Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this
reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in
the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me- to keep me from
exalting myself!

Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave
me. And he has said to me, "my grace is sufficient for you, for power
is perfected in weakness." most gladly, therefore I will rather boast
about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
(Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9)

At one time or another each of us has probably said that we have been
given a thorn in the flesh that we continually ask God to take away.
Today Has been a painful reminder of how weak I am, how vulnerable,
and how imperfect. On impact, my thorn temps me to blame God or
question his intentions for me. Does he really have my best interest
at heart? How many times have I asked Him to take it away? How many
times have I sought answers and come up empty?  But as I reflect more
solemnly on my condition, I realize that He is giving me the very gift
that I desire - to be less and less dependent on myself and my
strength and more and more dependent on his love and salvation. When i
give up on my own self-will and simply let Christ be my strength, I am
made perfect in my weakness through Him. This is all a mystery to
those who don't know him. It sounds foolish to a world that values
believing in oneself above all things. (Mark 4:11-12; Eph 3:8-10; 1Cor

We don't know what Paul's thorn was, but he was wise enough to
understand that it kept him from glorifying himself as he made
diciples for Christ. The Spirit that was in him, and taught him is the
same Spirit that is in me and you, if you follow Jesus Christ. He is
the same Spirit that told Paul, tells me, and tells you that "my grace
is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Thank you,
Lord, for teaching me to trust you, for increasing my faith, and for
loving me so well.

Childrens Classics

If you have known me for a bit of time, you might know that I love classic literature. I greatly enjoy discovering the depth of old world language. Ah, the descriptions that Dickens can muster! However, I would not consider myself, by any means, to be “well read” in the classics. I pick and choose carefully. A literary buff (think of that scary high school Literature teacher) would likely scoff at my “must read” list of Austen, Bronte, Dickens and Dumas. For instance, the cultured among us insist that to love classic literature is to love War and Peace and the like. I’m sure its unfair of me to knock a book I’ve never read, but for all his touting, I’ve never been able to get through anything written by Leo Tolstoy. I read about half way through Anna Karenina and finally decided that the only reason I was reading it was to prove something about my keen ability to understand Russian sagas. Apparently, “my keen ability” was greatly overestimated and self-preservation from intense boredom eventually won out. I remember my grandmother telling me that she was reading Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. Her commendation of the book in a nutshell was, “It took me forever to finish it”. (what is up with these Russian writers?) No, thank you. Not I. I shall stick to my Jany Eyre and David Copperfield, as simplistic as they might seem to some (enter, in my mind, the face of afore mentioned Literature Teacher).

As you can see, in my humble opinion, some literature is too celebrated. There is another set, if you will, of classic literature that has perhaps been under-acclaimed. That is, classics originally written for children. For those new to the classics or those who enjoy vibrant stories with beautiful lessons, I encourage you to re-think the impact of chidrens classic literature. Books like The Prince and The Pauper by Mark Twain, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, and The Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald, will settle your heart with a simple gladness. If you read these as children, don’t take for granted what you could glean from an adult perspective. The child characters will humble you with their goodness, encourage you with their devotion, and boost your spirit with their trusting perseverance. Your children will certainly love these stories. But I would make a bet that you might just love them even more. 

As an aspiring childrens writer... well, aspiring might be too strong of a word...rather, as a want-to-be-one-of-these-days children's writer, its important for me to immerse myself in the books that have withstood the test of time. So feel free to tell me your favorites so I can add them to my list.

Want some additional recommendations? Here is a nice list from Amazon. Many of these are free to download on your computer, phone or ipad from either Amazon, ibooks or the Kendal app.
At the Back of the North Wind

Oh Jo, How Could You?

Some of you might be thinking that this was a foolish move. I will probably think that myself at some point. In the words of Amy March, "Oh Jo, how could you? Your one beauty."

But, it was time... to relinquish the mane. Even if I do cry occasionally about how many years it will take to grow it back out, for today I'm glad to be rid of the split ends, the tangled nests, the clogged drains, and the secret hideout for flying creatures. Not to mention getting it rolled up in car windows, getting my neck trapped in awkward positions when my sleeping husband rolls on top of it, and my head sweating like an 1920's farmhouse window pane down in the bayou. For today, I feel happy, light and free. Talk to me tomorrow and you never know, I might be counting down the days till my "one beauty" grows back. 

Stress and Driving

I am frequently stressed while driving. One would think that knowing the Nashville streets so well, having grown up here, my anxiousness would be at a minimum. Instead I find that my stomach is perpetually tight whether I am cruising down the highway or stopped at a red light. 

It took flying to San Jose, CA to realize why I get so stressed driving. No, I didn't go there to meet with a psychologist who specializes in driving stress, although I would imagine that if someone like that existed, they would have a ton of clients. Here's what happened. We arrived on Monday night, rented a car and drove down to Los Gatos, where we stayed for the week. Driving that bright red Chevy Aveo (tiny little thing that takes about 2.2 minutes to get up to 60), I realized almost immediately (I wasn't even up to 60 yet) that I wasn't anxious - Even though I was driving an unknown car in an unknown city at a very late hour. Mercy me, all the cars around me were what I would call "model drivers." People weren't speeding around one another at 20 miles over the limit, no one tailgated, folks were letting each other in. Shoot - no one was cutting anybody else off! What amazing land of driving was this?!

We did a lot of driving while we were there - San Jose, San Fransisco, Santa Cruz, attending a dear friend's wedding events and sight seeing. I don't remember one time that I was anxious while driving. I'm not really sure why Northern California drivers are so considerate - perhaps because it is illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving, because road signage is well placed, or because they seem less stressed about life in general. Maybe these people just know how to drive.  

It certainly made me dread coming back to the Nashville drivers. I don't know why Nashville drivers are so hyped up. I mean, really, do people think that I will speed up if they ride my bumper? Just so all of you tailgaters know, I am not that easily intimidated. I like going the speed limit. And what is up with the power hungry attitude? Forget about trying to merge into traffic around here....getting in front of someone is a capital offense!! Even us good drivers have to become aggressive sometimes just to be able to get where we need to go. Take it easy, people. Do yourself and your neighbor a favor by leaving space between you and the car in front of you and letting others in. I promise life will be less stressful if you do, I should know.

I loved Northern California for many reasons. It's incredibly beautiful, nice weather, some of my favorite people live there, and last but not least - driving is like going to the spa. Bravo to the drivers of Northern California. You gave me a bit of relaxation last week that I wasn't expecting.

Cicada Brood XIX

Every 13 years, millions of cicadas dig their way out of their underground nests and swarm the air of middle Tennessee - frightening children, exciting dogs, and startling anyone who walks outside. Every year, we hear cicadas up in the trees humming their buggy tune. But it’s usually easy to miss it - blending in with the other outdoor background noise. This year however, the chance of busting an ear drum when you go outside is a real risk...I can already hear them as I sit writing this. Yes you guessed it, this is the 13-year cicada swarm and everyone is anticipating their arrival ‘en masse’.

Many people have no idea what to expect because they aren’t from here and have never experienced it before. Let me just say that when I was 5 years old, I remember being on the playground during the cicada swarm. The air was so thick with them that even a pre-schooler could catch them just by stretching out her hand. The next time they arrived, thirteen years later, I was about to graduate from high school. I remember the massive amount of cicada shells covering every outdoor surface (apparently they come of the ground looking like beetles, then they shed their outer shell emerging as winged beasts).

If you live in this area, your garden plants aren’t in danger of being eaten by the cicadas. However, if you have young trees, it’s a good idea to cover them with cheesecloth or tobacco cloth during the 5 weeks that they are out. Female cicadas lay their eggs in small young branches by splitting the wood. Apparently apple, pear, dogwood, oak and hickory trees are particularly at risk.

I am not afraid of cicadas because I know they can’t hurt me, but these critters are seriously large and alien looking and I can certainly let out a startled cry when they fly into my head. Scientists have named this year’s swarm, or brood as they like to say, Cicada Brood XIX. Though they are just roman numerals, those X’s seem ominous, don’t they? A brood to beware? But I’m not worried...more like excited to have such an interesting subject to discuss among friends, and to see how much fun Rusty will have trying to catch them in mid air. And I know my chickens will be happy with their fancy cicada treats.

Oh and if you would like to try a high protein cicada recipe yourself (yes people can eat them), here is a recipe for cicada tacos. I doubt that I am brave enough, but I know many a braver person than I. If you do try it, please let me know about it.

Haiti Snapshots

After several weeks of deliberation on how to proceed with this blog post, I have come to the conclusion that at this time, I only have the emotional capacity to post a snapshot of my experience In Haiti. Truly, with only 8 days in country, I experienced only a snapshot of Haiti myself....there is so much more to know and understand about the people, culture, and landscape.  So I am going to give you some literal snapshots (mostly taken by my teammate, Mark Short) and brief descriptions. I may share more detailed thoughts in later posts.  If you want more details now, call me - we’ll have coffee or lunch and I will elaborate. 

Port-au-Price. It really is as devastated as it looks. 

 Many people in the city live in tent camps like this one:

The 66 acre Global Outreach mission compound where we stayed. Really nice facilities and grounds. Since the earthquake, Samaritan's Purse has been occupying a section of the compound for their medical personnel and supplies.

In and around Titanyen, the village we were staying near:

One of the houses we painted & some precious children who lived there or nearby:

Their kitchen

Our work truck

 A children's program up in a mountain village. Their teacher taught them the story of Jesus feeding the 5000; they sang songs like "Allelu, Allelu, Allelu, Allelua, glwa a Senye (Praise ye the Lord)"; and played games. 

This man sat under a tree and listened to the gospel on the Proclaimer that we brought, an audio Creole new testament powered by solar and hand crank. In a mostly illiterate country, these can make a huge impact.

Although no one really knows how many died in the earthquake, the mass grave is said to have approximately 230,000 buried there.

This is a school, sponsored by Global Outreach, in Titanyen:

our team

My beautiful grandmother has finished the race

Imogene Stewart Brock
June 5, 1925 - April 7, 2011

"For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing"  2 Timothy 4:6-8

Sacred June Post

My sister did a nice post about me and Jacob's band, Sacred June. Check it out here.

The Room for the Bed

My bedroom is now officially a bed room....I mean, the bed is actually taking up most of the room. So it is literally a room for the bed. But I am so happy and comfortable with my new king-sized Tempurpedic bed. For our almost 7 years of marriage, we have been sleeping on a full size bed that I used when I still lived with my parents. I have thought all this time that waking up multiple times in the night whenever Jacob moved was just a part of this thing called "sleeping in the same bed with someone else". It was all I knew....until now. Now I enjoy a bed on which apparently you can place a bottle of wine on one side and jump on the other side and the wine won't knock over. I haven't done this experiment, but I believe it's true! I have had wonderful sleep. In fact, just writing about it makes me want to go get in the bed.

A time for everything...

Do you ever wonder, "When the heck am I going to have time to....

...finish painting the wall...

...hang that picture...

...put the doors on the cabinet....

....sow up the hole in Jacob's jeans....

....make new curtains for the bedroom...

....find a place for all those shoes...

and re-pot the plant that desperately needs nourishment?"

Yeah, I wonder that sometimes too.