Friday, July 29, 2016


While my youngest has been away at 4-H Round-Up this week, I have been pulling lamb duty. Every day, I feed and water Bertie (and his companions) and I take him for a walk. Lambs need exercise, too, you know.

As Bertie and I were strolling down the road on Wednesday, an air-conditioner repairman parked at a house along our route called out, "Funny looking dog you've got there!" When we strolled back past the house on our way home to Bertie's pen, he added, "He's got a funny bark, too!"

Bertie is a 130-pound, mixed-breed market lamb/dog. Yeah, he's got a funny bark! But he has a great disposition, too.

Bertie is smiling as big as Helen in this picture - he loves his girl!

After a week of tending sheep, I want to share a few things I have learned from Bertie and his companions:

1. People say sheep are extraordinarily stupid. On Wednesday, I found the lambs all packed in a knot in their shed, panting from the extreme heat. They were in the shed, I think, because of the shade it provided. However, they could have opted to stand outside in the shadow cast by the shed and still been in the shade - plus, they would have had better air circulation outside. It was much cooler outside in the shade than inside in the shed, but they didn't seem to have figured that out.

I don't know if that makes them stupid or if it means they are creatures of habit. Either way, when we humans are likened to sheep in the Bible, I don't think we should necessarily take that as a compliment.

2. Lambs seem to take on the personality their handlers display when working with them. Helen's lamb Bertie is sweet and agreeable. Some of the other lambs in the pen are cranky and cantankerous. Funny thing is, the cranky lambs seem pretty sweet, too, when someone with a little patience and a kind voice is in the pen.

Maybe this is another way we humans are like sheep - we respond differently to different people, based on how they treat us. Body language and tone of voice matter.

3. Lambs know their owner/caretaker. At least Bertie does. When Helen walks up to the sheep pen, Bertie perks up and notices. The other lambs don't seem to care a bit. This week, Bertie recognized Mom as his caregiver, and was quick to trot up to meet me. He would stand patiently while I slipped the halter over his head, as if he was eager to head out on his morning walk.

Lambs may not be smart, but it doesn't take them long to figure out who really cares about them. And the cool thing is, they seem to return your affection. (Maybe that's the "dog" coming out in them, Mr. Air-conditioner Repairman!)

4. Bertie loves to be scratched. If you scratch him on the side of his barrel/rib cage, he will lean further and further over until he loses his balance. If you scratch him between his shoulder blades, he kicks his stomach with his hind leg, like a dog. If you scratch his knobbly head, I swear he smiles.

Ummm, I don't know how this translates to human experience.

All of this to say - it has been a fun week of sheep tending! Like Helen, I have fallen in love with this sweet lamb. He is pleasant and cheerful and a delight to care for.

I think Helen's lamb would make Bertie Wooster proud!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


During conversation over dinner with friends last night, one member of the group asked those gathered around the table if we found it easier to be thankful during the "empty" seasons of life or during the "full" seasons.

Interestingly, we all agreed that it is during difficult times that we seem to see God's goodness and faithfulness to us with the greatest clarity and consequently are moved to deeper gratitude. Yes, we are thankful when life is easy and pleasant, but during trials - health problems, broken relationships, financial hardships - it's as if God strips away all the downy fluff of misplaced affections and security, and He gives us the much greater pleasure and the very greatest security of all - Himself.

My experience has been that God rarely gives me precisely what I want or what I think I need. However, when my desires or expectations have been disappointed, God has consistently given me something better.

I did not ask for a broken relationship, but through it, Jesus taught me that He is an ever faithful friend.

I did not want financial hardship, but through it God showed himself to be my Great Provider.

I hate conflict, but in the midst of conflict I became more intimately acquainted with the Prince of Peace.

Yes, for that I am truly, deeply, eternally thankful.

* * * * *
On a somewhat related note...

My 4-H All Star is away at State Round-Up this week. This means that Mom has Lamb Duty: it is my job to make sure the lamb is fed and watered, and I get to take Bertie for a walk every day.

As I wound my way down some of the remoter roads in Obion County this morning on my way to the sheep barn, I listened to the clanking and rattling of my dilapidated van and looked at all the indicator lights blinking on the dashboard and I thought, "God, if I break down out here in the middle of nowhere, how in the world am I going to find anyone to help me?!"

Of course, the van made it out to the sheep barn just fine (otherwise, I wouldn't be sitting here typing right now). I fed and watered the sheep, and Bertie and I enjoyed a leisurely morning stroll in the country.
Sheep kisses - blech! This is one sweet lamb!
When I finished at the sheep barn, I changed shoes and loaded my mud-&-poop encrusted boots into the van and I threw Bertie's halter into the back seat. (These days, my van smells strongly of sheep, BTW.) Then, I started the long, winding drive home.

And I smiled.

I smiled because:
1.) Bertie is so much fun to work with, and
2.) I was so thankful that I was driving a vehicle that I didn't have to feel bad about hauling stinky boots or sacks of lamb feed around in.

It occurred to me as I drove home this morning: my rattle-trap minivan is the PERFECT Lamb Mom transportation!

As I was thinking how glad I was that I didn't have to worry about getting sheep poo on the carpet of a new vehicle, I remembered the conversation from last night, and that made me smile, too.

Thursday, July 21, 2016


I just folded the last of the laundry.

Before I climb into bed tonight, there will be more dirty laundry piled in the utility room floor.

I mopped the floors this morning - right now, they feel cool and deliciously smooth beneath my bare feet.

Before I climb into bed tonight, the floor will be sprinkled with a thin layer of grass clippings, cat fur, and sandy grit tracked in from the driveway.

I cleaned the bathrooms today. Shazam!

Before I climb into bed tonight, I guarantee there will be toothpaste spatters on the mirror and poop swirls in the toilet bowl. Poop happens.

I will work hard all day, and then go to bed and get a good night's sleep. When I wake up tomorrow morning, little evidence (if any!) of today's labor will remain. Housework is like the bull Elijah sacrificed on top of Mt. Carmel when he was challenging the prophets of Baal. It is consumed, licked up, completely erased.

Much of mothering is the same. You tie shoelaces, and then tie them again, and again, and now, here again, the shoelaces are untied and Baby needs you to tie them once more. You cook breakfast, clean jelly-sticky hands and faces, wash the dishes, wipe up the crumbs off the table...and begin planning what to prepare for lunch. You pile onto the couch with the kids and read a book, and another, and another.

And yet, at the end of the day, when you are so tired that you can only speak in one-syllable words (forget complete sentences) and you run bath water for the littles, not because they are dirty (they are), but because you are operating on autopilot and you always run the bath after dinner...

At the end of the day, someone needs help with the knot in their shoelaces, and someone needs a bedtime snack, and there is the plea for just one more book.

Tomorrow, you wake up with someone tugging at your blankets (Mommy, what're we having for breakfast?), and you look through sleepy eyes and find that yesterday's sacrifice was completely consumed, like the bull on the altar on Mt. Carmel. Not a hair or a grease splatter remains.


Dad walks in from work at the end of the day and asks, "What'd you guys do all day?" - and you look at the goldfish crackers ground into the carpet and the peanut butter hand prints on the storm door window and the snot running down your 3-year-old's face and the dirty dishes piled in the sink and think, "Nothing...obviously."

And a well-meaning friend calls and asks if you're interested in starting a home-based business with her because she knows you could use the extra cash and because you have nothing else to do all day...obviously.

And the rest of the world - shiny and glamorous - walks past you at Walmart with its manicured nails and highlighted hair, and flits lithely across the TV screen at the dentist's office (such perfect teeth!), and stares reproachfully at the screaming toddler wrapped around your leg in the checkout line at the grocery store.

They don't know...obviously. They can't see the smoke of the flame-wrapped carcass of the bull as it ascends to heaven.

I am not a young mother, but I once was.
I can see the smoke, young mother, the smoke rising every day, every minute from the altar of your life.
The smoke stings my nose and burns my eyes and makes me weep.
Because, young mother...


Friday, July 15, 2016


A friend asked me recently what, if anything, my local congregation had done in response to the Presbyterian Church in America's overture on denominational repentance for past racial sins. (Read the overture HERE.) "Is there any discussion taking place among members? Has there been any prayer over it?"

Ummmm, what overture?

I haven't heard a single peep about the overture at my local church.

Thankfully, however, I have heard a LOT about it from friends in other PCA churches: from those who support the overture, from those who oppose it, and from those who simply want to better understand the "what" and "why" of the matter. I have been convicted, humbled, saddened, and encouraged by what I have learned.

Here are a couple of articles I recommend, out of the many I have read over the past several weeks:

Presbyterian Church in America Apologizes for Old and New Racism - by Sarah Zylstra

"Who Are the 123 Who Voted Against the Overture?" Here's One. - by Forrest L. Marion

Denominational Diversity and Cultural Normativity - by Duke Kwon

In the second article, Mr. Marion expressed concern that such a corporate repentance may result in the neglect of personal repentance: "The fifteenth chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith calls upon all who subscribe to our standards not to content ourselves with 'general repentance' but, rather, to repent of 'particular sins, particularly.'"

Perhaps I misunderstand, but it appears that Mr. Marion equates "corporate repentance" with "general repentance" (Can a corporate body not repent of particular sins?) and to assume a dichotomy or mutual exclusivity between corporate and personal repentance.

Yes, we must repent individually of personal sins. Yes, yes, yes. My personal repentance, however, does not negate the need for corporate repentance. (Think of Nehemiah, Elijah, Isaiah - godly men who, though personally zealous for righteousness, identified themselves with the nation of Israel, men who repented on behalf of their nation, who pleaded with their brothers and sisters to likewise repent.)

Mr. Marion is correct, though, that it is quite possible to express some type of corporate repentance, and yet never repent personally. However, it is impossible to repent personally and not desire corporate repentance where there is corporate guilt.

Mr. Marion also asks: Can a church, the majority of whose members are too young to have been involved personally in the "particular sins" of racism, can such a church practice biblical repentance? In other words, if I am not guilty myself of discriminating against someone because of his race, how can I authentically repent of the sin of racism?

Ahhh! But I am NOT too young to have been personally involved in particular sins of racism, Mr. Marion! Nor is the teenager in the pew next to me!

Perhaps Mr. Marion equates racism with "separate but equal" schools and imaginary lines on the floors of buses and balcony seating in churches. But racism, I am learning, is so much more, so much bigger, and so much more complex. And it is so subtle that, like a snake lying silently on the forest floor, it can be curled up right next to you without your knowing it.

So, back to the question of do we repent personally/individually? - OR - do we repent corporately? The answer is YES. Yes, we do both. But does corporate repentance undermine our denominational standards? Only in so far as we understand our standards to put personal and corporate repentance in false opposition to one another.

My friend went on to ask, "What are you doing in response to the overture for repentance?" What purpose has this overture served in Camille's life?

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there has been no congregational dialogue, no study, no call for repentance (personal or otherwise), no corporate prayer focusing on the issue of racism at my local church, although the 2015 proposal was deferred for the specific purpose of allowing time for these things. I would be sitting here today as ignorant of - and as unrepentant of - my own sin of racism as ever...except for the PCA's 2016 overture for denominational repentance.

This overture started a buzz that reached all the way into my tiny corner of the world, reached all the way out into a hay field in the hills of rural West Tennessee. News of the overture for denominational repentance somehow made it into my news feed on June 25, 2016, and it made me start asking questions.

The online dialogue generated by the overture has challenged me to think of racism differently than I thought of it before. This in turn has prompted me to start listening, really listening, perhaps for the first time ever.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


I have been thinking a lot about integrity, lately, as I see my youngest having to deal with a situation where someone who means well consistently fails to honor her commitments. This is frustrating for Helen, and difficult for Mama to watch.

There are some good lessons to be learned in hard places, though, and I am thankful for a great Savior who redeems all our trials!

- originally posted Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013

For I do not do the good I want... Romans 7:19a

Seems that lately at our house, we've been having a lot of conversations about intentions, and about the disconnect between thoughts and actions.

"I was going to..."

"Well, what I meant to do was..."

And, jumbled up among these conversations, I've been mentally wrestling with the idea of integrity. Wholeness. Or, as Dr. Pennington called it at the 2012 Reformation Conference, shalom-ness. Consistency of person - this is what I think, this is what I believe, and this is what I do, and each is consistent with the other. Being the same person - in thought and in deed, inside and out - regardless of circumstances, peers,  etc.

Sadly, I find that I lack this kind of personal integrity. I'm like someone who talks fiscal conservatism at the office, but who operates in the day-to-day without a budget. The ideal sounds good, but, practically speaking, it's not really who I am.

Yes, I say I believe that I should "hold every thought captive" to the Word of God, and that I should think on and practice whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent - but often, I find myself boobed out in front of the most offensive trash on the television. Or, I pray that God will grow me in holiness and conform me more and more to Christ - but then I resist Him at every juncture, stubbornly pursuing my own selfish purposes.

This great personal inconsistency between what I think I value and what my actions reveal about my true desires - this grieves me terribly. My actions betray me! They testify against me! Can I not bring my actions in line with my professed beliefs? If not, can't I at least be honest with myself and with others about what is truly important to me?

My memory is not what it used to be. It's not uncommon for me to fail to shut up the hen house at night - not because I've forgotten, but because I remember having done it last night. "Did I shut up the chickens already?" I ask myself. "Yes," I tell myself, "you were just out there with the flashlight, remember?" Because the thought of shutting up the chicken house is floating around in my head, I think that's as good as having done it.

Same thing for these greater issues. Because I think holiness is a good thing, that's as good as actually actively pursuing holiness, right? I mean, at least my intentions were good. It's not like I was desiring evil, after all. Surely it is better to mentally or verbally affirm what is good and right and lovely, even if I don't do those things, than to not even acknowledge them, right?

Except that, thinking I've closed the hen house - but not actually closing the hen house - leads to dead chickens. And thinking that I love God and desire holiness - but not actually acting on those thoughts - is simply me pronouncing judgment on myself.

A friend once explained it this way: "My want-er is broken." I want to honor God, really and truly I do - but right now, at this moment, I want even more to watch this movie, eat this cake, not eat this cake,spread this gossip, fill-in-the-blank. Who can deliver me from this battle between what I say I believe and my contrary actions?

I am so thankful for a Savior who has promised that He will finish the good work that He has begun in me. Thankful that He is faithfully breaking down the aberrant "wants," and replacing them more and more with a genuine desire to know and please Him.

Thankful that even while I stand here deceiving myself - telling myself that yes, I truly do believe and love God's Word, while acting in blatant contradiction to His precepts - that He is gently and persistently exposing the lies, opening my eyes to the deceptions I've embraced. Thankful that He is giving me eyes to see the truth and grace to repent, all in the context of a relationship that is so secure and loving that I need never feel afraid.

Thankful that in Christ, God is bringing all of my person into conformity with His perfect holiness and integrity. That in Glory, my want-er will be fixed, my practice will be fully consistent with my faith, my good intentions will have given way to actual goodness, and I will experience true, unpolluted, and lasting shalom at last!

Thursday, July 7, 2016



Saggy is the word that best describes how I felt at the end of the day yesterday.No nuclear-meltdown type crises...just one small disappointment and frustration after another.

It was a running day. Lots of errands in town.

Our awesome dual-enrollment liaison at UTM worked out a perfect couple of classes for my youngest. But when I got online to register, I encountered a few glitches - nothing major, but it'll be another couple of days before we can register for the classes and finally check that off the list.

Great check up at the eye doctor - but lacked the funds to purchase a new supply of contacts. That'll have to wait, too.

#3 Son got a call for a job he really wants, was asked to come in and test for the job - to test on the same day he leaves for his two-week training with the USMC Reserves. Since the testing can't be rescheduled and since my son can't miss Reserve training, he is now off the list of potential candidates for the job.

The lamb my daughter is excited about showing at her first Expo this weekend had some health issues that may be resolved by Saturday...or maybe not. After months of hard work, she's disappointed that she might not be able to show her lamb. Again, we'll just have to wait and see. We're trying to stay optimistic.

Our WiFi router is dead. Steve told me how to use the cell phone as a mobile hotspot, which is awesome...almost. Trying to register for college classes and to submit 2000-word articles online has been like trying to blow Silly Putty through a drinking straw. Patience and perseverance are virtues, yes?

I was not sad after all of yesterday's disappointments. Just saggy.

So, all of this BLAH to say: I got up this morning and headed out to the porch swing with my Bible and a cup of coffee. I sat and prayed for a long time and soaked up the beauty of the early-morning hay field, intentionally savoring the small and very good things of early morning sunlight and raucous birdsong.

I took time to breathe and to remind myself of the 3 GREAT TRUTHS that support me like bedrock, regardless of my circumstances:

  • God is sovereign.
  • God is good.
  • God loves me very much.

Yes, I thought, God loves me very much. This is true even when my spirits sag.

And it is because I am confident that God loves me very much that I can enjoy the beauty of sunrise in the hay field, and at the same time honestly own my drooping spirits.

Thank you, Father, that you love me so much that I don't have to feel like I must always come to you happy. Thank you for making me so safe that I can come to you when I am less-than-happy, when I feel a bit tattered around the edges.

You love me - I know this is true. Sometimes, though, I kinda feel like I need to be reminded again.

After a lengthy time of quiet reflection, I picked up my Bible and flipped to the next passage on my read-through-the-Bible calendar. I read a couple of chapters in 2 Kings, then turned to Ephesians 3. And I read this:

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith - that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." - Ephesians 3:14-19




Then I flipped to the Psalms. Reading a Psalm every day is not on my "official" calendar: the Psalms are not scheduled until late August. But if I don't feel pressed to go inside and start my work day, or if I feel emotionally saggy and just want to sit a few minutes longer on the porch swing talking with my Father, I read a Psalm when I finish my other reading.

So I turned to the next Psalm. Psalm 118 begins and ends like this:

"Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" [Emphasis added.]


Am I still feeling saggy? Yes, truthfully, just a little.

Am I loved? Beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Beyond imagining.

And incredibly tenderly, too.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


As a writer, I enjoy the luxury of working from home and managing my time myself.

As a writer, I find it is sometimes kind of heavy, working from home and managing my time myself.

It is especially difficult when the demands of home - my day job is full-time mom - require all my energy and expand to fill every waking minute.

If I sequester time for writing despite the things that scream for attention in the chaos around me (there is always something that needs attention), an attitude of she's-slacking-on-the-job pollutes the air. Sort of like the faint odor of roadkill skunk wafting off the highway and across the hay field.

In The View From the Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman shares how Stephen King nudged him down the path of becoming a fiction writer. Gaiman did not have time to write fiction. As a journalist, he was too busy trying to drum up enough odd jobs to keep food on the table. Then King told Gaiman that if he would write just one page a day, just 300 words, than at the end of a year he would have a novel.

Recalling this advice from King, Gaiman commented, "'s how I've written books I haven't had the time to write." Children's books like Coraline and The Graveyard Book. Adult fiction like Neverwhere, and American Gods.

Stephen King's own writing career had a rather inauspicious beginning. Dirt poor and living in a trailer, he worked in an industrial laundry and he pumped gas and he worked as a janitor. (This does not sound too unlike being a mom, does it?)

Exhausted at the end of each day after working two or three different jobs, King would make himself sit down at a makeshift desk set up between the washer and dryer and write at least one page each night before collapsing into bed. A page a day. Eventually, Stephen King finished his first novel.

And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

This story encourages me for a couple of reasons. First, it reminds me that others know what it is to have to squeeze their writing into the cracks of a too-full day. Others understand the tension of juggling what simply must be done and what one wants most to do.

Second, it reminds me that perseverance in very small ways - one page! - can accomplish great things. This encourages me to be disciplined, to make myself do the sometimes incredibly difficult task of writing (I am so tired! I am so busy!) even when countless other things demand my time and attention.

Finally, it makes me think: it is okay to write. It is okay for me to clock out after pulling a third shift, to say "no" to the one-more-thing that needs to be done, and to write.

I work hard at my day job: I am not a slacker.

I want to work hard at my writing, too.

Even if it's only one page a day.