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!