Guess What Tomorrow Is?

September First.

That's all.  But that's wonderful.  Oh, how I love me some September. cheer myself upon summer's passing (funny, I've never needed cheering up about the end of August before)...and in honor of All Things Home and Autumn....and to remind myself of what I love about the Harvest Season - I usually do not mind the summer "holidays" being over - I want to share with you a tiny excerpt from the delightful book "Mrs. Miniver".  Such  a sweet, well written book every domestic artisan is bound to enjoy and resonate with...

"It was lovely", thought Mrs. Miniver, nodding good-bye to the flower-woman and carrying her big sheaf of chrysanthemums down the street with a kind of ceremonious joy, as though it were a cornucopia; it was lovely, this settling down again, this tidying away of the summer into its box, this taking up of the thread of one’s life where the holidays (irrelevant interlude) had made one drop it. Not that she didn’t enjoy the holidays: but she always felt — and it was, perhaps, the measure of her peculiar happiness — a little relieved when they were over. Her normal life pleased her so well that she was half afraid to step out of its frame in case one day she should find herself unable to get back. The spell might break, the atmosphere be impossible to recapture.

Yes, summer is three weeks from over.  It is back to our version of "normal life".  For this cottage - it means back to one more year of lessons, lesson planning, and some semblance of routine.  Back to meal planning, careful scheduling, fall wardrobe evaluations, and extra curricular obligations.

Oh, and it means college football. 

I'm pleased.

5 Tips for Beating Fatigue. No, I'd rather call this - Dime Day, in which Sheila Gives Her Two Cents, Five Times...

I am reluctant to call this post "5 Tips for Beating Fatigue".  Why, I don't know.  It sounds too all-knowing, I suppose.  So, this is "dime day".  This is where I give you my "two cents worth" - five thoughts, worth two cents apiece equals a dime.

I've read many articles about overcoming tiredness.  I've read a couple of whole books about dealing successfully with fatigue.  The articles especially sort of sound the same, and I began to wonder if the writers don't have "google syndrome" know, where you google something and then write about it.  Everyone starts to sound like everyone else on the world wide web.

Can't tell you how many times I've figured out that someone just googled something, and then thought they had the tiger by the tail, becoming a Mr. or Mrs. Let Me InformYou....a veritable fount of wisdom.   "The whole context of that  is thus and thus." 

Whole?  Really?  Hoo boy.  I've even seen people google their theology.

"Let's see what "research" I can do on grace..."

There is a hollowness to googled information, or any information merely "looked up" and not lived lacks flesh and is two dimensional....and it doesn't ring true to the discerning ear.  Ask any high school English teacher or any college professor.

So yeah, Mr. or Ms. Google-It.  It may have been a lot of years ago, but I did read the book.  I've invested several months or even years into what I am saying - not sure how long it took you to google it.  Thanks but...I sort of knew most of what you are saying before there was google.  But I appreciate the....tip.

Obviously, there is a place for googling for information.  To be able to google for fuller, deeper resources on your subject is a fantastic time saver.  I love seeing all the books out there on, say, French interior design.  Or Swedish.    And so long as you are not pretending to have done actual research, by all means, google away, and tell me what you found!

That said, I didn't google any of this stuff.  Rather, I have lived it, and am still living it, however imperfectly.  Without further ado, here is your dime's worth!

1.  Drink plenty of water.  You'd be surprised how tired you feel when your body is slightly dehydrated.  Trust me, you can live in a state of mild dehydration, and wonder why you feel so whipped.

2.  Do something happy!  Do something you enjoy - each and every day.  Intersperse your work with small pleasures.  I schedule my happy interludes - right into my day.  My days can be pretty intense, between home schooling a challenging teenager, and ministry, and life in general.  My days can be extremely routine in their intensity.  That is a combination that makes for bone tiredness. 

So, when I make up my "to do list" each day, I write down and schedule in things that please me.  Every single day.  I don't just let it happen, however it happens, whatever it might be...I know exactly the things I want to do this week, and I plan them.   I plan them according to my whims and moods for the week. This is important.  This week, I plan to knit, bake some bread, plant some lettuce, take off to some thrift stores, and readreadreadreadread.  I keep a long list of small things that bring me joy, and when  I am stuck or peevish, I pick from the list and just do it.  This one bit of advice alone is worth ten dollars, not just two cents!

3.  Work.  Believe it or not, (most of you believe me, I know) this is key.  Don't spend the majority of your time doing whatever you feel like doing.  Avoid that sense of mid-life entitlement - or empty nest entitlement.  Or "the kids are finally all in school" entitlement.  Or "I've worked for years, and now I don't have to" entitlement.  There's lots of ways to feel entitled to slack off.   But it won't infuse you with energy. You were created for work - work that glorifies God.  Spend your day accomplishing!  Work and work some more, and work most of the day - and schedule in the things you enjoy around the edges and little breaks in your day.  Keep the big picture in your mind as you work - know that what you do in your work fits in with your dearest ideals and objectives.  Tiredness is not your enemy...mind numbing boredom is.

4.  Push through.  I am befuddled at the women who simply stop when they feel tired.  You have reserves of energy you have not begun to tap, if you normally stop when you feel tired.  If you push through the tiredness and keep working, the vast majority of the time you will catch a second wind.

And did you know you have a third, fourth, and even sometimes fifth wind waiting to be called upon?  Unless you are  sick or extremely sleep deprived, you  have energy reserves that are begging to be tapped.  Your human body has energy rythms that rise, peak, and drop off...only to rise, peak, and drop off again...and again...all in one day's time.  Next time you feel tired, try pushing through it.  You'd be surprised how conditioned we are to take breaks when we are weary! 

You can rest tonight.  And we can all rest when we're dead.

5.  B-complex vitamins.  Liquid form only, taken sublingually.  Wal-Mart sells a brand that runs about $6 or $7 dollars (versus twenty-something for other brands in health food stores) and it is the same thing as the very expensive liquid B's.  Works for me, anyway.

Well, I want to tell you to get sunlight, and to repair your strained relationships, deal with your emotional issues, and address your thought life...but I've limited myself to a dime.  Next time, it'll be "dollar day", okay?

Of Writing and Socks...or Scarves

Knitting is very conducive to thought. It is nice to knit a while, put down the needles, write a while, then take up the sock again.
~Dorothy Day

Binding off a scarf I finished knitting this evening...
 Because of my Word for this year 2010.

How are you daily manifesting the presence of The Creator in your life?  

Product Reviews

I tried Crystal Light's lemonade this week, finally.  (I know - everyone but me has tried this product!)  I usually make my own home made lemonade, but decided to try the "Simply" brand ("Simply Orange" and "Simply Lemonade") and the Minute Maid brand, and then lastly, grudgingly tried Crystal Light.  Surprisingly Crystal Light is the best, next to home made.  And if you put some lemon slices in the pitcher, you get really close to home made goodness - and it is sugar free!

This book is fantastic.  Really.  Get it.  Entitled The Gentle Art of Domesticity, by Jane Brocket, this book is just wonderful.  Inspiring.  Simple, and all about the simple things in life.  Her color aesthetic is outstanding, although I could not decorate with the bright hues that Jane does, she really has an eye.  Oh - and her writing is superb.  Finally, a very well written, entertaining tome about All Things Domestic.  Move over, Martha.  Jane writes it better.  And does it herself.

 The Minky brand of retractable clothes line.  We finally put in a new one awhile back, and this thing is the best.  It stretches out a long way - mine is placed right between two trees in my back yard, anchored to first one, then the other, instead of those ugly clothes line poles.  Two trees with the clothes line between them is far, far more pleasing to my eye.  I leave mine up, but it can easily be taken down, and since it is between the trees, no one would ever know it was there.

 Be sure to wrap this end around the cleat at the bottom.  Otherwise, your line will sink, and you won't know why.

Then, anchor it in a tree, up to 40 or 50-some-odd feet away.
I could add another one, anchored to a branch behind this one, and have two going, but since I don't line dry absolutely everything (just most things, these days) this one does just fine.

This is sweet livin'.  There's that antique blue ticking table cloth of mine.  My beloved and best friend (one in the same) spilled a bit of Chardonnay on it last night.  I could have pierced him through, with my laser "angry eyes" on the spot.  But instead, I lept to my feet, found the spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide and some Shout, and treated the stain.  It came right out.

As I was putting the tablecloth in the washing machine, my beloved and best friend said dryly, "You forgot to yell at it."

(You know..."Want a tough stain out?  Shout it out.")

Such a funny guy.

Have a blessed weekend, friends.  God is good, all the time.

August's End...

Here we are, the last week of August. Can you believe...?

It has been a hot, hot month here in east Tennessee, with 90+ degree temps almost the entire time, with heat indexes in the triple digits.  Not exactly the sort of weather my garden and pots thrive on, but I have managed to keep everything alive, except a couple of stray, smallish pots of red petunias.  (And by the just didn't do it for me this year.  I thought it would, but it didn't.  That's what I get for departing from my signature white and yellow!  Red is good for accent, but not for the main display...)

Hummingbirds are everywhere, now, hovering all around the cottage, sipping from the feeders, the Zinnia Garden, from the crepe myrtles, those bleh red petunias that haven't expired yet - see previous paragraph - and the butterfly bush.  Oh, how I love me some hummers.

Funny thing, life is.  I usually am in a hurry to see August go.  September is my favorite month of the whole year, and August has, in the past, been my least favorite.  But this year...I'm a bit peevish about saying goodbye to sweet August, heat index notwithstanding.  I've grown partial to those languid Southern summer afternoons, I think.

Note to self:  plant massive drifts of Rudbeckia next year.  Go whole hog.  It weathers the heat beautifully, looks outstanding and so "cottage-y", and is a can't-miss.  Five drifts of it this year were not enough.  I think it needs to be my "repeater" - the element of the garden that repeats itself, unifying the whole scheme.

So much to tell you about, gentle reader!  I want you to hear about how easy it is to make artisan bread at home.  I want to tell you all about the best fashion blog - one that unashamedly is pro-modesty.  I for one am so tired of seeing women, old and young, dressed skimpily.  No woman ever, evvvvver gets dressed by "accident".  It is always on purpose.  So.  What are we saying, girls, when our shorts are cut "up to there" and our shirts "down to there" and everything is tight and revealing?

Does pretty equal revealing?  Or is revealing just...well, revealing?  A girl with a great personality doesn't need nudity to get by.

Just sayin'.

If I could sit down with the teenage girl or the woman who is dressed inappropriately, and really speak my mind, I'd say something like this: "Methinks thou hast unresolved sexual issues, darlin'.  How about getting before the Lord and resolving them?  Hmmm?  For the sake of love for the Father, and respect for the body of Christ?"


What else was it I want to tell you about?  Whew - that rant sidetracked me, butt good.  (Am I the only one who loves a great pun?)

Oh - more about living a hand-made sort of life.  I tire easily these days of anything deliberately impressive or deliberately charming.  I hunger for authentically inviting...real warmth of soul and surroundings.

Seems like everything I am trying to say wants to turn into a rant of sorts - I think "that time of August" is upon me.  Estrogen devils running amok in my brain.  Or its the homeschooling.  Yeah.  Might be that.

And it is only week one.  God help me, and give me dark chocolate.

What is your imaginary idea of the perfect girlfriend?  I have about a zillion best friends (actually only four or five) who are my "best", each one for a different reason.

Oh, and shoot me on the spot if I ever utter or type the word "bestie".  Gah.

Nevermind, there I go again.  I need my appointment with female hormone reset to hurry up and get here, before I kill someone for having bad breath.

Anyhoo, like a beautiful collage, when I take what I love best about each best friend, and paste it all together, I have the perfect girlfriend.  Which means, I already have "her"...she just exists in several bodies.

But she would give me dark chocolate right now.  And say exquisitely ponderful things (yes, ponderful with a "p"), and funny things, and she'd dose me with a beautiful Merlot.  She'd inspire me to love myself more, and take all the crap with a grain of salt.

Ew.  That last metaphor, I'm not sure about.  I spit it off the top of my head, which is another metaphor I find disturbing.

Dear reader, I need to go to bed.  Thank you, from my heart's bottom, for stopping by.

Vulgarity-not what it used to be

Today, when we hear the term "vulgar", we think of horrible language - swearing and the like.  At one time, the more common definition of vulgar was this ~

•common: of or associated with the great masses of people;
•common: being or characteristic of or appropriate to everyday language

So.  We see that vulgar also means simply common.  A bit uneducated, rough around the edges and unsophisticated.  (yes, I know that is an incomplete sentence.  I know.  It bugs me too, but since I know the rules, I can break them.)

Sort of like the Greek language in which the Scriptures were written - God made sure His very word was written in common vernacular.  "Vulgar" Greek. 

Only the religious object to the "vulgar" in that sense.  Even today, it is only.  the. religious. 

Religious high brows would never think of raising their voices or truly doing community with common people.  No, they exist to help and benefit the common man.  Self aware magnanimity, which is no real largeness of soul at all.

I ran across a quote today by Dorothy Sayers - somewhat of a heroine of mine.  She was an incredibly astute thinker.  In this particular piece, she was writing about the Latin language, and the way it ceased to "morph" and adapt to changing times, and thus became what some mistakenly consider a "dead language".

But the quote - Sayer's line of thinking - makes me consider other than just the Latin language.  Here is the quote:

"Contamination" and "barbarism" are one set of names for (the fact that language adapts to vernacular and even slang):  another name is "vitality".  Everything  which is alive tends to break out into vulgarity at times.  Only the dead and embalmed can preserve forever their changeless marmoreal dignity."

Know what else this makes me think of?  (My mind is forever at the mercy of its associations.  But that is okay - Robert Frost considered this an indication of keen creative intelligence...)

"The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children."

Very God laid aside His Great Glory...and "broke out into vulgarity" to become a man.  Alive...He is alive!

Last Year of Home School

And so this is it.  A career that began with my daughters, almost 20 years ago, ends this May, upon the graduation of my youngest son.  All my children have only, ever, been home educated.  From kindergarten through graduation, all the reading, writing, and math skills have been learned at home.

This is my very last year as a full time home educator.  We start this week - Isaac and I - with a review of basic Geometry and Algebra II, along with a DVD teaching series by John Bevere for Bible class, and some light essay writing...just to get going.  Then, we'll launch into anatomy and physiology, and we'll get his 1/2 credit of economics in by Christmas.

I am doing one thing slightly different this year:  I am journaling from my perspective as a parent-educator about how wonderful this experience can be.  I'm free-writing, stream of consciousness style, digging deep into my heart of hearts, and putting down in writing what the school year would look like, what the semester would look like, what the week would look like, what the day would look like, if I could design it any way I budget, no restraints, no issues.  I'm pretending like I have zero baggage, no lack of resources, and an amazing grace overshadowing this whole endeavor.

Then, after I'm done imagining it...I'm going to live it.  I'm wondering just how big my God can be.

Here's a bit of visual inspiration for my fellow home educators (a stalwart lot, we are!)...we've outgrown this idea somewhat here at my house, but I will be taking this idea and tweaking it for myself soon!

I'm so glad I didn't quit home schooling when it stopped being cute and gratifying.  You your kids get older, they outgrow the "learning centers" and the lovely nature tables get replaced with desktop computers and bulky textbooks, and it all gets a bit grueling and...not cute.  When the kids get a little mouthy and aren't overwhelmed with gratitude at your sacrifice in staying home to drill them in their theorems and Latin declensions.  When science isn't as simple as a nature walk and a field guide.  When you aren't so impressed with yourself as teacher anymore, and the enthusiasm seems to be waning and government or some sort of institutional education looks so inviting. 

When someone becomes prodigal, graduates from your home school full of potential, but doesn't go on to college - and in fact takes all those hours of music lessons and leadership training, and begins to play in bars all over your city.  Even then.  Even then, I am so glad we didn't give up.

I don't know how this year will turn out.  This is a communication from the uncertainty of the front lines, not some safe observation from hindsight.

But, come what may, I am already glad I didn't quit.

This is it.  It all comes down to this year.  You won't waste a prayer on the Atchley family, gentle reader!

Starting Here at Home

...this isn't my home, but it is my dream, I don't dream of big houses, tho' I could dream anything I want to ...I've always loved small. Small is the new big, ya' me. (Unless you have a vision to truly have a Hospitality House - something akin to a retreat center for family and friends, thus your large spaces are graciously and regularly shared with others! ) Homes that are too big for their true purposes, a.k.a. McMansions, are now passe - post with recent quotes from top architects and interior designers forthcoming! Top designer advice? "Think outside the granite box" when it comes to surfaces. In short, pretentious consumption is not the atmosphere you want to go for, if you are blessed with any sort of home building or home improvement project. Instead, think "hand made living", think kinship and earthy and light and airy and simple. And can dream of "small".

And above all, big or small, let the spirit of your home be one of shared community, an atmosphere of grace that celebrates the perfectly imperfect!

Accompany me today, O Spirit invisible, in all my goings, but stay with me also when I am in my own home and among my kindred. Forbid that I should fail to show to those nearest to me the sympathy and consideration which Thy grace enables me to show to others with whom I have to do. Forbid that I should refuse to my own household the courtesy and politeness which I think proper to show to strangers.

Let charity today begin at home.

Have a Faith, Friends, and Family-Filled Weekend!

May this be a metaphor for your weekend...(a proverbial bowl of cherries!)

Make plans, make friends, make love, make cookies...your weekend can be this beautiful!  It isn't too late to "make" it happen!  Be sure to share the blessing of kinship, the surprise of grace and glory, the comfort of community.

"Make" it a good weekend, gentle reader.  I pray God's best and brightest for you and yours!

The Friendships of Women

I can't resist sharing this with you - written by Ann Voskamp.  You'll find this both at her blog A Holy Experience, and over at In Courage.

I feel so blessed to have faithful girlfriends in my life - and I know of few greater goals than to be a faithful friend, who values and lives continuity.



When Lissa Turscott slid down her bus window and whipped that baseball hard, I felt the thud in my back and the smash of my heart and I hunched over to catch the pieces all shattering.

I heard her friends all slapping her on the back in congratulations as the bus moaned away.

Some bruises break the vessels skin deep and others just break souls and Lissa and Judith and Alexa and all the girls with the teased bangs, they were the ones sashaying to the latest Madonna songs and I was the mocked girl wearing polyester pants from the Sally Ann.

I’ve been rejected and I’ve skirted wide circles around women and maybe you know something about wide berths and big circles?

The skittish circles you make at church teas around the buffet table looking for another cracker and hoping no one makes eye contact?

The way you carry a book to the kids’ swimming lessons like a piece of armour so no one gets close enough to trample on your still bruised heart?

The imaginary and very real boundaries you draw around your life like a barbed wire fence?

And when you’ve been hurt, you’re making sure that won’t be happening any time soon and you keep this wary distance from anywhere where you’d have to show the bare underbelly of your tender heart. But no one tells you that the shields you carry to keep you safe, become the the steel cages that keep you alone.

And then sometimes along comes someone who lays a hand on your shield, who sticks her hand through the bars of your protective cage... and quietly waits. And for you.

She’s a woman like Tonia who every day sends me lines of her thoughts. I get brave and send back mine. For five years, we write letters and exchange bits of our lives. I begin to trust the places with no shields. And I begin to see the beauty of women and the way their words have movement and action and meaning and you can always trust what moves, what reaches out, trust the words that migrate down to the muscle and touches skin.

She’s a woman like Marlene who shows up unexpected in the middle of some crazy morning with a bouquet of yellow roses in hand and she says she believes in me and God and whatever is to come and she prays before she leaves. I dry her roses and this is what I will preserve, a friendship that gives like this because there’s no currency in the world that can buy you this and this is the only treasure worth storing up, love.

She’s a woman like Megan and I open a note from her and I laugh wonder when I find this picture of her holding a square of cardboard scrawled with the words, “Run the Race, friend!” and another picture too, her holding the back side of the cardboard and the words, “You can do it!”

And we can. We can do it.

We can believe that God alone is our security and love is always worth the risk and there is no better investment than reaching out to someone and locking arms and unlocking your heart. No better investment than finding the time for friendship and the courage to be real and the humility to say we’re sorry. And distrust can cost us the very richest life of all and the price for being safe can be too expensive and friendship is the only thing that will show up at our funerals.

We can do life together and we can laugh about babies who pee on Sunday skirts and boys who lose piano books and daughters who try on seven outfits before deciding on anything and their bedroom floor is proof of it, and we can drive each other to doctor appointments and bring soup when the flu season hits and we can see something on a shelf that whispered the other’s name and we can wrap it up and give it on any day at all for no reason at all but to celebrate a kindred sister.

And we can hold each other’s fragility and we can forgive each other when we crack an artery, and our hearts will break, and we can pray and grant grace and begin again because we've tasted mercy and His name is Jesus.

I am learning to reach out my hand.

And long after Lissa Turscott, on one fine spring day in the summer of my life, I meet a woman, a woman who loves women, a woman who helped build a certain cyber beach house I know, and she drives me up and down and around the winding backroads of Arkansas and I ramble all awkward and thick tongued in her passenger seat and I wish for the luxury of a wall somewhere just to be a flower.

We share a no-fat sticky bun together on a Monday morning with a glass of orange juice and we don't believe for a New York minute that that sticky sweet won't find our hips. We laugh. I meet her friends. They are wondrous. My mouth feels dry. She drives me to the airport. And when I am back home on the farm, she writes me a letter, and I keep it.

“You have been hurt by women. I could see the pain in your eyes… And I've never done this before but... I feel prompted to make you a promise of friendship."

"I promise I will never speak an unkind word to or about you. I will never be jealous of you. I will never compete with you. I will never abandon or betray you. I will love you. I will pray for you. I will do all I can to help you go far and wide in the Kingdom.

I will accept you as you are, always. I will be loyal to you. Before our loving God of grace, you have my words and my heart in friendship for this life and forever with Him.”

And our God is a love body and He hates amputations and He sutures our wounds together with the silver threads of community. And I have found healing here. Trust asks us to live (in) Courage.

In this place, we kneel down beside you. In this place, we reach out our hands. In this place, can you hear us whisper? “You have been hurt. We can see the pain in your eyes —- We offer you a promise of friendship.”

In the places of sisters and sinners and souls made saints, we make big circles around women and together we watch each other's backs and together we bend down when one hunches over in pain and together we pick up the shards of the hearts all shattered.

Because this is the promise of friendship that the true sisterhood always makes good on.This we can do.

And by God's good grace, we will.

By Ann Voskamp,

When You Are A Hammer...

...everyone else looks like a nail.

This past year, due to several situations I had run up against, not the least of which is my relationship with my boys, I began to read all I can, from a Biblical worldview, about dealing with difficult people.

First of all, allow me to say this:  we are all dysfunctional.  Every single one of us.  We were born in sin, born wrong, and we will be growing and struggling out of that wrong-ness until  heaven...until we "know as we are known".  We all see through a glass darkly.

The difference between a normal level of dysfunction, and a toxic level of dysfunction, however, is the acknowledgement of dysfunction's existence.  Some people just won't own up to their stuff.

Those of us who know we can be whack jobs have the unfortunate experience of having to work through dealing with those who insist they are far too __________ (fill in the blank with "educated" or "spiritual" or "affluent" or "happy") to be a whack job. Or, we have the unfortunate experience of dealing with those who insist it is our fault they are a whack job - or, richer still, the difficult person insists they are the normal one, and you are the whack job.  And they can be very convincing.

It is confusing, because dysfunctional, difficult people can be so likable and seemingly functional with everyone else but the people they torment.  (Which, by the way, is the textbook definition of dysfunctional...when a person does not function normally in many of their significant relationships, or does not function normally for very long - for example, they make it one to five years in a new friendship, but cannot be consistent beyond that set point.)

One symptom of a dysfunctional person is when you notice that, over time, everyone in their life has an issue with the truth.  Their father is a liar.  Their brother is a liar.  Their daughter is a liar.  Their boss twists the truth.  Their girlfriend is a manipulator.  Old friends lie about them.  Everyone manipulates.  Everyone lies.

Everyone looks like a nail, when you are the hammer.

Be assured that the person with the lying issue is the one pointing the finger.  And don't even bother confronting them unless you are very, very vested in the relationship, and are willing to be mistreated, because another symptom of a dysfunctional person is they don't change their mind.  Talking does nothing for them, long term.  Talking only brings about short term relief...after a matter of hours or days, the dysfunctional person just resets to the old thought patterns.

There's more symptoms - very eye opening.  I'll share them in another blog post.  But for now, if you are dealing with a difficult, manipulative, controlling person, you aren't crazy.  And there is help, just not necessarily what you think help looks like.

Hang in there.  Relationships, healthy ones, are so worth it!

Ladies Only

Friends, life is too short to wear painful underwear.  Or ugly underwear.  Life is just too preciously short. 

Invest in yourself this week.  My latest two Ultimate Truths are to "never wear a wire again", and to "have a set of undies for exercise, and a set that is prettier, but still incredibly comfortable, for every day".  Who says I can't change from utilitarian to cute, every single day, after exercise?  Or five times a day, if I have to?

 Honestly, I have noooooooooooo idea why that has not occurred to me before.  I can think outside the box everywhere else but my dresser drawer, apparently.  That drawer was totally divided between ugly-but-comfortable-for-exercise, and pretty but never-wear-it-because-it-is-just-too-painful.

Guess what I ended up in, every day.  Utterly depressing.  Does nothing for a girl's self esteem.  On top of that, wires were never meant to be close to a woman's body.  Period. 

Enter the boy short.  Trimmed in lace, this becomes the perfect marriage of cute and comfy.  No more sinister know...the kind that creep up on you from behind and inflict distress.  Pair these with the "no more wire" policy, and you'll have yourself  a personal renewal that is darn near spiritual.

Seriously do go through your drawers and get rid of everything that is uncomfortable, or does not feel pretty to you.  You are that important.

An Overdue Thank You - and blog recommendation

I owe my friend Lydia Joy Shatney a looooooong overdue thank you!  She sent me the best little booklet, a handy shopping guide by the Weston Price Foundation.  It is a guide to finding the healthiest foods in grocery stores, health food markets, and online.  Love it!

Thanks, Lyds.

Again, (I've mentioned her before) I also want to commend to you her blog, "Divine Health From the Inside Out".

If you are on a gluten free diet, if you are interested in whole food eating, healthy eating, the truth about fat in your diet, taking control and responsibility for your family's diet, you will love this blog, I think.  It is worth checking out, for the salad dressing recipes alone - I am also going to make her Asian lettuce wraps.

I've shared my story here before.  My health journey has taken me to extremes of low fat cooking, whole foods cooking, low carb, etc. etc.  I made myself (and sometimes my family) anxious over food.  When I stopped all food "rules", my health and well being flourished.

Lesson learned.  My health comes from the Lord.

Now, here is where I am in this journey:  after about ten years of no food rules whatsoever - maintaining a healthy weight without examining my food, just using portion control - I am once again open to the idea of "let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food".

A woman's body changes in her forties - no question about that.  I am discovering that a healthy diet makes me feel much better, physically.  No longer is it about food rules, no longer is it based on anxiety over my weight or my health.  I'm just interested in consistent energy levels, and I am interested in beating or containing my health issues such as hypothyroid, and sore joints, and foggy thinking.

This time, in this season of my life, coming out of rules and into freedom - examining what I eat, and how I eat it, is fun!  It is pure pleasure to take good, nourishing care of myself, so that I can nurture the other women and children in my life, and be a passionate wife.  (Passion is so much more than the bedroom - though it is all that!  Passion has even more to do with that "vital optimism", a sense of humor, and the ability to take joy.)

I have, for years and years, been fascinated by the fact that we are triune beings, spirit, mind, and body.  All three have to be fed or "renewed", regularly.  I do have to say, it is as important, if not far far more important, to address healthy thinking as it is to address healthy eating.  I also have to say - it is all about grace.  Grace touches every area of a woman's life.  It feeds her spirit, it renews her mind, and removes all fear that wreaks havoc with her body.

I think the Lord is just so abundant and fresh and I think He is health personified.  I love to just breathe Him in.  I love all He has made - flowers and puppies and healthy, healthy food.  When we eat His stuff, as close to the way He made it as we can, I think we do well.

I'll be turning often to Lydia's blog for inspiration.

"Vital Optimism"

This is just a point, taken from the teaching I did at the Master Builder's International Conference last week. 

Been contemplating the reality of  jaded Christians...oh, for about the past year or so.  Many, many start well, but don't continue well.  They don't leave the faith necessarily, they don't even visibly "backslide".  They simply become critical, unloving, and (deep down) unbelieving.

Maybe they get tired.  Most have been hurt and disappointed by life and by the church.

Well, join the flippin' club.  You heard me right.  Sorry if you were expecting sympathy, but you aren't getting it.  You don't need sympathy, you need someone to shake you out of your self awareness.

Anyone who has been in ministry - lay or otherwise - for longer than 5 years has seen some sordid stuff.  They have bumped into the weaknesses of others, even (gasp!) their spiritual leaders. They have had prayers seemingly unanswered.  They have been disappointed.

If you have served God for 20 years or more, I mean really served God, which means serving others faithfully either on the mission field, or in a local church, you have lived 3 lifetimes compared to the pew-warmer or the non-church-goer.  You've come up against the worst in human nature, often by just looking in the mirror.

I don't care what you've encountered or who has hurt you or what your family history is, you have not been through more than the apostle Paul, and he managed to remain fresh and free and unjaded for his entire life.  How?  I think partly because he made it his conscious goal.  Read I Timothy 1:5 with me:

Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,  from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to vain discussions,  desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.

What is the goal?

1.  Love from a sincere heart
2.  a good conscience
3.  an unfaked faith

I want to focus on number 2.  The Greek application of a "good" conscience in this exact, particular verse actually means a "happy, pleasant, joyful, agreeable" conscious awareness.

A pleasant outlook.  I think it would be well called a "vital optimism".

Lord knows, the love from a sincere heart and an unfaked faith would preach for fifty years, but for now, I want that vital optimism.  The only way to have it is to believe the gospel.  Any other functional belief system, especially one built on law and self effort, will wear thin after a few years, and you will become jaded and cynical.

(I call it "functional belief system" because there is what we SAY we believe, and then there is how we actually function in our day to day life...)

Two things the gospel addresses - two functional (and false) beliefs:

1.  I must do well.
2.  Others must do well.

Grace reveals both of these false foundations to be the shifting sands they truly are.  As soon as the winds and storms come and beat upon these false beliefs, you will experience chaos in your soul.

No, you must not do well.  You must believe in the substitutional sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  He did well on your behalf.

No, others must not do well.  You must love others.  Faithfully.  With some degree of continuity.  The only "onus" is on you.  The only one you are ultimately responsible for is you.  What is your responsibility?  Love God, love others. 

Oddly...amazingly..."slap-your-forehead" epiphany - when you love God and love others, you will do well.

To subscribe to those two false yet alluring beliefs (I must do well - others must do well) is to live in a self imposed, artificial holiness, "not understanding what you say, nor the things you affirm".  You will ultimately lose your vital optimism.  You will become a jaded woman, unable to change your mind.  Oh, you will still be able to gather followers, and you just might fake it till the day you go be with Jesus.

More power to you.

But, if you don't mind, I am going to follow Paul's example, not yours.  My top three goals are to love sincerely, to keep that fresh, happy conscious awareness, and to walk every day in unfaked faith in a supernatural God.

Who is with me?

Blackberry-Orange Iced Cream

...not "ice cream"'s iced cream.  So, so good.  This is an easy recipe, very hospitality-friendly.  By that, I mean that you put just enough love into it...more effort and time than running out to the store for an angel food cake and berries - less hands-on time than it takes to make, say, a from-scratch, home made pie. Guests like it when there is just enough love put into something to make them know they are special, but not so much as to make them feel like you are trying too hard to impress them.

take 2 cups of fresh blackberries, 1/4 cup of orange juice and 1/4 cup orange marmalade, along with 2 TB sugar.  Combine in a heavy saucepan...

...and bring it to a boil.  Boil it for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Then let it cool completely.  In a large bowl (I use my Kitchenaid mixer), beat 2 cups of heavy whipping cream into soft peaks.  Add 1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar.  Fold in the berry mixture, and chill until time to serve.  I freeze this in a container, and then bring it out to soften a little before serving. 

Very, very fresh, creamy taste.  Not overly sweet whatsoever.  Yum!

In Which Sheila Chats About Medical Science and the Gospel

The jury is in.  We have proof that "as a woman thinks in her heart, so is she".  Medical science has verified what the Bible has always told us about the heart being the seat of choice, imagination, and emotion.

And every emotion releases its own chemical into the bloodstream, for health or for harm.  There is not a thought you can think that does not carry with it an effect on your body.

It is no mystery where migraines and fibromyalgia and back pain comes from.  First the cause, then the effect.  We are literally making ourselves sick, bathing ourselves at a cellular level in negativity, criticism, and depression.  The chemicals released correspond to the emotion.  The emotion corresponds to the thought.

I take it a step further and deeper.  I say:  your every thought is conceived from a basis of what you believe about God.

Bottom line.

After spending hours reading over the groundbreaking work of neuroscientist Candace Pert, and digesting the research of Dr. Caroline Leaf, I am jumping up and down in a frenzy of cross-application.

The poet Robert Frost said that intelligence is a feat of association.  God has wired my brain to make connections across seemingly incongruous ideas.  I can get revelation into the ekklesia when I read about sea turtles.  This ability to connect is both a blessing and a curse.  It sometimes makes me darn near inscrutable when I try to explain where I am coming from.

Friends, you are so what you think about.  You aren't merely becoming what you choose to focus on, you already are.  You already are who you are going to be.  The only answer for every woman is to repent - changing our mind should be a way of life.

The only hope for change in the life, is a change in the mind.

I'll say it again:  Lady - change your mind!

You better be stuffing the good news of the gospel into your brain, beginning day before yesterday!  You better be about the full time business of renewing your mind, else you become a jaded, cynical woman who cannot change her mind to (literally) save her life.

No wonder the devil gets upset when grace is fully and purely preached.  What we believe about God is either the truth that sets us free, or clever lies, posing as truth...lies that imprison us.

Scientists have isolated and named the one thing all negativity springs from:  fear.  God has always known this.  He said, "She who fears has not been made mature in love." 

Oh, how He loves us!  How He loves us, oh!  He surrounds us, and He is love and grace and mercy.  He requires nothing from us that He has not first provided for us in Jesus Christ.

If you struggle with the  doctrines of grace, you struggle at the core.  My heart breaks for you.  When, when will you tire of the veil that shrouds your spiritual understanding?  When, when will you properly diagnose your relational dysfunction, your physical disease, your utter weariness of soul?  When, when will you be honest?

See, your brain is "always watching you".  Your brain knows what you actually think and believe.  Sounds a lot like the Bible when it says, "No man knows the thoughts of a man, save the spirit of man that is in him..."

Whenever your life is at cross purposes with what you truly think, whenever you invent your own version of events, every time you pretend, the heart knows.  Go on and spend the rest of your life justifying it or covering it up - it will come out in another form, usually pain in your body.  The only remedy is to wash your mind clean with the Word - making what you think line up with the only sure plumb line in the universe:  God's thoughts.

They are not your thoughts.  You have to get outside yourself to think a God-thought.  Your first reaction is usually not a God-thought.  Your opinion is usually not a God-thought.  Your finest effort on your finest day is not His way.  The heart knows, each and every time you fall short of the glory of God.

Medical science proves that we must be washed, day in and day out, Sunday in and Sunday out, with good news.  Dendrites don't form strong and true any other way.  A topical sermon here and there, brushing up against the gospel but rarely grasping it and examining it at life-long-lengths is not enough to form even the physical connections across synapses, much less a transformed soul.

It's why you are okay one day, and not okay the next.  It is why you hurt.  You haven't lingered over what is true, lovely, and of good news to you.

The jury is in.  You must understand how very much you are loved.  It will be health to your bones.


" will do well to send them on their way well cared for, as is right for servants of God:For they went out for love of the Name...So it is right for us to take in such men as guests, so that we may take our part in the work of the true faith."
(III John 1:6,7,8)

We've had overnight guests for the last several days.  Joe and Yvonne Ewen from Scotland, along with Ted Lyke from south Florida, and others who have drifted in and out for meals and fellowship.  My daughter Sarah and her husband have hosted several guests overnight at their home all this week.

One translation of the above Scripture says of hospitality to a guest is to "bring them forward after a Godly sort..."

Just bring them forward.  For a few brief hours or days, spirit touches spirit, life touches life, and all are blessed, our guest is "brought forward after a Godly sort", and sent on their way feeling loved and cared for.

Hospitality is taking part in the work of true faith.  Tim and I, as hosts, become part of every sinner brought closer to Christ, every saint who is encouraged and edified, we are considered by God to be a significant part of each and every bit of it.

There were ten around my dinner table tonight.  That's not unusual.  It is lots of work, but the rewards are absolutely out of proportion to the labor.  Huge reward.

Late last night, maybe even the wee hours of the morning, I was aware of the presence of God as I was falling asleep.  It hit me, as I lay there, that every bedroom in our home was full, two in each one, plus a dear friend who was sleeping on the couch.  All these precious people, slumbering peacefully and safely under our roof, under our watch.  Everything was still and quiet, but for the sound of the cicadas and the faint relaxing sound of the waterfall that pours into our pond outside.  I was so, so tired from all the activity of the day, but it was "the good kind of tired", and falling asleep with the house full-to-bursting was the best part.

Tonight will be much the same.  I'm not sure if the couch will be occupied or not, but if it is, the more the merrier.  Same thing on Saturday night. By the time Monday rolls around, I might be ready to rest "for a wee bit" (as my Scottish guests would say!)

Oh, how I love church life. 

Dear friend, Mike Giordano from southern California, sharing the Word with us (off his i-pod...Mike is ever the cutting edge kind of guy!)

Mike and young Matt-the-artist (standing), fellowshipping with Joe and Yvonne (sitting)

Praying didn't dismiss last night until 11:30 pm!!!

big fish, caught this afternoon, fried and grilled and eaten just now!

Happy men - Ted (giving the "thumbs up, Imahappyguy" sign), my Tim, Ron, and Joe

these are just the ones they brought back to filet and eat for dinner.  All in all, they caught 21 fish today!

So.  Who wants to come stay with us next?


One Year Celebration!

One year ago this week, I felt a migraine headache coming on.  Overwhelming things were happening in my personal life, on top of a Master Builder's National Conference we were expected to attend, and so it was with no surprise that I had the familiar symptoms.  I braced myself, and mentioned it to my husband.

There were no angels singing, no scrolls dropping from heaven, and unfurling themselves revealing the words, "BE HEALED".  There wasn't a single goose bump.

My husband simply laid his hand on me, right there in our master bathroom, and prayed a very simple prayer.  It took twenty seconds.

All I felt, was a lingering warmth on the back of my head.  Honestly, I chalked it up to the fact that his hand was on top of my head.  Maybe I was "feeling" the warmth of his hand, just in a different place?

But I did take note of that sense of warmth.  And I waited.  The migraine never came.

Not only that, but friends, from that day to this, one year later, I have not had one single migraine headache.  I had been getting them every month or so for over a year by then.

Not.  One.  Headache.  From the first week of August, 2009, to this day.

It was such a testimony to me, one year ago this week.  I will never, ever stop proclaiming that my God is a God of all Grace, and that He is a supernatural God, who is still in the healing business.  My prayer and cry of my heart is that I never become critical and jaded and unbelieving.

Do I believe this means I will never, ever have another migraine?  Here is what I do believe:  I have gone for one full year, with barely even a tension headache, while enduring some of the keenest testing in my whole life.  I have walked in a peace that passes understanding, from one year ago to this moment as I type.  That's it.  That's what I know. 

I know that healing touch was also a sign, for that season, to Tim and I regarding some very personal things we were going through at the time - God loved us and approved of our labors in the gospel.  He was, and is, on our side always.

Anniversaries of the spirit...they can be powerful things.  Here I am, at this year's Master Builder's National Conference, preparing to speak tomorrow, enjoying the fellowship of faithful relationship, savoring my friends and family, entering the best season of my life so far...

...encompassed by songs of deliverance.  I will never trade a lift hid with Christ in God for a life of playing church in my own strength.

My own strength and performance can't heal migraines.  But Christ can.

...and I Quote

Such is beauty ever ~ neither here nor there, now nor then, neither in Rome nor in Athens, but wherever there is a soul to admire. If I seek her elsewhere because I do not find her at home, my search will prove a fruitless one."

~Henry David Thoreau

Beauty at home.  Your home-home, your home church, your home town.  If you can't see it there (and it is there....oh, it is there!), then you simply do not have eyes to see.

Pray for the eyes to see.

"They Are What They Contain..."

Here is one thing I know for sure:  you can have an amazing house, and it not be a home.  A home is far more than an architectural style, far more than its materials, or even its location.  A home is the very essence of the people who live there...if the husband and wife truly love each other, there is a winsomeness and a peace in that home.

(from the blog "Pink and Polka Dot" - a fantastic resource for all things slipcover and DIY...)