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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Here they are, in no particular order:

1. I am thankful that my kids are usually very healthy. Me, too, for that matter. Sturdy stock!

2. I am thankful the sun was out long enough today for me to dry a couple loads of laundry on the line. (That last load I just put on the line? Mmmm, might not dry so well - I felt a few raindrops.)

3. I am thankful for a wonderful, soon-to-be new daughter-in-law, and for her entire family. They have been such great blessings to me and mine.

4. I am thankful that my kids are pretty much financially independent, paying for their own college, books, clothes, vehicles, gas, insurance, rent, etc., and that they still help out so much around the house when they are home. I don't know anyone else whose kids take so little and give so much.

5. I am thankful it is still so beautifully green outside! This late in August, the hay field is usually brown and burned to a crisp.

6. I am thankful for friends who check on me when I've been off the grid for a couple of days. :)

7. I am thankful that tomorrow is pilates day at ADBC Fitness in Troy - I need to straighten out a few kinks after helping the newlyweds move.

8. I am thankful that today is Wednesday, which means that tonight I get to worship with my family at Grace Pres!

9. I am thankful for my grandbabies!

10. I am thankful for the promise of Glory!

Your turn now - what are YOU thankful for today?

Monday, August 18, 2014


When I was much younger - a schoolgirl living at home - I wanted to grow up to be a veterinarian and a writer. Hey, James Herriot did it, right? I loved animals, I loved reading and writing, and I thought I could weave those two interests together into a career that provided personal satisfaction and financial security.

That was Plan A.

Two years into a Chemistry/Pre-Vet degree, I married a young Marine and began a life of bouncing from duty station to duty station. Nix Plan A. But that was okay, because my red-headed Jarhead and I were madly in love. We were embarking on Plan B:  happily ever after.

Thirty something years and countless twists, turns, and adjustments later, I can't remember what plan we're on - Plan W? Plan Z? This journey has been a great deal of "happily" and also a great deal of "not-so-happily." As best as I can tell, we're only half-way to "ever after," so we still have yet to see how that plays out.

I had intended to be financially secure well before my present age of 50. Instead, we're still struggling to scrape together enough money for this week's groceries. I had intended to be a best-selling author, writing books that made people all over the world laugh and cry, books that challenged and encouraged readers. Instead, I'm writing books about menopausal women who burst into tears for no apparent reason and who talk to an invisible friend. I intended to be madly and passionately in love with my husband, planning romantic trysts and sharing new adventures together. Instead, we are just barely hanging on, hoping sweet memories from the past will sustain us through this present desert until we reach a new season of refreshment.

What happened to all those plans?!

At a women's ministry workshop back in the spring, something Connie Miller shared with the group struck me in a powerful way. Connie commented that - God has no Plan B. With God, it is all Plan A.

We have a Plan A, of course, and we get frustrated when our Plan A is forced to give way to Plan B, and then Plan C, and then Plan D. We become frustrated, disappointed, weary. But, Connie explained, all of this...this life... is part of God's Plan A for us.

Yes, it is hard to let go of our own dreams and plans and expectations, but we can rest in the confidence that God is indeed accomplishing in us and in our lives just exactly what He set out to do. He really is orchestrating every single event in my life for my good. God is all-wise, He is sovereign, and He loves me very much - I can be assured that His Plan A is the very best plan of all, far better than my own Plan A/B/C...

Plan A.

Leaving the workshop where Connie spoke, I started thinking backward, thinking about all the failures, all the hurts and disappointments, all the dreams - realized and unrealized, all the unexpected twists and turns in my life. I tried to think of each event and circumstance with the new perspective of "Oh! So this was Plan A."

Never finishing college because of all the moves we made? That was God's Plan A for me. Six babies in seven years? I was so exhausted, so overwhelmed! It was God's Plan A. The broken relationship, all the tears and heartache? That wasn't some sad, unfortunate accident. It was Plan A.

And in all of these things - things I would never have chosen for myself, things I could have never predicted - in all of these situations, God has taught me so much about himself, about myself, about how much he loves me. He has broken me and he has made me stronger. He has given me assurance and security and hope.

Yes, God's Plan A is sometimes hard, and sometimes it hurts, and often it doesn't line up with our own plans. But it is a good plan - the best plan! - and it absolutely never fails.

Helen and I were driving to a meeting a couple of weeks ago. We left the house a little later than I had intended (circumstances beyond our control), and then we got stuck behind a farm truck that drove 40 miles per hour all the way in to Troy...putt, putt, putt. Then, between Troy and the middle of nowhere, I realized that the gas tank was dangerously close to empty - no gas stations anywhere close, no money to pay for gas if there had been, and no cell phone reception to call for help. I was definitely feeling a bit stressed.

When I noticed that the gas tank was on empty, I groaned. "Oh, great!" I commented sarcastically.

Sitting next to me in the passenger seat, Helen just looked at me and said calmly, "Plan A, Mom."

Helen was at the workshop with Connie, too. And we - Helen and I - have adopted this new code word: "Plan A." Translation:  "God has got this. This isn't what you were planning/expecting, but God has totally got this under control."

"Plan A, Mom." It's a challenge to step back, take a deep breath, let go of my own expectations, and think, "Oh, so this is Plan A! What does God have for me in this? What is he teaching me? How will he use this to grow me or to encourage someone else?"

"Plan A, Mom." With God, there is no Plan B. God only has Plan A. And that, my friends, comforts me greatly.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


My first book signing event for Bethel Road is TODAY, 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., at the Obion County Public Library in Union City, Tennessee! I am excited and nervous and more than a little bit scared.

If you knew me as a young child or as a high school student or a young adult, you know how painfully shy I used to be. I am much less bashful now, but it still gives me butterflies in my stomach to participate in public events. Thankfully, the wonderful people I meet at these events quickly put me at ease, and their friendliness makes me forget about my shyness for a moment.

Preparing for this evening's book signing while simultaneously trying to fight off a case of the jitters, I thought again of my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Maggie Vaughan. I remember the timid, brown-eyed girl who sat in Mrs. Vaughan's classroom, petrified speechless...the student who tonight, 40+ years after that first homeroom class, will give a public reading of her second novel.

Remembering Mrs. Vaughan calms my nerves and makes me smile.

I am truly looking forward to this evening. I hope you'll stop by and say "Hi!"

- originally posted April 12, 2010

Mrs. Maggie Vaughan has retired from teaching school. I see her picture in the local paper occasionally, smiling as she poses with trophies for winning senior adult tennis tournaments. She is beautiful, and she still has a smile like sunshine.

Mrs. Vaughan was an extraordinary teacher. She truly was one of those people who made all the difference in the world in the lives of her students.

Coming from a rural community and familiar with only a very small circle of people, I was an extremely shy first grade student. Extremely shy. I am shy by nature - still shy at 46 years - but my shyness became particularly acute when I first plunged into the sea of humanity called public school.

I loved school - I was smart, eager to please, and enjoyed the work. But I was petrified by the overwhelming number of people. I would sit mute in class, not talking to or looking at anyone, barely able to answer my teacher with the quietest whisper when called upon. No doubt I wore that "deer in the headlights" expression for the first several weeks of class!

A few weeks into fall classes, each parent had to schedule an appointment for a one-on-one conference with his child's teacher. My Mom drove the twelve miles from home to Central Elementary and met with Mrs. Vaughan. During that conference, Mrs. Vaughan explained that, as a professional educator, she had some concerns about my mental condition. She suggested I undergo testing to determine if I might be slightly mentally retarded. (I'm sure there's a euphemism for retardation these days, but remember, this was 40 years ago when folks were much more matter-of-fact.)

Mom was stunned. "I know Camille is not retarded," Mom protested. "She is a very bright little girl!"

Mrs. Vaughan listened attentively to Mom's defense of my mental abilities. Mom felt sure that the "symptoms" Mrs. Vaughan described were a consequence of my extreme shyness, and she explained that I probably felt a bit overwhelmed by the culture of first grade. Mrs. Vaughan spent the rest of the conference working with my mom to develop a plan of action for my educational future.

I think I became Mrs. Vaughan's #1 project over the next several weeks. She slowly, carefully, ever-so-gently drew me out of my shell and helped me engage more and more as a student. Mrs. Vaughan communicated somehow that I was precious to her and she made me feel safe in a strange environment. She transformed first grade from a trauma to an adventure.

I completed first grade with flying colors and eventually went on to graduate highschool at the top of my class. An academic scholarship paid for my education after highschool. And now, I teach children myself. Amazing!

Can you imagine how very different my life would be if not for this one teacher who respected my mom's input, then took the initiative and sacrificed her time to know me, to understand me, and to help me grow? I could have been pigeon-holed as unteachable, anti-social, incompetent, locked into a category and set on a lifelong track of frustration. It scares me to think what my life might look like now had it not been for Mrs. Maggie Vaughan.

Funny thing is, Mrs. Vaughan probably doesn't even remember Camille Stricklin or her peculiar situation. How many hundreds of students passed through her classroom over the years, each of them with unique needs and personalities? Still, forty years later, this former first-grader gets a lump in her throat when she thinks about Mrs. Maggie Vaughan.

Thank you, Mrs. Vaughan, for making all the difference in the world in my life.

Monday, August 4, 2014


I always feel a bit intimidated by the beginning of a new school year. This morning, I woke up feeling like one of those wired, jumpy horses in the starting gate at the racetrack. My Monday To-Do list was impossibly long.

Deep breath.

Helen and I headed out before anyone else was out of bed to exercise at ADBC Fitness Studio in Troy. Working out with Mom several times each week is going to be part of Helen's P.E. this school year. It was a great way to start the day and the school year, and the exercise and conversation helped relieve some of the nervous tension I was feeling.

Back home, Reuben was making biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Love. That. Man.

I fed and watered the chickens, ate breakfast, showered, and started the first load of laundry. Then, on to math.

Helen is in the Saxon math green book this year, the last math book she'll have under Mom's tutelage. Where have the years gone? We worked through Lesson 1, and then, while Helen tackled her "homework" problem set, I tackled more laundry, answered email, and worked on a writing assignment.

More school. More laundry. Lunch.

Deep breath.

More school. More laundry. More writing/work.

We are almost finished with Day 1 of the new school year.

And everyone in the house is still alive and well.

I feel a little less panicked now, as Day 1 begins to wind down.

Only 179 days to go.

Friday, August 1, 2014


I will be hosting my first book signing event for Bethel Road, on Thursday, August 7th, at the Obion County Public Library!

The library is located at 1221 East Reelfoot Avenue in Union City, Tennessee, and I will be set up in the Tennessee Room from 5:00-7:00 p.m. Copies of Bethel Road and Slow Sun Rising will be available to purchase for $10 each, or you can bring previously-purchased copies by for me to sign.

I hope you can join me for a fun evening - stop by and say "Hi!"