Preserving the Harvest - Drying Tomatoes

Put some parchment paper on the bottom of a rimmed cookie sheet. Slice your tomatoes, about a half inch slices. Spread them in one layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt, some fresh ground pepper, and add some basil from the garden. (Basil not necessary, but it sure looks pretty and tastes amazing...)

Set your oven to a low temp...I did these tomatoes at 200 degrees.

200 degrees for "up to" twelve hours. It is the "up to" that will get you, if you aren't careful. This particular day, the humidity was very, very low for my area for this time of year. So this batch of tomatoes only took about three hours! But it can take up to twelve.

All the moisture will dry out, and the tomatoes will shrink and darken. By the time they are done, they will be akin to tomato "chips"...almost crispy. Their flavor is intense, but delicious. You want them to be quite dry, but not burnt. They should peel off the parchment paper pretty easily.

Store these dried tomatoes in a freezer bag, and put them in your freezer. They are great for pizza, for homemade herb breads like foccacia, and soups. They retain their intense flavor and all their vitamins for about six months.

And now, for your viewing delight, I toss in yet another totally unrelated, cute grandson picture:

Be. Still. My. Heart.


Most of you know - I am all about words. I decorate my home and I garnish my inner world with the best of them.

And now...I decorate myself and others with words!

This is my demo - my very first bracelet. Hannah has already claimed it as her own, and she says she'd buy more. I trust her fashion sixth sense. If Hannah loves it, others will too.

I will be designing different widths of bracelets, different words, different colorways, some with embellishment, some not.

This very first demo is a hand sewn bracelet, with antiqued metal closures on the other side (OOPS! I'll get a picture of the pretty clasp, when I put one like this up in my shop. When I finally get my shop up and running, that is.) The "Grace" bracelet is hand embroidered (by me) on burlap (burlap won't fray, because of the special sewing treatment I gave it) , and the embroidered burlap is attached securely to the fabric bracelet. The fabric for this bracelet is in a mustard yellow/teal blue colorway.

More ideas and designs are on the way....even a few collections are in the works - a "Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter" collection of four, a Christmas holiday collection, a Good Word collection(based on a Scripture), a French collection, a Romantic collection, perfect for Valentines, and a colorway collection.

I am having such fun designing and creating these. I'll let you know when I have hand- sewn enough of these bracelets (and other things!) to put up a little online shop. I already own the domain I've chosen - I just wish very much that I had the computer skills to design a nice, marketable website...if anyone knows of a web designer who charges reasonable prices, do let me know!

Prodigals, and Mothers Who Love Them

My name is Sheila Atchley, and I am the mother of a wanna-be Prodigal.

I call him a "wanna be", because he isn't quite the full blown Prodigal...he's tried to play the part, and that hurt me deep enough, and hurts me still, God knows. But I've always taught others that a Prodigal isn't a Prodigal until he or she will have nothing more to do with you.

Short of that, short of a severed relationship, what you have is a son or daughter in need of tough and tender love; tender love first, tender love last, with plenty of tough love in between. But without tender love, without a relationship, tough love has no context, because no one is listening. As long as there is an active relationship, you don't have a prodigal, you have someone in need of a lot of grace. Sort of like some other people you know, right?

Now. I believe every word I just said to you. I'd bet my life on the verity of all of it...but now, I want to get heartrendingly real with you. No one can lead or mentor until they are authentic with their pain, as well as their joy.

Nothing will mature or sanctify you (or age you) faster than staying in relationship with a child who hurts you, repeatedly. Well...nothing will mature you faster, if you are sticking and staying, if you are applying the Gospel to your every day life. Of course, you could espouse a pseudo-Gospel, and justify severing relationships to dull your pain.

But you don't grow that way. You don't fill up the sufferings of Christ that way.

Be honest. You aren't "coming out from among them and being separate". You aren't defending God's reputation. You aren't doing the "tough love" thing. You are laying your child in the bushes to die, and walking away.

Because you love her.

Because you think she's going to die spiritually anyway if she continues down the road she is on. And you think that walking away, allowing the distance between the two of you, is better than having to watch her die.

I know. I feel it too. I wrestle with the urge to detach. Because I love him. I love my son.

A woman of ancient times named Hagar felt it. Her son Ishmael was dying, no question about it. It was not a matter of "if he dies", it was a matter of "when". It was only a matter of time.

"When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob.

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink."

I cannot even write this without tears. I sob, along with Hagar of old. If writing really is opening up a vein and bleeding on the page, then this page of my blog is a warm pool of bright red. When a child is not walking with God, you never stop feeling the pain of that. My tears will run rivulets, my wound will be fresh until my son is completely revived in his spirit...until he lives as one who has finally drank deeply from the well of salvation.

I know in whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him. Grace will accomplish what the law never could, I am still declaring it, even though sometimes I declare it through tears. This child will live and not die.

The wages of sin is death, that is true.

But the gift of God is eternal life, through Christ Jesus.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that is true. But never...never...never quote Romans 3:23 without 3:24...

... all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

God asked Hagar such piercing questions. In an earlier encounter, it was "Where have you come from? Where are you going?" and now, the question is, "What is the matter?"

Oh, dear friend and fellow mother - God is asking you and I the same thing. "What is the matter?" Or, in other words, "Why are you crying?" It is our job to search our hearts and answer honestly. It is only in the honest answer that we will discover the God Who Sees Us...which is one of the names for God that Hagar personally discovered...through her honest answers.

The honest answer? We aren't doing the "tough love" thing. We think our child is going to die. It seems that way. And so we want to walk away. "Let me not see the child die."

We need our eyes opened to see the well of salvation that has always been there, and is still there, available to our children...and to us.

Let's drink deeply, you and I...and pray that our sons and daughters will begin to cry as bitterly as we have. He will hear their cries and answer them with living water.

My Grandbay-bay is Eight Months Old

...above, you see his seven month picture...and below, his picture from today:

He's been eight months old for some days, now, but his momma has been busy. Today was his eight month picture day, and we could. not. keep. him. still.

Those two up there? They are both my cuties. I love them beyond words.

I am sloppy blessed...or, in King James English, "my cup runneth over."

My Morning at the Farmer's Market

It was a beautiful morning today, so I decided to go to our city's downtown area and visit the farmer's market. At the last minute, Hannah and grandson decided to load up with me and come along.

After about an hour of fresh air and sunshine, Little Britches was done.

Solid gone.

So. Many. People. They stopped on a dime, right in their tracks, to admire his napping cuteness.

Can you even stand it?

Me neither.

Play Hurt

As I sit down in front of this little netbook tonight, I'm thinking about the phrase, "Play Hurt".

My son Isaac is near-legendary for playing his basketball through an injury. He twisted his ankle in a game last year, and played the whole game. He contracted mono last summer, lost about 15 pounds, and couldn't get his strength back. He kept coming down with flu after flu last winter, and still played his heart out, every game. He played a couple of games with a high fever.

Then, he sprained an ankle in a national tournament this past guessed it. He played hurt. And won a game for his team. He recently sprained his other ankle (badly) and has gone back to work (roofing!) before it has had a chance to completely heal. He will be okay - it is good for him to, within reason, learn that life is about "Playing Hurt".

It is particularly true of church life...of life in Christ. Every great man or woman of God has to "play hurt". Church life, as my Preacher said this past Sunday, is not all warm fuzzies. People hurt you. Oh Lawdy-Lawd, do they ever hurt you.

David said, "Let the righteous smite won't kill me." (My paraphrase).

People who whine about being hurt by the church have come to the wrong blog for sympathy. Join the club, my friend.

And play hurt.

You do not have to wait until you are all 'specially healed up and whole to serve God and love His people. You don't have to wait till you feel all better to obey God in the Next Thing, and tend your relationships. You don't have to wait for a feeling to go fix your relationships. You just drag that donkey-butt back to the church you last left, and you forgive and you forge ahead.

This life is war, friend. Spiritual war. The war is out there. I do not care how hurt you have been by your church experience, I am here to tell you, the worst day in His house is better than a thousand good days anywhere else. The devil is out to kill, steal, and destroy...the body of Christ is simply human and fallible.

Please, please lose the notion that the saints are out to get you. There are some mean people, some sorry saints, in every church...but by and large, you are not their first target, you won't be their last, and they don't fall asleep dreaming of ways they can harm you, because you are simply not that important to them, and that is part of the problem. If you were more important to them, they'd be hurting you differently, but they'd still hurt you from time to time.

Let them smite me. When it is all said and done, the proof is exactly this: they will be the ones to leave, and I will still be right here, shot through but still loving The Bride. Me? I play hurt, baby.

I can say this, just now, because I'm in my happy place. No one at all has hurt me lately. No one has left in a wrong way, in fact some have been added...and added back. Church life is good for me, these days.

To get to the good days...the precious have to play through the pain.

Play Hurt. Your team is counting on you.

Dedicated to Matt and Kelly Bailey

"Five good children are an immense luxury, and to deny one's self other luxuries in order to raise them is not self-denial at all, but merely an intelligent choice of investment."

--Edward Sandford Martin, The Luxury of Children (1904)


Yeah. The Baileys are expecting! That would bring the Harvest Baby Total up to....

seven. Not even kidding you. Seven. I dance. I spin. I clap like a child. Children are a reward, and so Harvest and her families must be overflowing with divine favor. This grace-message is proving itself to be extremely pleasing to the Father.

I Want

I want...what do I want? It is important to know.

I want to dwell in possibility.

I want to inspire you. ("others" is too generic and remote for me. I want to inspire you.)

I want to be inspired.

I want to be able to use a Tan Towel without streaking myself.

I want to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire every single day in His temple.

I want to live in the reality of Christ in me, Christ as me.

And Oh. Mah. Weeeerd. I want a zoom lens.

I want to worry less and take joy more.

I want to let go of what is out of my control anyway. And that would be almost everything in life besides what I wear tomorrow.

I want to cling tightly to grace.

I want a different car. Didn't used to. Now I do. Now that my Preacher has his new truck, I'm smitten with the ardent desire to drive something decent. And for me, that would still be something older, but older on purpose...older for a reason...older by choice. Hmmmm. Kind of like me. I'm so stinking proud that I am finally a grandmother, and it is my choice to embrace it.

The very idea of a "hot car", with any woman over 40 at the wheel, just makes me smirk. My son's young girlfriend drives a Mustang, for crying out loud, and she looks adorable behind the wheel, and that car is perfect for her. She gains major cool-points for driving it. Me? I'm forty plus. I'd lose major cool points, by trying too hard. I can't do the "I-drive-this-because-I-can-and-I-need-for-you-to-think-I'm-still-hot" car. I'd rather eat dirt and die. But pay no attention to me. I don't know anything.

I heart the older Volvo station wagons!

Hear me out. Someday I'll find me one, all boxy-looking and in perfect shape, white or black, and she shall become mine. It's an "intellectual-but-cool-and-good-looking-in-an-elegant-40-something-way"chick thing. I love the idea that I drive the car I inherited from my grandmother. That's the vibe I'm going for. I'm weird like that. I do all my own psychoanalyzation, because to be analyzed by others gets tedious and boring. And the results are nearly always inaccurate.

It goes all the way back to the TV show "Judging Amy". Plus, I would still need the sort of vehicle that I can toss all my antique store finds in. Something besides a green mini van. Amen.

I want to be more like Jesus. And I know...after that rant about middle aged women and their image cars, you don't believe me. But I do. I really do.

I want to be a Barnabus Friend, a Paul Mentor of young Timothys, and to be Jesus' John the Beloved. To lay my head upon His breast.

I want dark chocolate.

I want to see even more souls saved.

I want to be out of debt, and for the Vols to win the SEC championship - both things this year, by some miracle, pleaseGod.

I want more of God's glory on full display in my life, and I want to laugh with a best girlfriend until my eyes pop out of my skull and my very life passes before my eyes, which will make me laugh even harder.

I want to grow old with my peeps - all my family, grandchildren present and grandchildren to be. All of Harvest Church present, all of Harvest Church to be. My vision encompasses the years and the generations like that.

I want crab legs. Right now.

I want Sarah Palin to be Chris Christie's Vice President.

I want either Peyton Manning or Tim Tebow to play for a Superbowl ring this year.

I want to shut up now, because you want me to shut up now.

Jeanne Oliver Designs

I am a huge fan of all things hand made. I have a strong desire, in this season of my life, to support home based designers and writers and artists.

So. I must tell you. I am so in love with Jeanne Oliver and her clothing and bag designs. I never thought I'd see my way clear to buy one of her tops (too short for me to wear as a dress)...until she ran a very brief (I think it was a one or two day only) deep discount awhile back.

Really big discount. Big enough for me to bite the bullet and order.

(this photo from Jeanne Oliver Designs)

I so love this little top. It is my favorite thing in my wardrobe right now, and I predict it will remain my favorite throughout the fall season. I've already worn it a couple of times, and it is one of those pieces that strangers will ask you where you bought it. (That has happened to me once, so far - but, as I said, I've only worn this top a couple of times).

Jeanne also does exquisite packaging. My dress/top arrived wrapped in a sheath of grey tissue paper, tied with a strip of torn-fabric string. The top comes with a pin...a cluster of grey linen flowers. But Jeanne included an extra ivory colored fabric flower, tucked in a tiny burlap draw string bag. All hand-made.

She also tucked in some of her photography. I was hugely blessed by the message...for me, in this season of my life, a prophetic whisper from heaven ~

This message both speaks to my life in recent years - letting go of legalism and any person, place, or thing that weighed my spirit down...and it speaks to my "now" - letting go of all that is out of my jurisdiction.

Oh, the letting go is the hardest thing. It is a free-fall into the grace-through-faith by which I'm saved.

Anyhoo. There was also a torn page from an antique French dictionary, all kinds of beautiful ephemera (which I heart, so so much) and a note from Jeanne herself...

Look at the loveliness ~

Her fall designs come out next week...and if she runs another "special", I doubt any force will be powerful enough to keep me from just one more Jeanne Oliver Design.

Preserving Basil - An Easy Tutorial

In the morning hours, before the heat of the day, cut some of your basil and wash it lightly. Let it dry briefly. You'll need coarse salt (Kosher salt is coarse salt) and an airtight container. The prettier the container, the better. Why have ugly if you can have pretty? Why have unsightly, when you can have cute?

I have, many times, said to my youngest son, "If you were ugly, I'd have spanked you more often, and you might be better behaved today."

He is the youngest, and you parents know how tired you are by then. And he is achingly cute (my oldest boy is terribly handsome, and my daughters are stinking gorgeous, and why all my adverbs are pejorative I will never know) and he does behave shockingly from time to time.

And I'm shallow like that. I err to all that visually appeals. Back to basil...

start with a layer of coarse salt, and lay your basil leaves on it. Try not to let them touch, but you don't have to be obsessive about that. It is okay if they touch a little bit, sometimes. You just can't stack 'em, one on top of the other.

Cover your layer of basil leaves with a layer of coarse salt.

Continue until you have something like this. Your basil will keep this way, at near-full-aromatic-state, for about six months!

Keep it in a cool, dark a pantry. Don't keep it on your windowsill. Do as I say, don't do as I do. I am erring to the visually appealing, here, and also obnoxiously showing off my rosemary infused olive oil, in the used-to-be lemonade bottle.

Speaking of cute, of achingly adorable, of over-the-top sweetie-pie-ness, it is time to slip in yet another braggadocious Grandson Photo:

Poppy and I are preparing Little Britches for his first football season. He'll be a Volunteer, through and through, for yeay verily, he hath a goodly heritage.

Yeay, verily. Verily, yeay.

The Exquisite Writing of Hal Borland

"Summer is misted dawns and searing afternoons, hot days, warm nights, thunderstorms cracking their writhing whips. Summer is shirt sleeves, sunburn, bathing suits, tall cold drinks, dazzling beaches and shimmering lakes. Summer is the green countryside, the cool fragrance of mountain pines.

Summer is the house wren bubbling over with morning song. It is the long afternoon aquiver with the sibilance of the cicada. It is slow dusk freckled with fireflies - and prickly with mosquitoes. Summer is a meadowful of daisies, a field of corn reaching for the sun, a straw hat, a hoe and a garden.

Summer is the fresh garden pea, new lettuce crisp in the salad bowl, snap beans, sun-ripe raspberries on the bush and chilled strawberries in a bowl of cream. Summer is the weed, the gnawing insect, the foraging woodchuck, the nibbling rabbit. Summer is sweat.

Summer is April and May grown into June and July, the green world working almost eighteen hours a day. It is a lazy river and a languishing brook. It is a vacation dreamed of, realized, too soon over and done, too soon a memory.

Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January."

~Excerpt from Sundial of the Seasons, by Hal Borland - I absolutely recommend it.

Generational Work

Today, I am so aware of the Gospel being a Generational Work. On many levels, I see this as clearly as the August sky.

"One generation shall praise His works to another, and declare His mighty deeds..."

Firstly, I see the need for young men in the church - men in their early to mid twenties - to mentor teenage men. Mine is not the only church, by far, experiencing the dearth of young men with the leadership skills, talents, compassion, and charisma necessary to make loving Jesus seem desireable to their younger counterparts.

Men in their twenties aren't being taught that the Gospel is a generational work. They don't feel responsible. They aren't being taught how to stick and stay and not run away. They aren't being challenged to see their church as an extension of their family, and to accept the mantle of responsibility to mentor the young guys in their home church. ("Home church? What's that?")

This is partly because the parents, those middle aged men and women, aren't taking responsibility either. They, too, float from church to church, easily offended, not sinking roots into the relational soil, weathering the seasons, reaping the harvest. ("Harvest" means so much more than seeing souls saved. Harvest is fruit matured to the picking-point, in any and every good and happy area of life!)

I remember a conversation the Preacher and I had, a couple years back, with an old salt of a saint who'd pastored churches, and does pastor even now. We were talking of those we've seen come and go in our churches, and how sad it was, this loss of potential and momentum and fruit, when roots are ripped up and transplanted, over and over, to no real avail. We were lamenting the limitation that comes when people of any age do not respect authority, nor do they value continuity of years in relationships.

He said, "I will tell you this: 100% of the drifters and the relationally challenged have issues with their own parents. You cannot devalue or disrespect that most basic relationship and expect to somehow understand how healthy relationships in the family of God function."

Ah, wisdom is justified by her children.

It cuts both ways, I have recently discovered. Parents have to model respect by respecting their grown children, honoring their unique destiny, and asking forgiveness when necessary. No parent, by virtue of their position, has the right to manipulate the lives of grown children, or tear down the choices, spouse, or profession of their son or daughter. If you try that, you will live with the consequences, and they are indeed bitter. Far better to humble yourself, even as The Parent, and sincerely make things right...on your child's terms, not yours.

Otherwise, they will forgive you. But they will reserve the right to forgive you from a distance. Is that really what you want?

Wisdom is proven in the generations. This is why I am so thrilled to see many three-generation-strong families in Harvest Church, my own being one of them. (We are actually four generations strong!) Serving God with my parents and my children, while holding my grandson is what the Gospel is about. I can say that, because I know what it has taken to get to this place....a whole lot of obedience and applying my theology to my biography.

And a whole, whole lot of forgivin'.

And we are SO not a trophy family. We've had to apply the Gospel in ways that have humbled us all into the dirt, laid bare and vulnerable before one another. If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you know. And it ain't over yet. This Gospel that the Preacher and I have joyfully and painfully lived out in the secret places of our home relationships, is a Generational Work.

You can't manufacture it. It isn't assembly-line. It is artisanal work, done by heart and hand. This sort of work isn't nurtured well in an impersonal, business model church environment, with all due respect.

Yes, one generation shall praise His works to another! I need to wrap this up. I hear my grandson waking up...I can hear him "declaring the Lord's mighty deeds"...well. He's declaring something...loudly.

"The Father forgave the prodigal before he confessed (Luke 15:20) and God provided my forgiveness before I asked, and isn’t this the Kingdom I’m orienting to, the compassion before the confession?

I am a daughter failed and I am a parent failing and I know it in ways now I never knew: if I rip apart the bridge of forgiveness for my own parents with my own hands, I destroy the only way my own children can come to me."

~from the beautiful blog "A Holy Experience" by Ann Voskamp

God Loves His Girls

Today, I enjoyed an early morning drive with The Preacher in his new truck.

Today, I was given a purse that cost half what he paid for his truck.

A. Purse.

Today, I enjoyed time with girlfriends, eating cupcakes and salad with strawberries.

Today, I spent some time with a friend who is a missionary to Cambodia.

Today, I'm having a hard time resolving what seems to be two different aspects of the same, good God. I serve a God who often asks me to do hard things - to live sacrificially. I serve a God who requires me to not just understand the gospel, not just espouse the gospel, not just preach the gospel, but also to "live of the gospel", meaning to apply it to my ordinary, real-world relationships. This is often a hard thing to do. Cheap, this life isn't. It has cost me in profound ways. The law would be a far easier thing to live by - and no, law and Good News are not synonymous, though the same God is Author of them both.

I serve a God who asks my friends to do hard things, like live in Cambodia. He also requires them to apply the gospel to their ordinary, real-world relationships, and on top of that, they worry about their child's exposure to rat dander...and spiders as big as your hand can and do bite them. I haven't come near to that, in my service to God. My friends are the real deal, and I am the faux deal. (And it is okay for me to believe that. I'm not having a crisis, I simply esteem my friends - in a very honest way - as being better than myself.)

And I serve a God who happens to know that I love me a pretty, well made purse. I mean, I reckon He knows, since there is nothing knowable that He doesn't know in absolute perfection of wisdom. So He puts it on someones heart to gift me with a handbag that cost more than half what The Preacher paid for his truck.

Oh, but wait. The Preacher was very nearly given his truck. His truck is worth easily four times what the price was (car lots would charge six or seven times what he paid)...which takes me back to resolving the side of God that often asks Tim and I to do hard things, with the side of Him that blesses His boys with trucks, and gives His girls Eric Javits purses. You see...herein lies the rub: sometimes The Preacher and I obey God to the exact detail, and sometimes we don't. And yet He turns and blesses us with unearned, undeserved extravagance that defies our logic.

This is my exact purse, down to the color. Google Eric Javits and Neiman Marcus. Warning: sit down and spit out your coffee before you check the price. And make sure your theology can handle the fact that God often asks His girls to do the Actually Hard Thing (versus the Imagined Hard Thing, or the Self Imposed Hard Thing)...and He loves His girls so much, He sometimes gives them extravagantly expensive, and lavishly pretty purses for no real reason.

These are not easy issues to resolve, trust me.

You have been forewarned.

What The Preacher is Up To

He was up at 5, and then by 7:30 this morning, this is what my camera saw:

He's detailing his new truck. He is putting the Barbie Jeep up for sale, as this deal is way, way too sweet for him to pass up. Our neighbor, because he loves Tim, is letting his truck go for less than a song.

More like half a song.

It's in great shape, one owner.

I have one happy preacher on my hands, because his new ride may not cost him a penny out-of-pocket.

He told me, months ago, "God is about to give me a truck. I need one. I've been asking Him for one."

I should listen to him more often.

Kitchen Riches From My Gardens windowsill...and the cherry tomatoes are not even in yet. When they are, I will be overrun. Hundreds, it seems, hang ripening. of my gardens - this one has green peppers, tall beautiful basil, and (believe it or not) daylilies and gladioli, all jumbled together. And it looks amazing. I am totally into pottagers, with their mixture of vegetable, herb, flower and fencing, with pathways. I'm working my way into that. I really like this photo, with its tiny perspective.

This garden has tomatoes, pole beans, squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe and sunflowers!

Another part of the same garden spot. Please ignore the orange hammock, still hanging. It was a souvenir my daughter Sarah brought back from Cambodia a few years ago. It lost its place when our tree was taken out by the storms awhile back. It still hangs from its other anchor, with nothing to hook up to. I've been meaning to cut it down - it would take all of five minutes. Honestly, I pay no attention to it, and only notice it now, "screaming" at me in this picture.

Some of you just won't understand, but I've felt poignant today. Always, long about mid-August, I begin to notice a difference in the light. I know that sounds crazy - it is still "high summer". But I see it...the light is ever-so-subtle in its shifting and changing. It heralds a coming fall season.

And again, I am sad. I think of a line from an old Gladys Taber book, "Stay a little, summer, do not go..."

This anomaly started about two years ago. I just began, inexplicably, to love summer. I guess summer is the true "Season of Harvest" is when the harvest becomes real and exciting. You have to understand, I've always been an autumn girl, and always loathed summer. No more. Tho' the heat has been awful, we here have gotten enough rain.

I am sure if I lived in some of the drought stricken areas of Texas, Oklahoma, and other places, I would not feel the same way.

But I live in east Tennessee, and so...

"No one can believe God is not good when the August gardens are in their heyday." ~Gladys Taber, from the wonderful book "The Book of Stillmeadow"

An Idea for Your Spent Sunflowers

I always buy or cut (when I have my own plentiful supply) several bouquets of sunflowers for my girls' birthday, to decorate the house. Their birthday was a week ago today, and so the bouquets are spent...

So I tied some twine around them, and hung them on a tree in our back garden... attract the goldfinches.

And it works!

...and looks so beautiful.

Try it. I think you'll love the look of it, and will love seeing the goldfinches in your garden.

Weak Is The New Strong

ingredients for bruschetta - one of summer's gifts of wealth...each ingredient, simple but powerfully healthy for you. I include it because anyone can grow the ingredients for little-t0-no cost, and yet the health benefits are pure riches...and I love it so much, I am making it fit in with the idea of this post...and because it is my blog. And because I am quite proud of my photography, here.

The Bible never said, "Let the strong say 'I am strong'. " That sounds like a simplistic, even silly statement. But it is a profound thought. The Word of God says, "Let the weak say 'I am strong'."

Oh yeah...and "Let the poor say, 'I am rich.' "

How boring is it, when the rich say, "I am rich"? So passe. So unoriginal. So unsurprising. So obnoxious, even, when the rich find ways to let you know it. All the rich are supposed to do - Biblically speaking - is to share their riches. And maintain a humble heart.

But when the poor declare "I AM RICH".....well "wooo-weee, shut my mouth and slap your grandmaw"...because the whole, wide, watching world gets to decide whether the poor man does indeed enjoy riches money can't buy, or whether he is crazy. (Sorry, lines from country music songs, completely unrelated to what I'm talking about, keep popping up in my head. Have compassion on me...after all, YOU could be in my head, instead of me.)

We underestimate ourselves and others when we base that estimate on unbiblical notions of what is weak and what is strong. Some of you have lost dear friends because of an inaccurate assessment regarding what God sees as weak and what He sees as strong. He will surprise you, if you ask His opinion on strength and weakness, and if you ask Him with a tender heart.

I will rather boast in my weaknesses, so that the strength of Christ can be well-seen in me.

(More) Ordinary, Yet Extraordinary Time

My liturgical friends are now observing a season they call "Ordinary Time". It is a sort of "time between times". In the liturgical year (the Protestant-version observance of which I do see some merit, if you insist on the Gifts of the Spirit to also be in full operation) there are two seasons called "Ordinary Time". The first is the short season, loosely speaking, between Christmas and Easter.

The second span of Ordinary Time lies in the months between Pentecost and Advent. That is the time we are now in, this first week of August.

There couldn't be a more fitting name for the weeks between June and November. August is so ordinary and so "middle" - hot and humid here in the south, and there is no football yet. (Football is my liturgy. Proud Southern Protestant am I. Every big game, a feast.) The days can seem to melt one into the other, in an endless molten mush of 90+ degree days.

But tucked into August is fresh corn on the cob, Kentucky Wonder pole beans, lots of tomatoes, sunflowers, sunsets, cicadas, country music, flip flops, and cut-off blue jeans. August does have its own liturgy (liturgy simply means "the work, or response, of the people") it has its own continuity, and we do well when we respond with appreciation and enthusiasm, specific to August's finery.

I have a very special reason to respond in praise and thanksgiving - an anniversary of the spirit. It deserves to be canonized in the Atchley annals of history, and given its own feast.

Two years ago, this first week in August, my Preacher and I were dealing with some stuff. Nasty stuff. So, two years ago, because of this nasty stuff, I began to experience the then all too familiar symptoms of a migraine. I would get them almost every month or so. I mentioned this to The Preacher, without even expecting a response. By then, these headaches were like a storm was obvious to me what was coming. I would sort of see the clouds gathering and make the observation.

He laid his hand on the back of my head, while I was standing in our bathroom, and prayed a simple prayer. I cannot begin to tell you how ordinary this prayer was, in that season of "ordinary time", two years ago. I can tell you that I expected nothing. Whatever conclusion that might make you draw about me, it is no-nevermind to me. But you need to know that I didn't expect a thing to happen. I sure didn't expect what happened next.

A definite warmth came upon the back of my head. I even thought it might be the "leftover warmth" of his hand - I was that hell-bent on expecting nothing. But I did make a note that it was a curious thing. Curious-er and curious-er, because that warmth lingered...and lingered a few minutes more.

That migraine never came. And it has never materialized in all these two years since. Not even once.

What does God want to do for you, in this "time between times", this season of Ordinary Time? You serve an extraordinary God.

New Discovery - Evernote

Picture me, if you will, running into Applebee's, finding all of you sitting at "our" table. Then, I ask for a bite of this or that from various plates, because I am on a tight schedule and can't stay to order a whole meal.

(Hmmm...that, in fact, is exactly what my husband is doing, even as I type. He's sitting at Applebee's with a buncha boys from California, Florida, and Tennessee...but he's not staying too-too long. We have to be right back at a conference we're all attending at 8 in the morning...)

But, I have something really cool to show you. So I whip out my smart phone and show you Evernote.

This is a place where you can store anything and everything you want to remember. You can create notebooks under various headings, and you can save images from the internet, you can save links, text, files, voice recordings, and you can even snap a picture of, say, a receipt, and store it in your Evernote account.

You "tag" everything you save, so you can find it fast, later on.

I'm so geek-fierce, I wish I could stare at my geek self.

Oh, oh, and you can save anything on any platform (smart phone, desktop, laptop) and it automatically syncs, so that you can retrieve your information from any other platform, at anytime, anywhere.

This kind of stuff, and tequila makes me crazy. I love it. (Just kidding about the tequila. I have never had a drop of it in my life, I don't believe. I do enjoy the occasional glass of wine, just for full disclosure purposes. I hear tequila makes your clothes fall off, and that is a deterrent for me.)

Last, but not least, I want to pitch something about "good works" at you. I am in a mentoring/discipling relationship with a couple of younger women (and have been, for going on a year now). My daughters are my "natural" disciples, and a couple others have sought me out, following up, acting on what I tell them, not wasting my time, and not asking that I chase them down. I'll be adding, over time, women of various ages, and I want you to know this: I don't believe in meetin' for "sin management." Nor do I believe in meeting for emotionally therapeutic purposes. I don't do emotional drama. But I do believe that the gospel itself is therapeutic, and will, over time, address every emotional issue we have...and we all have them.

I believe in calling forth your destiny as one of the great host of daughters who will proclaim the gospel. See, my theology affects not just my destiny, but it also affects my day, and thus it affects how I feel about you.

The Word became flesh (John 1) because the Word has always, from Genesis up to this very moment, become flesh. It's sorta what the Word does. It can't NOT become flesh. The law was given, but grace came....clothed in flesh. When the gospel is sown into a young woman's heart, it will take on the mantle of good works, done in context with others in a local church.

This has nothing to do with "accountability" sin management groups. That stuff is Chucky Cheese middle school kids-play, compared to the sort of relationships that encourage each other's destiny. How? Not by doing something novel to relieve boredom, but by sticking and staying with people God has placed on your left and right in the local church - inspiring the girl beside you to cease identifying with her sin,stop comparing and competing (women are worse than men for that...) and start identifying with the Finished Work of Christ, and live lives that adorn the Gospel.

Just that. Those two things. True Discipleship...and Evernote. Believe me, one can assist the other, and back again. Evernote could be a potentially wonderful tool for my efforts. I just need the time to surf the learning curve.

Okay, see ya! The Brunette Preacher's wife is blowing this joint...going home (figuratively speaking - remember, in my imagination, we are at Applebee's) and going to bed. Kisses and hugs all around - I love getting to spend time with my home-girls, both IRL (in real life) and via blogs.

Come on by Trinity Chapel this week! I will be there, every day, and would love to meet you, play hooky from a session or two, slip out and have a caramel machiatto together.

Don't forget to check out Evernote, and don't forget that a negative doesn't suddenly become a positive. Sin consciousness and sin management might be temporary tools to help someone struggling to form a new identity - but it is the new identity that will set them free.

The Gospel that radically declares you righteous, grows the good works that adorn the gospel that radically declares you righteous . Synergism, holistic living, abundant living, and easy yokes were God's idea first.

If you have a complaint about what Imasayin' to ya, take it up with Management.

Preach the good news of God's grace first. Use words, if necessary. Use Evernote to keep track of cool things.