Wedding Shower

Sarah's first of several wedding showers is this afternoon. I got she and Jonathan a small volume of love poems by Ruth Bell Graham, entitled "Never Let It End". Gorgeous poetry. For years, my soul has been well-fed by Mrs. Graham's gift.

Now, how to wrap it?

I discovered a lovely blog, "A Gift Wrapped Life", and tucked within this blog was a gem: a beautiful idea for gift wrapping a book. Books just happen to be my signature gift...I love to give books.

Here is Sande's result:

I copied the talented Sande's idea almost exactly, though not with the exact same, perfect result:

I'm satisfied.

On to the shower. Three weeks until the wedding...let the games begin!

Actual Snowflakes and Your Very Own Pretend Snowflakes...

Photographs by Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley, early 20th century:

"Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated., When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind."

Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley 1925

Flurries are falling this night here in east Tennessee. It gets me to thinking about snowflakes, and an extravagantly creative God.

Here is a link for you to create your very own pretend, virtual snowflakes. Warning: this is addictive. Have fun!

What's For Dinner?

"It is worth deciding whether your goal, generally speaking, is really to get in and out of the kitchen as fast as possible. If you start out begrudging the time you give to cookery, you are going to create a false contest between cooking and enjoying yourself."

~Cheryl Mendelson, Home Comforts

Personal Peace and Affluence

"There's only so much fortune a person needs, and the rest is just for showin' off."
~Forrest Gump's momma

The great twentieth century theologian Francis Schaeffer immortalized the phrase "personal peace and affluence" in his day; in his books and messages he asserted that the quest for personal peace and affluence was the downfall of great nations in history past. I think what is true in the "universals" is often true in the "particulars".

This quest for personal peace and affluence often marks the downfall of a man or woman as well.

That phrase has haunted me since I first read it, nearly two decades ago. Personal peace and affluence. Schaeffer's warning applies to all socio-economic levels, because we are all tempted to seek our version of it.

Periodically, over the years, I examine my attitude for signs of any sense of entitlement - any indication that I am placing my "personal peace" ahead of the call of God on my life - a call which often (almost always) takes me far out of my comfort zone. It is a call which always involves some level of obscurity and servanthood, and truth be known we all fear obscurity and service.

I've learned that I don't need to be noticed or appreciated, contrary to pop psychology. I do not have to "feel" whole and comfortable before I get about the business of loving God and loving others. I am already made complete in Christ. His grace truly is sufficient.

I will confess, nothing has forced me to look at my version of affluence like my son graduating high school, and two daughters getting married in less than one year. My husband being in full time ministry and me a career home maker (otherwise known as financial suicide), my biggest fear was to one day not be able to afford to pay for college or weddings.

With the first daughter's wedding, I began my planning process and discovered that the "average" wedding budget was something like $20,000. Often, the budget can be much more. I knew we didn't have close to that available to spend, and so I was forced to confront my deepest fears.

My version of affluence. What is your version? How hotly have you pursued it? At what cost?

I gave it up - the inner struggle was immense. We had the available credit for me to be as lavish as I wished, but the conviction to pay for all or most of both weddings in cash.

With my back against the wall, I called in the troops. The Harvest Church Women. They came through like you would not believe, furnishing us with the most lovely wedding reception for Hannah - location, food, and all. A few men in Harvest made themselves completely available to Tim in the days before the wedding, to haul chairs, clean the barn, anything we needed. Tim found out who his true friends were that week! Yeah. The ones who didn't find someplace else they "had to be".

I've always known who my friends are. At any point in life, they are the women who are "still here". Harvest women were there, involved in all aspects of Hannah's reception, and are once again (less than one year later!) involved in every detail of Sarah's reception.

How humbling to relinquish my version of affluence, my misguided dream of what a "wedding celebration" looks like, and embrace True Community. I discovered that life lived in community made for a far, far better, more beautiful wedding than I could have ever "bought". Some things absolutely cannot be bought, some honors should not be farmed out to a bidder. Weddings are about community!

Church life is antithetical to personal peace and affluence. If you try to have your personal peace and affluence, and engage in real church life too, you will find yourself leaving church after church. If you try to have your personal peace and your version of affluence and also have healthy relationships, you will find yourself cutting off relationship after relationship.

You will never be able to have it both ways. God's peace is "not as the world gives", pure and simple.

Thrift Scoring

Well, I said I'd make this a regular feature. How regular, I'm not sure...I can't be sure until my life settles back into a normal routine (read: after daughter's wedding).

I am loving...loving...what I found today. While taking youngest son to a friend's house to work on a physics project, I happened to pass an antique shop. It is (sadly) going out of business, and I decided to stop in, after I dropped off said youngest. What else can a girl do, who suddenly finds a glorious hour or two at her disposal?

Do you know what the "vase" is? This is a vintage thingey that covers up your Kleenex box!

::Big Barney Fife Sniffffff::

I'm so proud. I didn't see this idea anywhere...I thunk it up myself. Three dollars. I saw the color, adored the color, and instantly imagined my Valentine's roses sticking out the top, instead of Kleenex. So I brought this beauty home, put a cup of water on the table, plopped the Kleenex cover-thingey over it, and put my roses in the hole.

Antique hymnal ~ four dollars. I'm going to rip it up and make cards.

Vintage necklace ~ four dollars. Silver cameo earrings ~ four dollars. The pearls will go perfectly with my mother-of-the-bride dress.

I am on such a tight budget in this season, I squeak when I walk. But rather than focus on what I can't spend, I am discovering the Art Of The Deal. Thrift shopping is wiser. Thrift shopping is...


There is desirable treasure, And oil in the dwelling of the wise...
Proverbs 21:20

Oh, Blessed Sun!

We had sunshine today! I'm telling you, a few hours of golden glory, and I am refreshed. Oh happy day.

Home made chicken noodle soup. The bride-to-be is sick, and so momma has to make some medicine. So, so easy! I swear, all I did was toss four chicken breasts (uncooked!) in the bottom of the crock pot, throw in a frozen block of my chicken broth (about 8 cups) and a bit of water just to get it going. Then I chopped some carrot and lots of garlic. Put the crock pot on high and walked away. Last, I pulled the chicken breasts out, shredded them with a fork, and plopped them right back in, and boiled up some egg noodles. Add some crusty French bread and a will cure what ails you.

More experimenting with macro settings...

The table this evening...

Close-up. Could you resist these plates, four of them for under $20? Nah. I didn't think you could either. If you only knew how perfect they are for our family!

The last rays of the sun, through my pot of tulips in the kitchen window.

Life is About Maintenence

Several years ago, I had my hair colored and highlighted by a stylist who is well known and highly regarded here in Knoxville. As she was helping me choose which shade and highlights to wear, I made the comment to her, "I need something very low maintenance. I just don't have the time..."

She stopped me mid-sentence, spinning my chair around so she could look me in the eye. With one hand on her hip, she said to me in her most commanding southern accent, "Honey, beauty is about maintenance!"


I stood (or sat) corrected. I felt so virtuous, with my limited time and all my heavy responsibilities...she shot me down with the truth, distilled into one sentence.

Thanks. I needed that. After all, it isn't like I'm working on a cure for cancer with all that "time I save" by not coloring my hair. And in that season of my life, I was well on my way to becoming one of those tired looking pastor's wives, complete with a martyr's complex. I am still tired looking, but at least I'm no martyr.

What does this have to do with brooms? Well, I've been thinking how that life is about maintenance. I forget the exact percentage, but something like 90% or more of life is pure maintenance: the cooking, the cleaning, the repairing, all the work that it takes just to live. Why gripe and complain about the inevitable? Scriptures tell us that "where no oxen are, the crib is clean, but great increase comes from the strength of the ox."

It stands to reason that if we make the maintenance part of our lives more appealing and pleasing, 90% plus of our lives will be improved.

If I had my choice of the brooms in the picture, I'd choose the toile. But what I am really about to do is break down and buy an electric broom, and a steam mop.

Yup. This is huge for me, because I have been a Don Aslett devotee for many years. I have sworn by his microfiber mop, with the velcro'ed pads. I never thought I'd make a change. But when I read that steam mops get up more dirt than you can imagine, and that you can put just a drop or two of essential oil (lavender or eucalyptus) into a steam mop....well, that pretty much does it for me.

I choose dish detergent and laundry detergent based on scent. I love Palmolive's aromatherapy liquid dish soap, and the Method's grapefruit liquid dish soap. Actually the whole line of grapefruit-scented Method product is fantastic.

I'm hoping to fix up my laundry room after my daughter's wedding - laundry is always, always going to be a significant part of I'd love to make my utility room really great. Of course, if my plans materialize, I'll take some blog worthy photos.

Think about it. I realize that the whole object of maintenance is to get it done as quickly as possible, so that we can move on into whatever our creative endeavors may be. But a significant part of every day will always be devoted to maintaining our stuff and our "selves". I'm really hung up on the idea that even chores and work can be made more pleasant.

Love that toile broom.


My experience tells me that a huge component of the sense of well being a woman needs, is to feel a little uncomfortable.

Okay. To feel a lot uncomfortable.

Really, really uncomfortable.

Before you grab your thrift-store-find-of-a-leather-Coach-purse-trimmed-in-a-delicious-orange-color and flounce away (yeah, I'm all about the purse...)

...hear me out.

There is no sense of well-being, without a sense of accomplishment. There is no sense of accomplishment without a sense of difficulty. There is no sense of difficulty, without feeling really uncomfortable.

What I am telling you right now, could be your one-way ticket out of Depressionville: do something brand new, and something hard. A kick-boxing class. Plan two weddings in one year. Start a DIY home improvement project. Go back to school. Stop whining. Stop criticizing. Stop running away from feeling uncomfortable. (I told you to try something brand new!)

Trust me, there aren't enough churches - or men - in your whole city for you to leave when the going gets tough. Try something actually difficult, as opposed to imagined difficulty, and stick and stay. Besides, you never die with your options open - you have to commit some time. You won't be leaving your casket, when you stop liking it.

You heard me.

Keep learning, keep growing, keep loving people - and all at great personal cost. This isn't about self improvement...its about self respect.

Foundational. Wellness.

A Good Day

Today, we started our 2010 women's meetings (at Harvest). Women Equipped to Love and Lead - W.E.L.L.

Oh, for wellness...I long for women to live in wholeness and wellness, body, soul, and spirit.

We had to cancel our meeting in January because of snow, and who knows how the spring will go, since our little church will be taking care of two weddings, followed immediately by some high school and college graduations. In a church our size, when one gets pregnant, we "all get pregnant". When one gets sick, we "all get sick" to speak. In other words, we sometimes have to alter church activities to accomodate baby showers or a big bout with the flu. Simply stated, everyone matters. What happens to any one member affects all of us. There is no such thing as anyone not being noticed or missed.

But we did get our first session in, of our Beth Moore "Esther" study much fun. I love those women so much.

Came home to flowers from my Tim - red roses. Beautiful.

I sit in my living room, but it does not look like my living room right now. There are blankets on the furniture - to accomodate little Amber, who is far, far from being housebroken. There are wedding invitations everywhere, in various states of completion...some addressed and stamped, some envelopes not stuffed yet, a few invitations not put together yet. (The invitation is a lovely, simple card stock with brown ribbon and a vintage looking paper die-cut monogram...hand made.)

I was wanting the RSVP envelopes to have some sort of special detail, and I was inspired by the use of the vintage stamp on these hand made business cards here.

I bought this very stamp,and we are using it to stamp our address on the smaller RSVP envelopes. It looks super-cute, very vintage-classy. Wish I could snap you a picture real quick, but time is getting away from me, and I am beyond sleepy at the moment...

After the wedding, I am going to re-word the stamp (I can make it say anything I want, up to 5 lines!) and will make my own calling cards using those very tags you see in the picture-link. I'll make them with my name, email address, and blog web-address on them.

Speaking of pictures, I'm still learning my new camera (see last post!):

one of the arrangements for the wedding...this will go in the church foyer.

Bocelli, the canary ~

Grant, the pocket parrot ~

Me, the silly girl trying to peer through her reading glasses at the symbols on her camera screen, and attempting to understand shutter speed and aperture. Deep. Unsmiling. Concentration.

I best sign off, and go put together the traditional little gifts I always give my kids (grown or not!) for Valentine's Day. Am I the only one who gets totally addicted to those little candy hearts with the messages?

Early Valentine's


The pictures you see on this blog, from henceforth, shall be of a much better quality. Thanks to my man. My early Valentine's Day present is an SLR camera...


Let the learning curve begin...

wedding decorating experiments...can't get the aperture right in this one.

Hmmmm...what setting to use to take this picture?

Love this shot!

Sarah's "baby"...that is me holding her in my robe. ::happy sigh::

I'm so grateful to my thoughtful and generous husband. Last year, a canary. I immediately fell in love with him (the canary. I was already in love with the husband). This year, a new camera. Same effect - I'm smitten with this sweet little gadget.

Our New Grandpuppy!

Sarah and Jonathan drove all the way to a Crossville breeder to get their first puppy last night...her name is Amber. She'll live here until Sarah is married in March.

We are all absolutely smitten. Well...everyone but Rambo. He thinks she's "just okay, that's all."

Less than two pounds of eight-week-old adorableness!

Justin and Hannah rushed over to "see this thing which God hath wrought". The entire family sighed and coo'ed over her, then we all (yes, all) took her back out to the front porch, so that Rambo could be properly introduced.

Tim brought Rambo from the back bedroom, where he had been tucked away since before Amber got home, and brought him out onto the front porch, where he properly greeted the baby. No growling, no snarling.


Then, the entire family went back into the warm house.I swear, when there is an actual baby born into this family, none of us will be fit for normal living. Stop the world, let the Atchleys/Howes/McConnells off. You should have seen us last night, all fighting over who would hold the puppy next.

Pitiful. And completely wonderful.

Super Bowl

...and so my team lost, and life goes on. I think.

Newly-weds, and Nearly-weds...already "into it", early in the game...

Our youngest son, aka "the traitor", wearing a Saint's jersey...his shamed father to his right.


Moments of dismay...

Redeeming moment...

::not that this is earthshaking, but the newly weds and nearly weds wanted me to tell you that they were drinking root beer. That's what those bottles you see were. Good ol' IBC Root Beer. These young couples work with teens and middle schoolers every week in our church - and Justin is a future high school math teacher - so they felt it very important to publish the disclaimer!

Imagination is Intelligence Having Fun...

Slices of life around the cottage...

The teacup poodle, "Rambo".

the soon-to-be-weds...

Pocket Parrot! Isn't she adorable?

Last Friday's snow...

The firepit - decorated with a garden planter, and visited by a bird...

The butterfly garden in snow...

Go Colts!

Warning: random post

We're forecasted to get 2 inches of rain in the next day or so, here in east Tennessee.

::she sighs, melodramatically::

So I decided to treat it just as I did the snow of last week - I went to the grocery store and the craft store and stocked up on Happy Things.

Today, I got milk and baking ingredients and yummy breakfast stuff and pasta and candles and all-natural grapefruit scented cleaner and a yellow primrose in a pot and reading material and soup. Tim is sick with a tenacious head cold , and my throat is suddenly sore, so soup is definitely in order.

All at once, I'm feeling just fine about the skies pouring rain for the whole entire day. I am onto something here! Whenever possible, prepare for a long, rainy day just like you would prepare to be snowed in.

I also visited our local discount store and found some (normally very expensive, special department store brand) bath milk from Scotland. It comes in a glass milk bottle, looks so elegant, and smells just perfect.

I planned well, and took my pocket parrot to get his wings clipped today, so I'll be able to get him out of his cage and cuddle him tomorrow. Without all that annoying flying he's gotten so good at doing lately. He has already figured out that he doesn't have much of a choice anymore, other than nestling on my shoulder, or perching in my hand. He took off two or three times earlier this evening, expecting to be able to soar all the way across the room like he usually does....and only made it about 12 inches. It didn't take him long to figure out that he is content to snuggle.

So I say to the impending gray, wet day, "Bring It." I am armed and ready. Once I get our hours of home schooling out of the way, I will have my choice between reading, writing, blogging, snuggling my puppy, snuggling my bird, snuggling my husband, taking a bath, baking cookies or banana bread or a fancy bundt cake, and choosing which recipes I'll cook up for the Super Bowl. (GO COLTS!)

All this, while candles burn cheerfully all through the house, and hot cider simmers on the stove.

And I won't have to leave this house for a thing...

An Apostolic Call...

Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.

As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.

—Thomas Merton, in a letter dated February 21, 1966

And I bow my head in recognition - deep, instinctive and personal - of the truth of it. I am glad for results, we have seen profound results, results that have tended to endure. But enfolded in the apostolic calling is a fatherhood principle that focuses on the value of the process, and the integrity of the work for the sake of the work. Loving people because God loves them, not because they meet our hopes or expectations.

Results often take a lifetime to see.

Whitefield's "Method"...

"Before you can (know you are right with God) you must not only be troubled for your sins of your life, but also for the sins of your best duties and performances...before you can be at peace with God, there must be a deep conviction before you can be brought out of your self-righteousness; it is the last idol taken out of your heart. The pride of our heart will not let us submit to the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But if you never truly felt that you had no righteousness of your own or if you never felt the deficiency of your own righteousness, you cannot come to Jesus Christ."

~George Whitefield

Tim got a set of CD's, each one with a classic sermon from one of several of history's greatest preachers. (The person who gave this to him for Christmas knows who they are. You so rock. We both think you give the best presents!) The various sermons by various dead guys are preached from their original notes by dramatic reader Max McLean. The above is an excerpt from Whitefield's "Method of Grace."

In his day, no one preached like Whitefield. Wesley was deeply touched and convicted by Whitefield's preaching. He and Wesley were opposed on issues of law and grace - but in the end, mercy always triumphs over judgment. Whitefield graciously wrote down, as his last wishes, that Wesley preach his funeral.

I love it..a winsome grace-gesture, an olive branch extended from beyond the grave from the great grace-preacher, to a methodical, exacting, oft-stubborn preacher...and an equally great man of God.

Whitefield's message "Method of Grace" ...

(hmmmmmmmmmmmm...think about that title, folks. Pretty direct, eh? Whitefield had no fear of man.) nothing short of brilliant. Read it. If you struggle with Gentile legalism, it will change your life. "He, being dead, yet speaketh".