Laugh at the Days to Come

Do you remember the Y2k panic in the months before January 1, 2000? People were stockpiling everything from toilet paper to beans ( do you really want to eat 100 pounds of dried beans? ). Uneasiness was everywhere because nobody knew exactly what might happen. Well, nothing much happened, and life went on as normal -except that nobody had to buy toilet paper for a while. I know some overly-prepared folks who are still eating up the buckets of extra grain they stored away, but for most of us those days are long forgotten. Fast forward to the mortgage-failing, bank-closing , stock market-plummeting scenario today. Gas shot up to $5.00 a gallon last week in Knoxville, TN – at the stations that had any gas left to sell. Homes are being lost, jobs are in jeopardy, and no one is sure how or when it will end.

You may have heard about an e-mail circulating which claims that well-known Christian speaker Kay Arthur recently proclaimed that she had had a revelation that a physical famine was coming to America. Even though the e-mail was exaggerated and not what she said, it contains a grain of truth and made me think. Nobody knows how or when the current crisis will end and it may be wise for all of us to follow the example of the woman described in Proverbs 31. It says she “watches over the affairs of her household” and “she can laugh at the days to come.” The only way she could laugh at the days to come would be if she were prepared for whatever might happen.

Would it be prudent once again to stock up on paper necessities and canned goods, and perhaps carve out a corner of the garage for a pantry? I’m not necessarily advocating stockpiling food for a year or more, but maybe 1, 3, or even 6 months. Think of what a comfort it would be if your financial situation suddenly did change through a job loss or illness, or a storm hit and food supplies were limited, but you didn’t have to be concerned because your family could weather the disaster until the worst was over. This is not the infamous bread and milk run that happens Down South whenever there is a hint of snow, but a more systematic approach to keeping extras of the supplies that your family uses. If you are a once a week shopper and never stock up, then try buying an extra can of one or two items you use each week. Before long, you’ll be able to skip a week of shopping when life gets busy. If you already have a well-stocked pantry for everyday use and want to build a more substantial food supply, start buying some items in bulk, or at least a one month supply of non-perishables. To take it a step further, read an emergency preparedness book such as Jack Spigarelli’s Crisis Preparedness Handbook. This book has an in-depth coverage of food preparation and storage, as well as other aspects of being prepared. The Boy Scouts in your life will be proud – and you will be ready so that you, too, can laugh at the days to come.

Run for the Classics

Do not dash for your nearest copy of Moby Dick or Hamlet, but do consider running, walking, or supporting those who will run in the 5th annual Run for the Classics on October 4. This 5k run and 1 mile fun walk are to support Classical education in Knoxville, and more specifically, Paideia Academy, the school my two youngest children attend. This young school has provided an academically challenging and character- building Christian education for Knoxville families for the last four years. The atmosphere at this school is unique – full of respect for authority and a genuine love of learning. My oldest son completed the 8th grade there last year and is more than prepared for the Honors classes at the local public high school. In fact, his keyboarding teacher called him a “grammar genius” last week when he aced a capitalization/punctuation test that everyone else bombed. Thank you, Mrs. Senter! The humility and Christ-like character that he learned at Paideia has come through as well, when he offered to type an English paper for a boy who the day before had said to him, without provocation, “I don’t think I like you.”

I am an avid supporter of Classical education, but a runner I am not. I will be doing the fun walk with my daughter while my husband runs in the real race. If you’re like me, getting a check in the mail seems like a Herculean feat at times. So, they’ve made it very simple – just visit the website, click on “sponsor form”, and fill in $100,000…or $25…or whatever you feel comfortable with, and Paypal takes care of the rest. Thanks for your support!

In Search of a Manly Man

My middle school son came home from his church small group with an unusual homework assignment : find a “manly” man. Not just any manly man will do -this must be a “cool dude” on a TV show. Is there such a creature? A cool, manly man on a TV show my son could watch? We have pretty much given up on network TV at our house over the last few years, as there was really nothing we could find to watch that was worth more than our family time together in the evenings. Nonetheless, I scoured the websites of the major networks, searching for a show that might meet the criteria. Lots of sex, hype, and reality shows, but nothing that looked like it might have a suitable character- unless it had a TV-14 rating. As my son is only 11, that will not do. I do not want to expose him to mature situations just to show him how a manly man would handle them. I do, however, want him to have characters to look up to and learn from. Are there shows today aimed at young people that will show them a cool, manly man? Plenty of shows from my childhood come to mind, such as Little House on the Prairie, the Brady Bunch,  Andy Griffith, and Leave it to Beaver. Granted, those men may not have been “cool” by today’s standards, but they were men of character and everyone around them respected them. Today’s shows seem much more likely to have the father portrayed as a clueless buffoon rather than someone worthy of respect. So, my search continues for the cool, manly man on TV. If you find one, will you let me know?

Meanwhile, I’ll ask my son to read this Rudyard Kipling poem instead:


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

–Rudyard Kipling

Potato Peel Pie

What do books, potato peel pie, and Nazis have to do with each other? Plenty, if you are reading the wonderful new novel The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I never cared much for dry history textbooks, I’m afraid, but give me some good historical fiction and I’ll absorb the history like a sponge. Did you know that the Channel Islands off the coast of England were occupied by the Germans during World War II? Have you ever given much thought to what daily life was like during the occupation? I had not, but got a taste of it all while reading this book. The story is written as a series of letters between the characters, who include Juliet, a young author from London, her publisher, a few friends, and the delightful folks she befriends on Guernsey. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society turns strangers into friends through reading great books together and striving to make the best of a very difficult time. I really felt as if I knew each of the characters and found myself staying up much too late each night to find out how their lives would turn out. It is an easy read and a delightful one -perfect for a quiet afternoon with scones and a cup of tea.

Happy Birthday, Dad

Well, we did it. The flowers are ordered, the popcorn will be delivered, and the gifts are in the mail. It’s been a busy but fun week setting the stage for a fabulous birthday surprise for my friend I mentioned before.

Just as I began feeling a tad bit proud of myself for pulling all of this off, it hit me. Oh, no! Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday and I have done nothing. Zip. Nada. My tecchie husband probably had an online card automatically sent, but that’s hardly a daughter’s personal touch. My mind drifted back to a letter written many years ago by a father to a young freshman girl away at college. It is full of wisdom and insight, a father’s philosophy of life distilled down into one powerful page. I still have that letter, worn from being opened and refolded many times in the 24 years since it was written. So, as a tribute to my dad, I am sharing excerpts from his letter and reflections on how I have tried to follow his advice.

There will be times when it seems the world will overcome you – but don’t be afraid- it’s just God’s way of letting you find out what you are made of. These are the times when you have to look inside yourself to find strength and wisdom. You need not worry- when you look inside you will find you have all the right stuff.

Do I have all the right stuff? Have I weathered life’s storms – and occasional tsunamis – with the grace you envisioned? I’m glad I didn’t know then how hard some of the trials would be. You taught me well how to survive whatever circumstances come my way. But sometimes I think I’ve relied too much on me and not on God and the friends He has put in my life.

When the troubles come into your life and you walk through the fire, keep your eyes fixed firmly on God and go forward. He will never fail you.

Okay, there’s my reprieve. Even when I don’t have all the right stuff, God does. When I get tired of trying to do it all on my own, God will gladly take over. And He will do it right the first time.

Stand up for truth and decency and never back down when you’re right. Don’t be misled by people- if millions believe in something that is wrong, it is still wrong. Don’t be afraid to be different when you know you are right. People will love and respect you for your convictions sooner or later.

Boy, has that one gotten me in some trouble down here in the South, where women are generally expected to smile and tell others exactly what they want to hear. The comfort zone is generations wide and differing opinions are looked upon with suspicion. But don’t worry, dad; I’m still being different.

Be a friend to those who need one and be caring of everyone’s feelings.

Okay, dad, I was being a friend to the one who needed it. You are the one who showed me how to give to those who can’t repay you and to surprise people with gifts. But was I caring of your feelings, too ? Sometimes I get so focused on what others need that I miss the people closest to me. Where is the balance between caring for our family and meeting the needs of others? I guess that’s one of those questions we spend a lifetime trying to answer.

Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you!

Through the Eyes of a Child

Our family enjoyed our first fall tradition this weekend – visiting the Tennessee Valley Fair. The fair is, well, the fair. If you haven’t been in a while, it really hasn’t changed since you were a kid. In fact, it brings out the kid in you again. They still have the baby ducks sliding down into the water and for some reason, it’s still fun to watch them after all these years. I was delighted to see that my tween and teen children were laughing and shrieking with excitement as the goats, emus, and alpacas ate feed out of their hands. They may be part of the video game generation, but the simple pleasures of real farm animals still entice.

We also wandered through the vendor building where you can buy everything from magic worms to waterless cookware and debate everything from politics to religion. You know, I don’t recall Jesus scaring people into salvation, though a certain number of Christians today find the warnings of impending doom more powerful than drawing people into Christ’s love. One such group had a booth there complete with the “scare the hell out of you” tracts and a box with a skull inside reminding you where you will end up one day, so you’d better make sure you’re ready. My daughter thoughtfully perused the exhibit, then innocently turned to me and asked, “Are they for or against God? I think they’re against.” Out of the mouths of babes. Maybe that’s why Grandma always said you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Widows and Orphans

I know a girl whose parents have recently passed away. Her only sister is disabled and lives in a nursing home and she has no other living relatives. She speaks sadly of her upcoming birthday because she is afraid that no one will remember. This girl is not living in a foster home; in fact, she is living with her husband of 18 years. But, the emptiness is still there because her mother is not.

James 1:27 says to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and we often assume that in our country, the government takes care of those needs. But what of their emotional needs? The American Heritage dictionary defines an orphan as “one that lacks support, supervision, or care”. My friend has lived in her current home for several years but has not made the kind of friends there who will support and care for her during this time of grieving. Is she the kind of “orphan” that James was talking about? I think so. We as the church are failing those around us if we are not providing a place of refuge and healing for the hurting people we encounter. The orphans may be older than we expect. Their needs may not be what we anticipated. They might need a shoulder to cry on or to be included in your family gathering. Or they might just want to have a little fun. So, please excuse me; I have a long-distance birthday party to plan.

To See or Not to See

My daughter had to get glasses this week – genetics at work, as my husband is just short of being legally blind without his glasses. Being the very self- conscious sort, she wasn’t sure about the whole process. After all, she reasoned, she can see the board at school this year just fine because the teacher writes big. The optometrist, sensing her hesitance, nonchalantly said, ” Look out the window at those trees.” She did. He then held up the corrective lenses in front of her eyes and said, “Now look at them.” “WOW!” she exclaimed, “I didn’t know you were supposed to be able to see that much!”

Her response reminded me of the Bible verse in 1 Corinthians: ” Now we see through a glass darkly; then we shall see face to face.” We are living out our days as humans blissfully unaware of how out of focus our lives are from the beauty that God has for us. Someday we will see ourselves and others as God sees us – glorious creations much more radiant than what we can see dimly now. ” Wow!” we will exclaim. “Who knew you were supposed to be able to see so much?” God did, and I can’t wait to have eyes like his.

A Taste of Fall

Rarely does a new recipe meet with rave reviews by all five family members at dinner, but amazingly, last night it happened. And it wasn’t pizza or macaroni and cheese. It was a vegetable. It was healthy, but please don’t tell my kids. The award- winning centerpiece was the lowly butternut squash. Since my own garden has been ravaged by drought and midsummer neglect, all that remains of it are tangles of twisted, dead vines and a few stubborn tomatoes. So, I headed to the farmer’s market last Saturday in hopes of enjoying the fruits of someone else’s summer labors. I came home with, among other things, two butternut squash. The bright orange flesh looked enticing, but what do you actually do with a butternut squash? I did what I always do when faced with an unsolvable dilemma – I googled it! I combined two recipes I found on the internet and came up with a sweet and spicy , flavorful palate -pleaser for kids and adults. The taste of the squash is a cross between a sweet potato and pumpkin, while the spices add the traditional brown sugar taste with a kick. Many thanks to Ina Garten and Fine Cooking Magazine for the original inspiration. My recipe for Spicy Caramelized Butternut Squash is below:

Spicy Caramelized Butternut Squash

2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

1/2 cup melted butter

1/4 cup brown sugar or succanant

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon each of the following: cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cloves

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450. Spread squash in a shallow baking pan. Combine melted butter, succanat, and spices. Pour mixture over squash and stir until all pieces are coated. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the pieces are soft. Stir once or twice while baking. Enjoy!

The Fledgling

Have you ever watched a baby bird first learning to fly? The mother mercilessly pushes it out of the nest, confident that once he begins falling, the baby will beat his wings and realize that he had great abilities that he never knew were in him. Within days, the baby bird gains the abilities and confidence to leave the nest for good. I felt much like one of those mothers when I said goodbye to my son on his first day of high school. But, I confess, I wasn’t totally confident that he would spread his wings and fly as I knew he was able to do. He has handled the myriad of adjustments very well and the first midterm report cards come out this week. I’m happy to say that academically he is doing quite well and is finding his niche of friends. We have hit a few bumps along the way, but every problem with school and teachers that I would have handled in the past, he has tackled himself with grace and maturity. The new and challenging environment has brought out a heightened sense of responsibility and confidence. My fledgling is learning to fly sooner and faster than I had expected. Just don’t leave the nest for good anytime soon, my son.