Another Day is Done

Watching the flooding in Pakistan on television this morning, I was struck by the fragile flower that life is.  (I know...this is a heavy way to begin a post - and on my twin daughters' birthday at that!  Stick with me, I hope you'll be encouraged.)

Our life is a vapor, Proverbs says, and then it vanishes away.  I saw a man in Pakistan, about my age or older, clinging to a large chunk of something, hanging on for dear life, in all those raging flood waters.  I will never know if he made it out alive. 

But I have him to thank, whoever he is.  For some reason, it hit me with vivid reality that life is lived one long day at a time.   Thousands of days that man had lived, and it all came down to what may have been his few final minutes.  I watched that man, for a moment, and was overwhelmed with the fact that he was born, had a childhood, probably loves someone, or several someones.  A lifetime of memories were right there, clinging and fighting just so that one more day could be lived.  That man, if he lived, will never again have an ordinary day.

I hope I don't, either.

Someone said "the days are long, but the years are short" and they were exactly right.  My life has been lived, thus far, one day at a time.  I was born, I had a childhood, I've learned a few things and loved a whole lot of people.  Countless moments, one after another, add up to what is my whole life today.  Much effort, many prayers, tears, laughter, pain, and joy have gone into my one life already.

And it could easily be all over in a matter of minutes. 

The human body cannot go ten minutes without oxygen.  In ten short minutes, my whole life, all its hours and its days and its years, could be finished.  Final. Any thoughts yet unspoken or unwritten would die with me, unexpressed.  Memories that are mine alone will slip into eternity with me, they will not be left behind in a box or gathered up with my things.  Why do we not spend more time reminiscing?  The Lord has been so good, and I am commanded to remember!  So that my children, and their children, will remember.  So that my friends will not forget.

Anything, to be remembered collectively, must be talked about, and more than once.  Time has to be taken, around dinner tables and over telephones, and in cars and in front of the fireplace.  Moments must be stolen back, and memorials made to the faithfulness of God.  "Remember when...??"

And how about these words:  "I love you."

And, "I am sorry.  Let's begin fresh, slates wiped clean.  You - a spouse, a parent, child, or a friend and child of God - you with an eternal spirit, you are far too important to be abandoned this way, and I want to come back and rebuild that which is eternal:  our relationship.  Quick!  Hurry, let us go back to loving each other before the sun goes down, and this one precious day is over!"

Fragile woman, I am.  Because my life is as a vapor, no day is ordinary.  Every day is a gift.  Life is far, far too short to not place urgent and immediate value on my relationships.  Theoretically, in less than ten minutes, all that has been left unsaid, will never be said, this side of heaven.  Every wrong not made right, will be left just as it stands in the heart and memory of someone I say I care about.

This day was not ordinary.  It was not common.  It was filled with the atmosphere of eternity, and loaded with value.  I pray I have invested it well.

Because I will, one day, stop breathing.  Less than ten minutes from that moment, I leave it all behind.  Ten short minutes.

This day, in pictures ~

I began it by filling the house with sunflowers - always sunflowers for my girls' birthday.

Stopped by this shop

For a dozen of these.  So good.

Justin and Hannah brought this home from an antique shop today.  Timothy Paul will be joining us for dinner here, by this time next year.

Dad and a few of his kids, playing "that game".

And playing...and playing...(it is nearly eleven, as I type, and they are playing it again!)

Happy Birthday, my Sarah Howe!  Your first birthday as a married woman, and you are more beautiful than ever.  As the sunflowers will always say, "I am so proud of you!"

Happy Birthday, Hannah!  Timothy Paul is one blessed baby boy to have a mother who will love him so intensely...ferociously...creatively...and forever.  Your first birthday as a mommy, and I am SO PROUD OF YOU! has been no ordinary day.  Tomorrow will also be absolutely stunning in its unique opportunities and responsibilities.  The sunrise will be God's encore of the miraculous.  The moment my eyes open, it will be time to be about the business of loving God and loving people.  Oh, God!  May I live tomorrow's minutes and hours with full awareness of their worth!

It's A....

Tim and I drove our daughter Hannah and her husband to their ultrasound appointment...

....a little bit of a hike to the doctor's office...

Hannah decided to tell her mother and father-in-law by baking cupcakes with either blue filling or pink filling inside the cupcake!  Guess what color icing was in this delicious dessert?

Yes!  Our very first grandbaby, who shall be named Timothy Paul McConnell, is doing very well! 
IT'S A BOY!!!!!!!!!

Dear Timothy Paul,
It seems to me I've loved you since the day your mother was born.  I am beside myself with  gratitude and joy!  You are being born into what is becoming a long line of Bible teachers and preachers.  Your great grandfather Gilreath , your grandfather Atchley, your daddy (a Bible teacher in the making)...and now you.  You truly have "a goodly heritage". 

Should the Lord tarry, I plan to live to be a ripe, old age.  I love you now, and I will love you even more then.  My prayer prints have been all over you, since before you were conceived.  Soon, I will hold you for the very first time.  You may have been a surprise to your parents, but I've been expecting you for almost as long as I can remember.  We are going to have a ton of fun together.  Hope you like to be read to.  (And fish, and shoot guns, but those are papaw Atchley and papaw McConnell things...)

I can't wait for you to meet all my friends.  They are all excited to know you are on the way.  I can't wait to see your momma and daddy bring you to your church, that very first Sunday.  I can't wait to see you take your first steps, hear you say your first words, hear you preach your first sermon.  And play your first song. 

I am blessed and highly favored.  Take good care of yourself, and we'll see you sometime during the Christmas season!  

I love you to the moon, little man!


Guess Who Has Photo Shop?

My honey got me Photo

I've already had a brief, basic tutorial this evening after worship practice, from son-in-law Jonathan.  Hannah can also teach me a lot, from her days as merchandising manager at Goody's...she did all sorts of cool stuff with this program every day!

I'm sooooo excited.  This is one of the pictures I've worked on so far...all I did was make the background black and white, and re-color my daughter Sarah and I, on her wedding day.

This is a learning curve unlike any other.  Whew.


Tomorrow, we find out whether our first grandbaby is a girl or boy!  Hannah asked me to accompany her and Justin to her ultrasound appointment.  Can't wait, can't wait...

Of course, I'll be jumping on here to tell the world!

"The Trouble With Scotland..." that it's full of Scots!" (line from the movie Braveheart)

Actually, we love Scotland and her Scots. This precious man and his equally precious wife will be staying with us here at the cottage all of next week. This time, the blessing is mine!

::cheers, confetti::

I'm preparing what is, in this case, a literal "prophet's quarters". Knee deep in meal planning, guest room fluffing, birthday preparations (my girls' birthday is Saturday) and preparing my own message for the Master Builder's International Conference next week, I am busy in a blessed-and-highly-favored sort of way.

All the way from Scotland, Joe and Yvonne Ewen will be at Harvest Church on Sunday, August 8th. If you are anywhere within the vicinity, you won't want to miss it!

Mid Life Constancy

con·stan·cy . n. 1. Steadfastness, as in purpose or affection; faithfulness. 2. The condition or quality of being constant; changelessness

More than once, my husband and I have shook our heads at someone who recently turned 45 or 50. The whole "mid life crisis" thing. Believe-you-me, it is real. There but for the grace of God, go I! So many people lose their flippin' minds when they hit about 50.

They think they are hearing God, and they aren't. They think they're entitled, and they're not. They think they need to change things up, and they don't. They need to dig in and practice constancy.

The surest predictor of a mid life crisis is the soul-withering boredom that can set in. After all, it isn't how you begin that counts. It isn't how you end. Those two points in the process are exciting. It is what you do with yourself in the character-defining middle that totally dictates your finish line. It is easy to begin a race.

Almost all races are quit in the middle.

More spouses and churches and friendships and families and careers are left in mid-life than eleventy-hundred people can shake their collective sticks at.

I promise you that, smack dab in your middle, there will be a "tree of the knowledge of good and evil". There will be the awareness that nothing is turning out quite like you imagined. You will feel the urge to prove yourself. You will feel the urge to quit. Or to do something silly like move for the sake of moving, leave for the sake of leaving, buy a sports car or motorcycle, build a McMansion you can't afford, start a band, or raise Nubian goats.

Change! Any change feels like it might do the trick - it might make you feel alive again. Let's spiritualize it, while we're at it, and say we "feel led of the Lord".

Friend. Friend, friend. Sit down here beside me and have some Tension Tamer Tea. We are so in this thing together. I feel it, too.

Your enemy (who, by the way, is not me. Ahem.) will always approach you one of two ways. Only one of two.

Your enemy will either attack you, to try to get you to retreat...or he will try to get you to make peace with him. It is the making peace part that worries me. It is very tempting to make peace when you are so exhausted from the war. It is very tempting to change course abruptly, at the next sign of crisis, and then justify your retreat.

You will find yourself making every excuse in the book for why so many of your relationships are a wreck, for why you do what you do, for why your passion is gone. Every excuse is a justification for making peace with the enemy. The children of Israel were faced with this very thing in their "middle"...that place between Egypt and the Promise. (Ex. 34:11-14)

Beware of that sense of mid-life entitlement. When you don't live daily outside your comfort zone, when you make personal peace and affluence your idol, you end up making a covenant of false peace and false provision with an enemy.

You started out serving the Lord with abandon. Let me tell you - the same grace that saved you, is the same grace you absolutely must function in every single day. Notice I said "function". When there is no apprehension and appropriation of grace, there is dysfunction.

You began well. Stay the course. Don't let the heart ache and disappointments and exhaustion of the middle make you dull and cynical and jaded. Tap into the newness of life that is yours in Christ Jesus!

Underlined Bits

"Despite God’s call to be free and His earnest admonition to resist all efforts to curtail it, there is very little emphasis in Christian circles today on the importance of Christian freedom. Just the opposite seems to be true. Instead of promoting freedom, we stress our rules of conformity. Instead of preaching living by grace, we preach living by performance. Instead of encouraging new believers to be conformed to Christ, we subtly insist that they be conformed to our particular style of Christian culture. Yet, that’s the bottom line effect of most of our emphases in Christian circles today.

For example, many people would react negatively to my quoting only part of Galatians 5:12, “You, my brothers, were called to be free.” Despite the fact that this statement is a complete sentence, they would say, “But that’s not all of the verse. Go on to quote the remainder: ‘But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.’”

The person who reacts this way has made my point. We are much more concerned about someone abusing his freedom than we are about his guarding it. We are more afraid of indulging the sinful nature than we are of falling into legalism. Yet legalism does indulge the sinful nature because it fosters self-righteousness and religious pride. It also diverts us from the real issues of the Christian life by focusing on external and sometimes trivial rules.”

– Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace, pp. 121-122

Summer Flavors and Fragrances

A pile of these were shucked today...

Then grilled...

...and became this...

Fry up lots of this...

Add diced red potatoes, red onion, celery, milk and cream...grilled corn chowder! The fresher the corn, the better and sweeter this dish. YUM!

Serve with home made bread.

I'm typing away with my laptop, sitting propped up on pillows in my bed. These sheets and pillowcases were put back on my bed, fresh from the clothes line, just a couple of hours ago. I promise you, I can smell sunshine. The fragrance is unbelieveable.

Have a blessed weekend, friends! Enjoy summer's fleeting delights.

A Day of Simple Pleasures, Indeed

Today is our son-in-law's birthday...

Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing...

...on a great, big platter.

Found him the perfect card...

...and a nice, wooden artist's box.

When the laundry was tossed onto the guest bed, earlier today, I noticed how all the colors pleased me. All the textures were beautiful to my eye. Sounds silly, but I thought to myself, "We all purchase tea towels and wash cloths and towels and sheets and pillowcases. Why not buy these things in all the colors that make us happy?"

That way, there is beauty, even in an unfolded pile of linens. (Pillow added, since it was already on the guest bed, and looked adorable. Guess you can say I "styled" this picture!)

In Love With Antique Ticking

This has been the Summer of Many Projects. A time to create. The cottage is coming together - one finished project, however, begs for another to begin. My living room is next, I believe. The kitchen is nearly done, except for the knobs and drawer pulls. Dining room is finished. The adjacent wall and hallway finally got painted last week, with the most whisper-lovely shade of bluish-gray. Very French. Or Scandinavian. Or something.

Today, I found an antique ticking tablecloth. You must know...I need another tablecloth like I need a hole in my head, but this one called to me. This sort of thing is pricey in the antique shops. Easily a nice ticking antique-vintage tablecloth will set you back $50. That is on a good day. When I saw the price on this beauty, I think I got lightheaded. Extremely reasonable, but with just enough splurge-factor to make it special. That's all I'm sayin'.

It is made of a heavy weight blue and white ticking, complete with fabric slubs, and fading. It even smells old, much to my delight. (Though I am running it through the washing machine and dryer tonight to remedy this...)

It also has upholstery-weight cording at the hem. And it is round! I told you it was calling my name. I could not have dreamed or designed a more perfect thing for my home.

Heavy-weight cording, all around...

falls beautifully, almost to the floor...

Think I'll try layering it with another piece...

Oh....sigh! Love!

The whisper-blue of the hallway only shows up well on the camera against the red of my $6.99 second hand shop Kate Spade purse.

::Big Barney Fife sniff:: is only indecent to talk about price when you over pay! I strut my deals. I parade my treasures, because each one has a story of conquest and a pennies-on-the-dollar price.

Blessings to each of you, friends...

When Life Gives You Lemons...

...make lemonade!

PINK lemonade!

So much easier if you have one of these babies...

Ingredients (recipe at the end...)

Don't let the squeezed lemons go to waste. Put the cut side, with some table salt on it, to your copper pots and rub till you are out of breath. I polished all the copper tonight, while the kids and dad played a board game. We are so Waltonesque, no?

As the sun was setting, I caught a glimpse. Oh, the handiwork of God!

Blessings on your evening, friends!
Pink Lemonade Recipe:

6 – lemons
2 – teaspoons grenadine syrup
1/2 to 3/4 – cup sugar
4 – cups water
1 – cup crushed ice

Mixing Instructions

Cut lemons in half and squeeze out the juice. If you have a juicer use it, if not just squeeze your juice into a bowl. Remove the seed from the squeezed lemon juice.

Pour lemon juice into a pitcher and add grenadine syrup, sugar and water. Stir vigorously until sugar is completely dissolved. Next add crushed ice and serve immediately.

Oh Yum. Everyone loved it...hope you try it this week!

For Heaven's Sake, Keep Reading!

I'm in heavy preparation mode. I will be speaking at the Master Builder's International Conference, held the first few days of August. If you are going to be in the East Tennessee area that week, feel free to come by the conference - there are no fees for it.

As I have been preparing, I've been finding many other little gems, unrelated to the subject which I am so heavily studying. This, in my opinion, is the beauty AND the bane of a teacher's existence.

So many gems, so little time.

Here is a honking gem for you. Oh, the whack-job ideas we tend to acquire regarding "Christian Perfection"! Please, please don't hear me as pointing a finger at "you", calling "you" a whack job. Only whack jobs are that paranoid.


I can't be pointing a finger. When I do, there really are three others pointing right back at me. I'm the whack jobbiest of the whack jobs. I'm the Queen of Whacked. I have been so deep into Christian legalism, as to have spent a short season wearing a head covering - almost twenty years ago, so do give me some credit. I was pathetically young.

We read in Hebrews 6 ~

"Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection..."

Right away, the untaught or unstable squeak, "You see? You see? We are to maa-choo-ah. (mature...) To mature know. We have stuff. We have to do better. We have to be disciplined. Harrumph."

No, no, no. Well, to be fair, yes AND no. Please, just keep reading. For heaven's sake, just keep reading. First of all, the Greek for "perfection", ("going on to perfection") denotes a person. "A consummate-er. A completer." As denoted by just one inflection of a different syllable, in that Greek word. With that one inflection, it can go from "complete" to "a completer". I know. It makes me crazy too. But it could easily denote perfection as in something or Someone that has already finished the job.

In other words, we are to move on from discussing-to-death the principles of Christ, and move on into Christ Himself. And dear one, He is such perfection! You just gotta love Him.

Grow up past principle, and into a Person.

What is it we are to understand, as we mature into this Person of Christ? Just this: all the truths that the author of Hebrews elaborates on next, in this letter to the Hebrews.

And friend, it is alllll about Jesus.

Feel free to read the whole thing, but allow me, for the sake of time and blog space, to illustrate the importance of the "keep reading" principle, and put two verses side by side for you. Then, draw your own conclusion. The first one is the one we just read in Hebrews 6:1. The second is found in Hebrews 9 ~

"Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection..." (Hebrews 6)

Now, for heaven's sake, just keep reading!

"For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified." (Hebrews 9)

I keep trying to tell you that your righteousness is a gift. It does not "grow in you", you grow up into the gift. You, beloved, are more complete than you know.

Underlined Bits

From the book by Dr. Stephen Crosby, Silent Killers of Faith - Overcoming Legalism and Performance Based Religion.

"Nothing stirs religious passions to hatred and murder like preaching a message of freedom to people who think they are already free. Performing religionists do not appreciate being told that God is not impressed with Adamic spritual gymnastics (my note: "aka 'spiritual disciplines' - as important as they can be!") done in the name of Jesus. God will not stand and applaud the somersaults of the Adamic nature trying to please Him. Exposing the deluded confidence of the privileged always gets you stoned. People do not use granite anymore - wagging tongues and feet hustling through the back exit door are the stones of choice..."

"It takes no courage or faith to join something that already seems a success. It takes great faith and stamina to stick with something to make it a success."

"A friend of mine once gave me some advice that, at first blush, seemed a little extreme, but I think actually captured a fundamental reality: "If you are not accused of promoting a casual lifestyle, you are probably not preaching apostolic grace." Folks who emphasize the "high standard" are frequently the most difficult to awaken to the depths of Biblical grace. They are the most likely to accuse those who emphasize grace as having a "low standard". "

Truer words are rarely written. I have always said that you have to look at the depth and body of a pastor's preaching over the course of years, not mere months, to get the full balance of the man. Time has more than proven that no one in Harvest Church is in any danger of being led by a pastor who has quote-unquote "low standards". Nor are they in any danger of being led by a pastor who puts confidence in the flesh of Gentile legalism. This is cause for real rejoicing, in my opinion. My husband, though far less than perfect, has the heart of a spiritual father, and of a shepherd who will not ever leave his post.

Granted, sometimes saints don't have the luxury of getting to know a man over the course of years, but this loss just magnifies the inherent value of continuity in relationships! To get to know a pastor's life and body of teaching over the course of years is the worthy goal - building relationship. To not have that is a deficit, indeed. When we don't have those years with which to discern the leader, this is when we defer to the Biblical concept of authority. When we trust God, when our spiritual leaders exhibit good character, we can trust that all these processes are working themselves out for our good. We can stick and stay for the sake of relationships....that is, when we actually understand the grace of God!

More underlined bits from Dr. Crosby's book next week...

A Most Happy Saturday

Youngest son, who left home awhile back in a not-so-good attitude, spent the night with us last night. (Funny how he swears our rules and values are too strict, but apparently we aren't such hard-nosed, boring parents that he stays away. He "drops in" often enough!) After letting him sleep in, he woke up and left for his apartment he shares with his brother. My husband (aka "grandaddy"), daughter Hannah, and I finally had the chance to run out to grab lunch and do some baby shopping while her husband Justin was working. Well, we didn't start out to buy a crib....but we came home with one!

::can you hear those angels singing??::

Grandaddy and I went in half with Hannah and Justin on a bee-yoo-tiful crib today, as part of Hannah's birthday present...

Justin got home shortly after we did. Here's grandaddy and daddy putting the crib together...

Figuring it out...


Mom and dad arranging the canopy...

I was swooning, right about now...

Justin's sense of humor...

Skunk now gone - and the precious "Wendy blanket" draped and waiting for baby...(Wendy - life long, dear friend of the family, who crochets the most amazing things!)

All in all, such a fun day. For reasons too complicated to get into in one blog post, I never got to really decorate a nursery. (Even though I had four babies!) Hannah is so very sweet and gracious to allow me into her process of getting their baby's nursery ready.

God is incredibly good to this soon-to-be grandmommy.

::waving at my new-found blog friend, "Love,Granny"!::