music was provided by several of the bride's very talented friends from school. Another special friend served as photographer for the day. Even the reception was a community effort, with ladies from two churches and our entire community of family and friends pitching in to help decorate, prepare food, and serve.
It was a day filled with joy and laughter, prayers and hugs, worship and celebration.

And those full-time college students my new acquaintance mentioned? I didn't have a chance to explain to her that - with academic scholarships and part-time jobs - they have each managed to pay for college entirely on their own. Tuition, books, clothes, transportation, everything. I am so thankful these kids are hard-working and healthy! They have in no way created a financial burden for our family, but have been tremendous blessings instead.

All this to say...

Sheila, if you're out there somewhere reading this post, I want to tell you - No, no we are not "poor" at all. We may not have much money in the bank, but we are rich...

Very richly blessed indeed!

Friday, September 5, 2014


Helen named him Geoffrey:  "Geoffrey - with a 'G' - because he's so glamorous!"

Yes, Geoffrey is glamorous. Beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous.

And I want him dead.

Geoffrey looks exactly like this:
Geoffrey is truly this fluffy, this fat, and this strikingly colored.

I do believe this is the very same fellow who bombed the air intake of our heat pump back in February, effectively stinking up our entire house (you can read that story HERE.) The smell lingered for months.

I think he hangs around our house because the next-door neighbors are known to put out pans of delicious left-overs on the porch for the local wildlife. (I also think that is how Geoffrey got to be so incredibly fat and shiny.) We don't put out left-overs here at our house, but Geoffrey has us on his regular evening circuit all the same.

Anyway, I headed out the back door yesterday evening to go shut up the hen house for the night. Just as I launched down the back stairs, Geoffrey popped out from under the steps. With the momentum of 160 pounds already in motion, I couldn't stop.

Geoffrey stood up on his hind legs, spread his front paws wide, and hissed at me like a mad cat.

Since there was no way I was going to turn the Titanic around, I opted to bolt forward as fast as I could. If Geoffrey decided to spray, maybe I could run far enough, fast enough, to avoid the worst of it.

I made it across the back yard faster than an Olympic sprinter. And thankfully, Geoffrey did not have time to turn around and douse me.

Needless to say, after I closed up the chickens for the night, a made a very wide, circuitous path back to the house and came in the front door.

I miss having the fur trapper around. I think it's time he came home for a visit.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


The Tennessee Soybean Festival is going on RIGHT NOW in Martin, Tennessee!

The Soybean Festival kicked off with the TN Soybean 2014 - Guitar as Art contest and exhibition, on display through September 12 at the Exhibit Gallery of the UTM Fine Arts Building.

Twenty-eight participating artists were issued one guitar each and told any themes, narratives, and subject matter could be explored as long as the artists used a 2D media or process to solve the concept. The work submitted is simply amazing, and well worth the drive to Martin to view.

The show was juried by Jack Cody, and after much deliberation, Mr. Cody chose this entry as Best of Show:

"I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each." - Reuben Kendall

From the artist's bio in the exhibition program:

"I believe that art is something essential to our Humanity and a necessary part of our existence and purpose as the Imago Dei, the image of God. Since God is creative in essence and exists eternally in three persons, creativity and the connections of community are parts of our essential nature and nearly direct links between us and the Divine. In the act of creating images, narratives, and unique, meaningful experiences, we build powerful connections to others and more fully reflect the nature of our Creator.

"For this show, I chose to use a lighthearted nautical theme that tells a story with pictures painted in the bold style of vintage sailor tattoos. Symbolism, simple text, and the wear and tear of a hard life blend together with the brightly inked images to give the piece of art a rugged and bittersweet voice and a well-worn charm."

Reuben describes his personal art style as energetic and "rich with the use of color, symbolism, depictions of natural and super-natural forms and forces, and a fluid interplay between the realistic and the surreal. An abundance of mystery, motion, gaiety, and the whimsical is usually present in my art."

To see pictures of more of the fabulous guitars on display during the Soybean Festival, you can check out the Tennessee Soybean Festival FaceBook page, or click HERE. Better yet, make the trip to see these beautiful guitars in person - the creativity, talent, and detail work of these pieces is worth the drive!

Thursday, August 28, 2014


I have a friend who lost a rather prestigious, well-paying job several years ago due to inappropriate conduct on her part while at the office. When she was first fired from her position, my friend reluctantly admitted responsibility for the behavior that cost her her job. Now, looking back, she misses the steady work and the paycheck. And now, when she talks about the job she misses, she seems to have forgotten the reason she lost this job in the first place.

She says it was because her boss was a micro-manager. Her boss was intimidated by her level of competency and felt threatened. Her boss wanted to hire someone younger. Her boss preferred working with men instead of women.

What you DON'T hear my friend say is, "What I did was wrong and stupid and completely inappropriate. My boss was perfectly justified in firing me. I hope that I've learned from my mistakes."

Instead of owning the situation and choosing to learn from it, my friend has opted to think of herself - and to portray herself to others - as a victim. Someone treated unfairly. Someone who can't pull her life together today, because of her imagined mistreatment by someone else years ago.

I see a couple of problems here.

First, my friend has created a La-La Land to live in. She is telling herself (and others) lies. And she's using those lies as an excuse for wallowing in the unhappy work situation in which she finds herself today.

Second, my friend is living in the past (and a fantasy past, at that!) instead of using her past mistakes as a catalyst to build a better future.

I am sad for my friend, because I understand all-too-well the victim mentality. It is incredibly easy to get so wrapped up in past wrongs, hurts, offenses - imagined or real - that we completely overlook present blessings and opportunities and become blind to future possibilities.

Yes, life is hard and bad things happen. We sin. We screw up and make a mess of everything around us. Sometimes it's the guy next to us who screws up royally, and we suffer the fall-out of his actions.

Do you think all of this catches God off guard? Or that, somehow, your own or someone else's offenses can transcend God's good purposes for you if you are truly His?

No! No way!

Yes, in the immediate sense, I may be a victim - of abuse, of a hit-and-run, of slander, of whatever. But ultimately, no, I am not a victim. God is accomplishing exactly what He desires in me and for me, in exactly the manner He intends.

Jesus redeems it all. Everything.

Are you, like my friend Mary, trapped in the mire of perceived past offenses? Are you, like me, tempted to wallow in your afflictions? Been there. Done that. It is neither pleasant, nor helpful. It is not satisfying. Living with a victim mentality simply serves to feed my pride, rebelliousness, moroseness, and inactivity.

I am not a victim.

And I must choose each day to live in light of that truth.