Thursday, April 28, 2016


I am in Montgomery, Alabama, enjoying family this week, so today is a repost - seemed appropriate!

- originally posted October 13, 2011

My local church gifted me recently with a weekend in Atlanta, where I was blessed to attend the Amazing Grace 360 women's conference. Grace Pres. covered my conference fees and lodging - a HUGE gift.

But there was this little problem of how to pay for meals. For someone trying to live on a dental-floss budget, even the dollar menu at McDonald's is depressing. I was going to need enough money to cover six meals, but after paying the last of Tom's fees at university, my checking account held only $12. Strangely, I wasn't too stressed, praying just a week before we hit the road, "Jesus, I need some cash for this trip. Where will it come from?"

Less than a week before the conference, I received in the mail a check from my kids' dentist's office. "Refund for overpayment." Now, I don't pay anything for my kids' dental care except a modest co-payment. Someone had obviously made an error. I called the dentist's office and explained the situation. "I have this check, but there's been a mistake...I think this refund needs to go to the insurance company."

The receptionist on the other end of the line answered, "No, no mistake. We were reconciling our books and discovered that you overpaid on your co-payments way back in January. We're sorry we didn't catch the error earlier. The money is yours."

My throat tightened. Thank you, Jesus! I thought I was going to cry. "Wow. I can't tell you how timely this is," I explained to the receptionist.

"Well, we were excited to be able to mail you the check...we kind of felt on this end, for some weird reason, that it was something you might need just now."

Then, there was the sweet fellowship with my Grace sisters on the trip, and a reunion with one sister who moved recently from Tennessee to Georgia. Trading "How we met" and childbirth stories, sharing current struggles, laughing and joking in the car on the long ride to and from. It was like stepping from the weight and weariness of daily labor into a small patch of sunshine, a pocket of heaven.

And then there was the conference itself. Ever feel like God organized a denominational conference and assembled 2000 women especially so that He could set the stage for a personal conversation with you? I've been working through some particular things mentally of late - last weekend, it seemed that every testimony, every speaker was speaking with laser-point accuracy to the questions of my heart.

And the music? Well, with 2000 women praising God together, it seemed we stood on the very threshold of Glory.

During a break before the Indelible Grace concert Saturday evening, I received a text from my son. "Mom, Mrs. Shannon is there in Atlanta where you are." My heart did a somersault. My sister was right here in the room with me! I began walking up and down the aisles. "Hi, where are ya'll from?" How on earth could I find one woman out of 2000? Impossible. But God led me right to her! Shannon and I opted to skip the concert, heading off instead to a quiet table where we could talk. A three hour friend feast!

At midnight, when my young friend Jessica and I finally headed up to our room on the seventh floor (Jessica had joined Shannon and me after the concert), I sighed, "I am SO FULL."

"Why, what have you eaten?"

"My soul is full. My soul has feasted, and my heart is full to overflowing."

God's love toward me is not indulgent. He disciplines and refines me, and sometimes, the circumstances and trials He sends feel as though they will truly destroy me. Lord, I am undone! I cannot endure! While I honestly do not always delight in the Lord's discipline, I am grateful that He loves me enough to give me the hard stuff, to burn away the dross, to refine me.

No, God's love is not indulgent, but it is extravagant. Extravagantly displayed in the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. Extravagantly poured out in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And extravagantly lavished in those sweet moments, like this weekend, when He seems to draw me all the way into the Sanctuary, where He binds my bruises, then lavishes gift upon gift, pouring sweetness and affection all over me. It's as if He says, "Put down your toiling for a while. Let us rest. Come and celebrate with me!"

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Author and blogger Tim Challies posted the above meme on his Facebook page on Monday.

My boat was dragging bottom Sunday morning. I was tired from a breakneck schedule the week before, grieving a dear friend I lost a year ago (some days are just blue), carrying the weight of some heavy relationship issues, and on Day #2 of an almost migraine.

But somehow, the kids and I made it to church. This is the passage from which Deon preached:

"Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no 'root of bitterness' springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears." - Hebrews 12:12-17

I want to share a few of the points I jotted down from Deon's sermon:

"...lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees..." - The word your here is plural, referring to the community of believers. We are not meant to journey the Christian life alone. This passage is not saying:  Camille needs to strengthen Camille's weak knees, and Bob needs to strengthen Bob's weak knees. Rather, I need to watch out for my fellow Christians and help them when they are struggling. Furthermore, I must not isolate myself from the community of believers, and I need to be open to and receptive of their counsel and assistance when I am struggling myself.

" root of bitterness..." - Watch out for bitterness within yourself and within the congregation. Bitterness occurs when, in hard circumstances, we stop believing in the goodness and kindness of God's providence. Again, we need community:  we need to remind one another of the goodness and faithfulness of God.

But how are we to do the things we are exhorted to do in Hebrews 12:12-17? At the close of his sermon, Deon took us back to the verses just preceding this passage. The previous paragraph begins this way:  "Consider him [Christ] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted..." (Hebrews 12:3)

How are we to lift the drooping hands and strengthen the weak knees? By considering Christ. By pointing one another to Christ. By modeling Christ within the body.

And then...

Sunday afternoon, a dear friend called, and she basically let me cry and snot and vomit emotional weariness all over her for several minutes. And then - although she lives in a different city and had not heard Deon's sermon - she prayed for me. She prayed I would remember Jesus, the One who is always faithful, the one who never disappoints, the One who works all things - even the hard things - for my good and for his glory. She prayed that Jesus would strengthen me and that he would help me to persevere.

And then...

Monday morning I sat down to read. I flipped to the assigned passage for the day and I read in the first chapter of 2 Corinthians:  "...for we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead..."

Note to self:  God breaks me to teach me to rely on Him and not on myself. That is a good thing. (I have to be reminded of this over and over and over!)

And I read this in Psalm 73:  "When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (verses 21-26)

Note to self:  Even when I am feeling perfectly beastly, God holds my right hand. He is faithfully guiding me to Glory.

I can truly say with the Psalmist:  my flesh and my heart may fail (like they did again just this past Sunday), but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

I can also truly say:  I am thankful for Gospel friends who hold me close (even across the miles) and who remind me that Christ will hold me fast.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


On Wednesday nights at Grace, we are working through the book of Nehemiah. Last night, Brother Billy preached from Nehemiah 8: 13-18. Short synopsis:  the Israelites heard the word of God, they studied it, and they responded to it with obedience and rejoicing.

In my notes, I have this question circled and starred: "How is the Word of God working in my life to change me?" What an excellent question, not only for me to ask myself, but for us to ask one another in the Body of Christ!

In order for God's Word to impact my life, I must first encounter God's Word. I need to read and meditate on Scripture, and to approach the Bible prayerfully and with a sincere desire to be transformed by it.

Sometimes, the Word of God transforms my life in ways that are fairly easy to identify:  inexplicable calm in a crisis, brokenness over sin, hope and courage in a dark place. But other times, the change is not so obvious, as when God's Word effects a very gradual change or a deeply internal transformation.

And then there are the times when I delude myself, when I believe I have been "transformed" when I have not. Perhaps I imagine that I have a greater capacity for forgiveness, when in all actuality, I have mastered the art of repressed bitterness instead.

This is why I think it is important for us to ask the above question of one another:  How is the Word of God working in my life to change me? How is the Word of God working in your life?

The input of another believer gives us greater perspective. Perhaps I am discouraged because I feel like I am making so little progress toward developing greater patience...and yet Sally, watching from the sidelines, sees a significant change in me. She is able to affirm the impact of God's Word in my life.

Or, perhaps I think I have completely conquered my short fuse...and yet Sally, watching from the sidelines, hears my biting remarks, sees my gargoyle posturing, witnesses my control-freak manipulations.

In both of these situations, I NEED Sally's input.

So, really, I think there are three questions I need to be asking regularly:

1. I need to ask myself:  How is the Word of God working in my life to change me?
2. I need to ask my sisters and brothers in Christ:  Do you see evidence of the Word of God working in my life to change me? - and -
3. I need to ask my sisters and brothers:  How is the Word of God working in your life?

I need to invite others to speak into my life, and I need be willing to speak into theirs.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


In my read-through-the-Bible journey this year, I finished the book of Judges this morning. This is one of the most difficult books for me to read - much harder than Leviticus, Numbers, or Deuteronomy - because it is so sad and, in some places, so incredibly disgusting. Thankfully, tomorrow I will be reading Ruth, one of my very favorite books.

But back to Judges...

In chapter 11, we read about Jephthah, a mighty warrior whom  God raised up to deliver the people of Israel from the Ammonites. The Ammonites  had "crushed and oppressed" (Judges 10:8) the people of Israel for eighteen years. Long story short, Jephthah issued a call for able-bodied fighting men to join forces to help throw off the yoke of the Ammonites. However, when it came time to fight, the Ephraimites were conspicuously absent.

After God gave victory over the Ammonites to Jephthah, the Ephraimites gathered together and took up arms. Then, they marched up to Jephthah and accused him of leaving them out of the action and thus denying them their share in the glory of victory. In their jealous rage, the Ephraimites threatened Jephthah with these words:  "We will burn your house over you with fire" (Judges 12:1).

Jephthah would have none of their nonsense. He basically told the angry Ephraimites:  "I asked you to help, and you refused to come. So, I took care of matters myself." Jephthah and his men then proceeded to slaughter 42,000 of the Ephraimites.

This was not the first instance of such behavior on the part of the Ephraimites. In Judges, chapter 8, Gideon had a similar experience with them. When Gideon was recruiting troops to help fight the Midianites, the Ephraimites were, once again, conspicuously absent. After the Midianites had been defeated, here came the Ephraimites, all upset and fussing at Gideon for not allowing them to help.

Reading through these passages in Judges, it occurred to me that we probably all know an Ephraimite or two. You know, the person who expresses eagerness to help, but who is always mysteriously unavailable at crunch time. The person who quickly offers, "I can do X, Y. Z!" - but who then fails on his commitment.

Maybe it's something as simple as "I can pick up those files for you" or "Let me run the kids to ball practice" (instead of something big and hairy like fighting the Ammonites) - but what actually happens is, "I forgot" or "I got busy and lost track of time" or "I had something else more pressing come up." Whatever the task and whatever the excuse, the bottom line is:  this person expresses willingness to help, then consistently fails to actually help.

And what's worse, they guilt the person they have failed. The Ephraimites scolded Gideon for not letting them in on the action, and they threatened Jephthah with violence. In both cases, the Ephraimites complained that they were the ones who had been done a disservice. Gideon smoothed things over by flattering the Ephraimites. Jephthah, on the other hand, thrashed them, and not with the flat side of the sword.

In my own life, I know people who do exactly the same thing. They offer to help. I take them up on their offer. They fail on their commitments, providing excuses instead of much-needed service. After repeating this cycle a couple of times. I just nod and smile when they offer to help, but I don't include them in any critical plans or expect them to show up at crunch time.

Inevitably, after the deadline or the frenzied push has passed, these people (who have been conspicuously absent or predictably busy or unavailable during crunch time) show up suddenly and scold me:  "Why didn't you ask me to help?!" It's like they want to make me feel guilty for muddling through the crunch without them!

When I read these accounts of the Ephraimites in Judges, I wondered:  Why didn't the Ephraimites simply say, "Wow, Gideon! Great job!" - or - "Thanks, Jephthah!" Why didn't they celebrate the victories of their brothers? Why didn't they choose to honor Gideon and Jephthah? Shoot, they could've gotten all crazy and said something like, "Man, Jephthah, you were right. We should have shown up for battle. We are so sorry we bailed on you." Why, then, did they insist on using their brothers' victories as an excuse to nurse their own bruised egos and whine about how they had been abused and neglected?

Reading through Judges again, I find the attitude and behavior of the Ephraimites both disgusting and wicked - not only because they refused to help, but because once the crisis was past, they rebuked and guilted the very men who had put their lives on the line for their countrymen. That's just wrong, people. That is sick thinking, and it is a sick way of relating to others.

Like Gideon, my response to my own personal Ephraimites has usually been to try to appease them, to soothe their hurt feelings, to play their game of making everything in life all about them. Something about being over 50, though, makes me consider Jephthah's approach increasingly attractive.

No, I do not want to meet these deluded, self-absorbed people at the fords of the Jordan River with a sword in my hand. (Deluded? Yes, deluded. I think they truly believe they want to help, despite the fact that their actions prove otherwise.) Rather, I want to skip the whole guilt game and simply state the truth.

Question:  "Why didn't you ask me to help?"

Answer:  "I did, and you didn't. Do you want to take a walk along the river and talk about it?"

Friday, April 15, 2016


Hey, Ladies! It's that time again!

The third annual Ladies' Day in Troy is TOMORROW, Saturday, April 16th! Join us at the Obion County Central High School Commons Area from 9:00am until 1:00pm for shopping, delicious food, fashion shows, fun demos, door prizes, and fellowship. Admission is free.

This is always a fun event - I hope to see you there!

(The school is located at 528 Highway 51 North, in Troy, Tennessee. Parking and entrance are behind the building.)

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Simply being there is the best thing ever.

My Grandmother Stricklin did not often buy me toys or clothes, and she didn't take me on weekly shopping trips to Dollar Tree or dinner dates to McDonald's. (In fact, I don't think Dollar Tree and McDonald's had been invented yet when I was a young child, maybe not until I was almost a teenager. At any rate, they certainly hadn't made it to my remote corner of the world!)

Mer didn't buy a separate TV "for the kids" and she didn't stock an arsenal of Disney movies or subscribe to Nickelodeon. She didn't have LeapFrog, Baby Einstein, video games or the latest kid-friendly smart-phone apps. (In fact, I don't think VCRs or Nickelodeon had been invented yet, back when I was a kid. The only games I distinctly remember playing at Mer's house were Chinese checkers and rummy.)

What Mer DID have was...


I would wad a change of clothes into a satchel and walk the few miles from my parents' house to my grandmother's most Friday afternoons after I got home from school. Mer must have been looking for me, because she usually had a glass of lemonade or sweet tea ready for me when I climbed that last enormous hill to her house. (That hill is not so enormous now.)

We played rummy or Chinese checkers or just sat together on the couch reading. Mer worked the crossword in the newspaper, and I sat beside her and did the word search puzzle. Saturday mornings, I helped her clean house. Then, we drove to town - the great bustling metropolis of Troy, Tennessee - and Mer had her hair teased for Sunday and we stopped by Scott's for a few groceries.

Saturday nights were the best. After supper, we snuggled together on the couch (Mer was so warm and soft and squishy!) and we watched TV:  Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett. Carol Burnett was my favorite - I wanted to be Carol Burnett when I grew up. After the 10:00 news, we watched Johnny Carson's opening monologue on The Tonight Show, and then it was time for bed.

On very rare occasions, we would watch a late movie. I fell love with Jimmy Stewart and Charlton Heston. Commercial breaks featured ads for exotic fast-food restaurants that were "Open Late!" - places like McDonald's and Hardee's and Burger King. Mer and I would drool through the commercials, wishing we could make a late-night run for a hamburger or fried chicken. Too bad Memphis was two hours away!

I remember one movie in which Jimmy Stewart stopped at a street vendor in one scene and bought a cup of coffee and a boiled egg. Mer and I looked at each other and beamed. Finally! Here was something we could have! During the next commercial break, Mer raced to the kitchen and cranked up the stove. We finished watching that movie sitting on the couch, eating boiled eggs and passing a shaker of salt between us.

Mer made the best coconut cake - from scratch, with freshly grated coconut. Cracking the coconut was an annual holiday event. And she made the best fudge. And the best cornbread. And the best squirrel gravy. (You'll have to ask my brother David about squirrel gravy.)

Although Mer was always on a diet, she kept cookies (usually pecan sandies or those super cool orange sugar wafers) and frozen ice milk ("it has fewer calories than regular ice cream") and Pepperidge Farm pound cake on hand, "just in case we want something sweet."

Mer smelled like rose water and Ponds cold cream. Her dentures clacked sometimes, and she fussed if I dropped her blue Efferdent tablets in the toilet to watch them fizz. Mer had a cupboard in her guest room (the room with the blue satin comforter fit for a movie star), and it was filled with fancy hats and gloves and scarves. I loved to sit on the pew next to Mer on Sunday morning, so I could stroke the silky fur of her mink stole. (She frequently had M&M's candies or Zebra Stripe gum in her purse on Sunday mornings, too.)

Mer (Earline Elizabeth Cunningham Stricklin) is the second from the right. Her sister, my Great Aunt Evelyn, is the young woman on the far left.

This is how I remember Mer! She loved the color blue. This is Mer with her oldest son, my Uncle John. The fellow in the background on the right is my Uncle Tom. And the young girl looking over Mer's shoulder is my little sister, Suzanne (also known as "little Mer.")
Mer is gone, and now I am the grandmother. I don't have all the latest kid-friendly technological gadgets, and, honestly, I don't want them. I don't own any Disney princess movies, or have a battery-operated Barbie car. But I do like to dig in the dirt and take walks on the farm and eat popsicles on the porch swing. I hope that will be enough.

I hope the little children I love so much today will look back 40 or 50 years from now and think of me with as much fond affection as I feel when I remember my Mer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Someone told me recently, "You seem so much 'shinier' than last time I saw you." And only last week, an acquaintance commented, "You look like you feel good, like you feel happier lately."

I do.

For the first time in longer than I can remember, my outlook most days is positive, more optimistic than not. I admit that yesterday, which was cold and gray and Monday, I felt like a slug on morphine. But I felt alive and lively the day before yesterday, and the day before that; I am excited about today and looking forward to tomorrow. Gray, lethargic days are increasingly the exception, whereas they were once my norm.

People, I have been very, very tired - emotionally, mentally, physically - for a very, very long time. Tired like burned out ashes dissolving in cold rain in an abandoned fire pit. But now that my energy and attitude tanks are not so completely depleted, I want to share a few things I learned when I was living the tired life:

First, some seasons in life are just like that:  they are tired seasons. If you are the mother of small children, you run on an energy deficit much of the time; if you are going through a relationship crisis, you experience emotional weariness; if you run in mental overdrive at work, your brain fatigues. (A bit of good news:  Seasons change!)

Second, when you feel like life is running you into the ground, you will discover genuinely compassionate people who, although they may not be able to make your situation easier, they give life and hope by "coming alongside." People who pray for you and with you, who encourage you, who tell you stories about the beauty of sunlight when you've walked beneath clouds for so long that you've forgotten there even was a sun. People who, when you are simply too tired to dream, hold your dreams carefully in their own hands and hearts for safekeeping; people who keep your dreams alive when your strength fails, eager to hand them back to you when you are stronger.

Third, when you are bone-weary and have "forgotten the taste of strawberries," there are also those people who will look at you with tears in their eyes, grieved because you are so weary, and when you think you can bear no more, they will hand you a 50-pound sack of rocks to hold while they tie their shoelaces and go chase butterflies. These people don't tell you stories about the sun; they tell you all about how their own trials are so much more difficult than yours and they encourage you with trashy words like "it could always be worse." These people give you a sympathetic pat on the back, then point you deeper into the abyss.

(I suspect that both these kinds of people are motivated by love:  the first, by a love that transcends circumstances; the second, by a love that turns on the tiny axis of their own souls.)

Fourth, I have learned that God is faithful.

God is faithful.

God is faithful.

And today? Today is a shiny new day.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


Yesterday was a full day for me:  up early to see the college man off, then a bit of reading, start the first load of laundry, followed by a scramble to catch up on emails, messages, etc. Then, Helen and I headed to campus for her dual-enrollment classes. While she studied French and logarithms, I spent a few hours editing Fiction Manuscript #3 (I LOVE this story - can't wait to share it with you!).

I packed lunch so we could scarf down sandwiches on our way to Helen's piano lessons. Helen worked on beautiful music at Mrs. Linda's, and I ran errands in town and even squeezed in a 15-minute walk at Veteran's Park. Back home, we tackled additional school work, then, while Helen read geography, I washed a couple of windows.

(Instead of 30 Days of Dominion, I have created a new cleaning challenge for this spring:  30 Days of Windows and Cabinets. I wash a couple of windows each day, instead of trying to clean them all in one go - will move onto kitchen cabinets when I finish the windows. So far, I'm halfway around the downstairs, and it is wonderful to be able to see the green field and blue sky without having to look through a 6-month-old crust of spider webs and gunk!)

Next, I moved on to writing and speaking projects. I kept up a pretty hard pace all the way into the evening. After Wednesday night church, I decided to go ahead and clean the floors and bathrooms (normally those are Thursday chores), because I did not get to both of those last week (my floors were crunchy) and because I knew we'd be keeping one of the grandbabies this morning. I'm not too old to remember:  housework doesn't often happen when you are chasing active little children! After I finished the downstairs floors, Helen and I double-teamed the bathrooms.

Are you out of breath yet from reading all of this? Because I am out of breath from writing it!

Yesterday was long, full, productive, exhausting. When I finally closed down the house sometime after 10:30, I was ready for a good night's rest!

That's when I found this note on my pillow:  "Love you to the stars and back, 'cause that's farther than the moon by tons and tons, and I love you that much... - Helen"

So, I crashed into bed last night not only tired, but also smiling.

Handwritten notes of encouragement are like crystallized sunshine. Like gold nuggets. They are precious jewels that reflect light and beauty long after they are penned.

In addition to my Clean Windows/Clean Cabinets spring challenge, I created another challenge for myself this spring:  every week day, I want to write one note of encouragement to another person. Paper and pen (stamp and envelope!) are best, but, if I can't manage that, I shift to email or Facebook message. I know how much written notes of encouragement I have received over the years have meant to me, and I want to give that kind of encouragement to others.

Funny thing is, I am learning that writing these "love letters" - with the intention of blessing someone else - actually blesses me, too.

Why don't you join me? Write a word of encouragement today!

* * * * *

Because coffee and books go so well together...

I am still celebrating 100,000 views here at The Hurricane Report - stop by my Camille Kendall, Author Facebook page today and enter for a chance to win a $15 Starbucks gift card!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Well, it happened! I reached over 100,000 views here at the blog last week. I suppose the Big Boy Bloggers probably get that many views per day, but for me, it took quite a bit longer. Still, 100,000 views seems like a significant milestone, and I think a celebration is in order!

Click image for Kindle edition.
To celebrate 100,000 views here at The Hurricane Report, I am sponsoring a Kindle book giveaway:  Wednesday, March 6, 2016, you can download a copy of Wish You Were Here:  Letters From the Foot of the Cross for Kindle for FREE. Pass the word to your friends!

I hope the book encourages and blesses you. And after you've had a chance to read it, I hope you'll take a few minutes to post a review at Amazon or at Goodreads. Your feedback is important to me!

I'm planning a few other celebratory giveaways later this week on my Camille Kendall, Author Facebook page. I invite you to log in, "Like," and join the celebration!

Friday, April 1, 2016


(Today's post is an excerpt from an earlier post, originally shared in January 2009. A friend and I were remembering MaryAnn last night, so it seemed appropriate to remember her here on the blog today. I am so thankful for the wonderful people God has placed in my life over the years!)


 I was a newcomer to the group of homeschool moms who met monthly for fellowship and encouragement. This particular meeting, the group coordinator had planned a question-and-answer session where women new to homeschooling could glean wisdom from older, more-experienced women. With six kids between the ages of two and nine (three of them "school age"), I was feeling overwhelmed by the whole homeschool thing and was desperate for helpful advice.

"How do you ever find time during the day to actually do the amount of schoolwork that you feel like you should? All day long, I am washing and folding laundry, preparing meals and snacks, cleaning up messes, bandaging booboos, getting little kids down for their naps, bathing just never seems to stop. And somehow, in the middle of all this, I'm supposed to find four hours of quiet, productive time to sit down with my older kids and teach them math and grammar and science and history. I just can't seem to fit it all in!" Honestly, I was exhausted, crushed by the weight of unrealistic expectations and on the verge of an emotional breakdown.

Susie-Q jumped right on my question. This woman had all the answers. "Well, let me tell you how I handle my day. First off, once a month, I prepare all my meals for the month and put them in the freezer. That way, I don't have to cook every day. On a typical school day, I get up in the morning, have my quiet time, pull dinner out of the deepfreeze to thaw, start a load of laundry, and then go upstairs to wake the children. I have my older children (Susie-Q had two teenagers at home at the time, in addition to her three littles) help the younger children dress, make their beds, and straighten their rooms. By 9:00, I have a second load of laundry in the washer, dinner thawing on the counter, breakfast served and cleaned up, the house in order, and everyone seated at the table to do their lessons..."

At this point, Susie-Q's words faded into meaningless blather as I struggled to not break down in sobs. All her solutions seemed like more weight on my already breaking back. I probably looked like a deer in headlights as I sat owl-eyed, blinking back tears that threatened to overflow any second.

"Oh, Camille!" I looked from Susie-Q to the tiny brunette who groaned from across the room. Her voice sounded full of the sob that choked my throat. I had met MaryAnn during dinner earlier that evening. Like me, she had six children, including a set of twins. But MaryAnn's kids were a bit older than mine, and she was well beyond the baby stage of motherhood. MaryAnn must have seen the panic and despair rising behind my composed facade. "Camille!" Suddenly, this ceased being an open forum, a group discussion, and became instead a very personal, sister-to-sister communication.

MaryAnn blinked back tears herself as she addressed me. "I remember, when my children were little, sitting on my bed in the middle of a pile of unfolded laundry, and crying because I thought that I would never do anything ever again in life but struggle fruitlessly to catch up with just the laundry." MaryAnn paused. "Laundry, meals, was all just too much. Never mind schoolwork." She inhaled deeply and continued in a low voice. "Camille, it really is too much...the demands on your time and energy are more than you can handle. You can't do it all. But trust me, Camille - it will get better. Just hang in there." This woman had obviously seen into my heart, and by now I was snuffling and wiping my eyes with the back of my hand. "Just do what you can, let go of what you can't. Hang in will get better."

Not long after that meeting, MaryAnn and her family moved to another state, so I never had the opportunity to know her very intimately. Then, within months of their relocation, MaryAnn, her husband, and four of her six children were killed in a horrible automobile accident. But even now, more than eleven years after that meeting, not a week goes by that I don't think of MaryAnn, and of the incredible gift she gave me that night. So just what DID MaryAnn give me?

Well, Susie-Q gave me the law, and with it despair - the demands were too great, and I would never measure up. MaryAnn, on the other hand, gave me the gospel - she told me to let go of the illusion that I could ever measure up, that I could be a totally-together, radically-righteous homeschool mom. She encouraged me to let go of my unrealistic expectations, to persevere, and to wait and see the good work that God would do in spite of my inadequacies.

Years later, I can testify to the truthfulness of MaryAnn's words. Homeschooling - and life - has gotten easier in some respects. Two of my "pupils" have completed their home-education and study now at college. The five still at home help tremendously with the work of running the house, so that I am definitely not physically exhausted like I was 11 years ago. But still, I find that even my best teacher/mom efforts are often inadequate, and that I must continue to trust Christ to be my sufficiency in this aspect of life as well as all others.

Jerry Bridges writes in his book "Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God's Unfailing Love" - those who genuinely acknowledge they are weak, unworthy, and inadequate, God does promise to give grace. God's grace is sufficient for our weakness. Christ's worth does cover our unworthiness, and the Holy Spirit does make us effective in spite of our inadequacy. This is the glorious paradox of living by grace. When we discover we are weak in ourselves, we find we are strong in Christ. When we regard ourselves as less than the least of God's people, we are given some immense privilege of serving in the Kingdom. When we almost despair over our inadequacy, we find the Holy Spirit giving us unusual ability. We shake our heads in amazement and say with Isaiah, "Lord, ...all that we have accomplished you have done for us." (Isaiah 26:12)

What inadequacy are you despairing over today? Run to Jesus, and own your weakness before Him. Remember MaryAnn's gospel - do not pretend to be competent! Instead, prepare to be amazed at what God Himself will do for you, through you.