Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Funny what thoughts wander through your mind during the wee, dark hours of the morning...

When I was a young girl, I think I spent about every other weekend at my Stricklin grandparents' house. And whenever I was at Mer and Pap's, I thought I simply must go fishing.

I loved fishing with Pap at the pond below the house. We didn't always catch anything, but the occasional fat bream was enough to keep me coming back. Once in a blue moon, I'd catch a big, shiny, silver bass - boy, would that get my heart pumping!

If we were fishing on a hot summer afternoon, Mer would walk down with a couple of glasses of ice cold lemonade. She had these brightly colored aluminum tumblers that would get so frosty cold from the lemonade inside that it almost hurt to hold one in your hand.

On a typical Saturday afternoon at Mer and Pap's, Pap would settle into his recliner in the living room for a short nap after lunch. But I wasn't sleepy. "Pap, let's go fishing!" I would pester my sleepy granddad.

Pap would pull his ginormous Bible dictionary off the bookshelf beside his recliner. "Here, you flip through every page of this book. When you are finished, we will go fishing."

So Pap would take a nap, and I would sprawl on the living room floor and flip through the Bible dictionary. Sometimes, if Pap was lucky, a picture or article would catch my attention. I would forget about fishing for a short while, and Pap would get a few extra minutes added to his nap.

When I reached the back cover of the book, though, Smack!, I'd slap that cover shut, and jump up. "Done! Let's go fishing!"

I don't have a lot of memories from my short time with Mer and Pap - Mer's amazing coconut cake, the naugahyde sofa that you had to peel your sweaty legs off of in summer, Pap's Old Spice cologne, pancakes the size of a dinner plate for breakfast, Mer's teeth soaking in bubbly blue Efferdent - but every faint memory that I can recall is absolutely saturated with the overwhelming feeling that I was safe, I was loved, I was special.

When I am awake in the middle of the night and just can't go back to sleep, I pray. And sometimes I ramble into sweet memories like the one last night, of fishing with Pap.

I was praying last night, and then I thought of Mer and Pap, and of how they made me feel as a child. And it occurred to me that I had been given a very great and precious gift - a different gift, given to me by my parents.

As I lay awake, I remembered doing the very same thing as a child - lying awake in the middle of the night, snug under my blankets, praying. Maybe a noise from somewhere else in the house had awakened me. Maybe a bad dream. Maybe a dog barking. I would lie awake in the dark and pray - that I would not be afraid of the dark, that I would go back to sleep, that my rabbit would be safe outside in his pen, that I wouldn't worry about tomorrow's math test.

And last night, as Middle-aged Camille remembered Small Child Camille lying awake and praying, it occurred to me - I don't remember there ever being a time when I did not feel free to talk to God. I don't remember a time when I ever felt afraid to approach Him. I just remember that, as a child, talking to God in the middle of the night seemed like a perfectly natural thing to do. Praying made me feel safe, made me feel loved, made me feel special. Small Child Camille truly believed that she had the ear of the almighty Creator of the universe, that He was listening and eager to meet with her in prayer, any time, anywhere.

As I lay awake in the wee dark hours this morning, I was overwhelmed with a tremendous sense of gratitude - so very thankful to God that He gave me parents who taught me, even as a very small child, that God loves his children and delights to meet with them.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mom and Dad, for giving me riches beyond measure.

Monday, January 26, 2015


We used to have garbage pickup on Thursdays. Then, a couple of months ago, we received a notice that our trash would be collected on Monday mornings instead.

We still haven't gotten used to the new schedule. We miss about one trash day in three. Hauling the big green bin out to the highway just isn't at the top of our list of things to do on Sunday evening.

Missing trash pickup isn't such a big deal, because we rarely fill up the bin and can usually throw another week's worth of trash in it if needed. Plus, we have a heavy-duty 30-gallon can we use for overflow in a pinch.

Taking advantage of last week's beautiful weather, I got outside and did some cleaning in the yard. By the end of the week, the big green bin was full. So was the gray 30-gallon can beside it.

And then I discovered that the deep freezer had gone out - maybe last week when we had that brief power outage in the county?

So this morning, I was thinking grumbly thoughts about how it was cold, and how the cold makes my knees and elbows hurt. Then I realized that the trash was not out at the end of the driveway, and I started thinking grumbly thoughts about how the bin is too heavy for me to lift into the truck and how I was going to have to drag the thing behind me in the cold all the way down our long driveway.

I wondered how I was going to get the gray can to the end of the driveway, too, since it doesn't have wheels. And I remembered the deep freezer, and I was thinking grumbly thoughts about having to clean out all that nasty ruined meat and haul it to the trash bin as well.

I was thinking other grumbly thoughts because there were ants in the bathroom, and because I was feeling bloated and yucky from eating too much and moving too little over the weekend, and because all the garbage in my life was going to keep me from spending Monday morning doing school with Helen and catching up on laundry from the weekend like I had planned.

In spite of all my grumbly thoughts, there really was nothing to do but get busy...

As I was dragging the big green bin down the long muddy driveway, it occurred to me - here was a little extra exercise to help make up for not being more physically active over the weekend.

I had been thinking grumbly thoughts about the cold, but today cold is a welcomed friend - I am so glad it's 30-something degrees outside instead of 80-something, on this rubber-gloves-&-Clorox, carnage-cleanup morning!

And Helen went ahead and started on her schoolwork without me.

It's been a busy morning. I feel like I've lifted and hauled enough weight to impress even Arnold Schwarzenegger. The deep freezer is empty and clean, and all the trash is at the end of the driveway.

The first load of laundry is running. Helen is seated beside me reading her history book.

When I sat down to check in here at the blog, Helen looked up and smiled. "How about a piece of chocolate?" she asked, holding out her hand.

"Absolutely!" I replied, accepting the small gift.

The note printed inside the candy wrapper read:  "Take and deep breath and exhale."

I laughed and handed the wrapper to Helen so that she could read it, too.

Yes, this day got off to a garbage-y kind of start, but it's looking much better now:  I left those grumbly thoughts at the end of the driveway, next to the big green bin.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


"Oh, no! Guys, Mom has a BLACK BAG!!"

Seven little kids and two adults living in a three-bedroom brick can just imagine how untidy things became at times, with so much life happening in such a small space.

Kids need the freedom to make messes, to play without always having to worry about keeping the Legos stored neatly in the Rubbermaid tub and the GI Joes tucked away in the green footlocker. I tried to respect that, as a mom, and I constantly fought back my tendency toward compulsive orderliness.

But when the floor got so cluttered that I was afraid of falling if I tried to walk across a room, that was my break point. "Kids, the mess is getting out of hand. You absolutely have to clean up your toys," I would insist. "Right now!"

After half an hour or so, I would check back to see how much progress they were making. Sometimes, I would discover they had gotten sidetracked, that they had actually spent the last 30 minutes playing with their toys instead of putting them away. I would remind them of the task at hand. "Now, get busy!"

If I came back again to discover the kids still were not making progress, I would warn them:  "Guys, you can clean up this mess, or you can let me do it for you. But if I'm the one who cleans up all these toys, I am only going to do it ONCE."

The all understood the message. The room had to be picked up. I wasn't going to nag. They could put the toys and games away themselves, or I could do it for them. However, if I put everything away, it was going away for good: into a black trash bag, to be stored in the attic or carried to Goodwill.

It always astounded me how much work the kids could get done in only a matter of minutes if one of them saw me rummaging in the pantry for the box of trash bags.

* * * * *

I took advantage of the beautiful weather yesterday to get outside and clean off the porch. It was getting so junky that you just about couldn't walk from one end to the other without having to step over something.

I suppose I'd been thinking that, surely, whoever had gotten out the fill-in-the-blank would put it away soon. But I guess the clutter didn't bother them like it did me.

Among other things, I found:  two extension cords, two coolers, a 5-gallon bucket of aluminum cans and other trash from a bonfire last fall, 6 camp chairs, an air compressor, a battery charger, three car tires, several pieces of lumber (for what?), paint buckets, wrenches, the corn hole set, weenie roasting sticks, flower bulbs (Oops! I left those out there!), bug spray, a frisbee...

We actually have a shed out back for storing most of those things. (Maybe the hike from the front of the house to the back of the house is just too far for some folks.) And we have a big green plastic garbage-can-on-wheels for the trash, right outside the back door.

So why was all this stuff cluttering up the front porch?!!!

I enjoyed spending the afternoon working outside yesterday. And, yes, I even appreciated the exercise. And I was super happy that, at the end of the day, the only things left on the porch were the porch chairs, a rocker, a table, and a unicycle. I was even able to sweep - amazing.

But I have to admit:  as I was toting stuff back to the shed, I thought about The Black Bag more than once.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Speaking of small things...

I think Small Things must be a theme for this season of my life.

I find myself increasingly aware of how much joy is packed into small things - things like laughing with my sons during a late-night jigsaw marathon, holding a sleeping baby, Emily's good bread, warm fuzzy pajamas, conversation over dinner.

I am learning that eating small portions of whatever I want, whenever I'm hungry, is a more effective way to control my weight than adopting a complicated or restrictive food regimen that I'll abandon when the next chocolate craving hits. Same thing with exercise - moving a small amount every day has made a noticeable difference in how I feel. If I can't exercise at Caroline's, I try to take a walk. If I can't take a walk, I try to do a few stretches sometime during the day. If I can't even do that, then, well, there's always tomorrow!

Sometimes, I believe the lie that if I can't do something big, then there's not much point in doing something small or seemingly insignificant. See yesterday's post about that HERE.

What big things would you like to do in the year ahead? Read through the entire Bible? Have a consistent prayer life? Spend meaningful time with your kids? Exercise regularly?

Maybe, like me, you've set big goals for yourself in the past, only to fail repeatedly. So now you feel like there's no point in trying.

Here are a few suggestions from a middle-aged grandma who has failed repeatedly at the above goals....

Reading the entire Bible this year sounds like a great idea, and you get off to a good start with Genesis and Exodus. Then you hit Leviticus. You sit down with a cup of coffee and open your Bible, and you think, "How many more chapters are there about which animal to sacrifice for what kind of sin? Yuck! I don't think I can do this!" Or three of your four kids contract a stomach bug, and you're so busy washing sheets and disinfecting the bathroom that you miss several days of reading - when you finally have a moment to get back to your read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan, you are so far behind schedule that you know you'll never catch up. And you give up.

Tip #1: Throw out the reading schedule. Maybe today, you only have time to read a few verses. Next Tuesday, you may read three chapters. If you don't read the entire Bible in a year, THAT'S OKAY. Missing a day is not failure. This is not a race. Just keep reading.

You think you want to be a prayer warrior? "I resolve to get up early every morning to pray daily for my family, my church leaders, friends and people in my community who have particular needs, my children's friends, my local, state, and national government, the teachers and administrators at my local schools, campus ministers at three different universities, missionary teams serving in Japan and Germany, those still unreached with the Gospel, Christians around the world who are being persecuted for their faith, and the enemies of Christ's church. Oh, and the lady who rings up my groceries at Wal-Mart, And the UPS man. And..."

Yeah, right.

Tip #2:  Be deliberate in your prayer life, but don't make prayer into another overwhelming To-Do list. Develop a simple strategy that works for you. In an effort to be more faithful about praying for my church, I taped a list of church families to the kitchen wall. A pink sticky-note tab points to one family - when I pray for a family, I move the marker to the next name on the list. If I miss a day, then I wait to move the marker until I have prayed specifically for that family. My church is small, so I'm able to pray for each family at least once a month - and, by doing so, to pray for church leaders, Sunday school teachers, music ministers, etc. (Hi, Randolphs! Praying for YOU today!)

Also, don't think powerful prayer only happens when you're on your knees for two straight hours just before the sun comes up. Take advantage of small opportunities to pray. Pray when you are in the car. When you wake up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep. When you are mowing the yard or cooking dinner.

If you have difficulty focusing when you pray, pray out loud. This is a great way to focus your thoughts and prayers, especially when you are taking a walk, riding in the car, weeding the garden, or mowing the yard. (Warning:  You might get a few funny looks if you do this when shopping for groceries.)

These small efforts - read the next verse, pray for the next family on the list - will they really amount to significant kingdom work? Rondi Lauterbach notes that spending only 15 minutes a day in Scripture adds up to almost 2 hours a week, 8 hours a month, 90+ hours a year.

Fifteen minutes a day - small investment, big returns. Why not start investing today?

For two encouraging posts on reading through Scripture, check out:
Faithful With Fifteen Minutes - Rondi Lauterbach
How Reading the Whole Bible Changed My Life  Forever- by Jennifer Cortez

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


I lamented to a friend that my small circle within the evangelical community make so few real sacrifices, invest so little in kingdom work considering all with which we have been blessed. "We talk about truth and commitment and how we should engage and respond to the world around us, but then we just continue living our comfortable, safe lives and don't do anything," I protested. I was feeling frustrated - with myself and with those around me.

My friend called me up short. "You are using the wrong pronoun," she responded. "You keep saying we, but you should be using the word I."


God has given me opportunities to serve, love, minister, live sacrificially - right where I am. Do I act on those opportunities? Or do I miss them because I'm whining that God hasn't sent me to help flood victims in Indonesia or AIDS patients in Uganda?

Do I appreciate and thank God for the opportunity to serve "on the front lines" in the hills of rural, Northwest Tennessee - or do I make light of this this opportunity because it seems so safe, so tame?

Even worse, do I look at the sisters and brothers living near me and regard their service and faithfulness in this same skewed way?

The morning after the above conversation, I was reading in Zechariah. Here are a few excerpts of what I read:

For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice... - Zechariah 4:10a

My Bible footnote for this verse reads:  "It would have been easy to be discouraged with the meager results and progress. We find the people of Judah discouraged at the laying of the foundation of the second temple (Ezra 3:10-12) and also at the rebuilding in Haggai's day (Hag. 2:3). The question in this verse reminds us not to judge God's work by human standards."

A footnote at the conclusion of Chapter 4 states:  "The total vision teaches both that God is the source of strength for doing His work and that He bestows His Spirit upon His chosen people for the work He has called them to do."

Funny that, in my read-through-the-Bible journey, I happened to be in Zechariah that particular morning. Funny, too, that I happened to read the footnotes - I usually don't.

My opportunities, my service, my part in the grand scheme of Kingdom work...these feel to me like very small things. But they are not to be judged by human standards.

I am convicted of my narrow vision and small understanding. Father, forgive me!

And I am greatly encouraged. Thank you, Father, for the work you have given me to do and for the strength you supply in this place and time.

I stand rejoicing, amazed at the goodness and sweetness and gentleness of the God who speaks into my life (with surgical precision!) from the pages of His written Word.