Sister to Sister: Tommy in Trouble

There was a bat in my dad’s living room last Thursday night. Yes. A bat. Not the one with the baseball glove that’s usually in the closet, but the flying black kind…the kind that screeches. The kind that makes me go behind the nearest door and slam it. The kind that may have rabies, for all we know. 

But we have a guy named Grat who lives with my dad. A bat! Go get Grat! Now Grat is brave but he is the Clean-Meister, too. So he puts on this towel for arm protection and then he dons Ezra’s plastic fire chief hat. (Grat in the hat and the bat, now!) He gets the pool net ( that’s for sweeping leaves) and it’s Grat and the bat doing business while my sister Sami, the lucky dad attendee that week, does the bat-frenzy dance all around the living room. The magic bat was good at escaping the net, but, finally, Grat-man the bat-man and his handy bat-net had him securely under that net flopping around on the settee. Eeeew! 

So what next? Do we squash him? Well, not on the tapestried settee. Try and get him to the door and end his incarceration? Sami decides we are not taking any chances (famous last words). We will put him in this Tupperware and then, tomorrow, if he is still alive out there on the front porch, we’ll figure it out.  So Grat-man slams that bat-ware on the bat and throws away the hat (don’t tell Ezra) and they all profusely thank the Grat and that’s that for that bat!

Until the next morning when the Tupperware is on the back patio instead of on the front porch,  and the dog—you know, the one that wandered up a few weeks ago, is having a good ole’ time  chewing it up (the Tupperware….no bat about.) “Oh dear, we really should have made it to the vet with this puppy to get shots, since Dad has decided it’s name, though a girl, is Tommy and that “it’s the best dog we’ve ever had,” (even though we need a bulldozer to clean up the yard after him and just last week we had to purchase a new pool vacuum because he (I mean she….It’s that Tommy name) chewed up a component of the old one (which was also purchased this very summer)! 

“That’s a gooooood dog, “ Daddy was saying while ambling to the car with his walker that next day after all the bat commotion. “Tommy, Tommy! You’re a good ole’ dog!” he was saying just as Tommy was jumping up between his body and his walker, steadily pushing the walker away from him…just as Tommy was licking his hands and got so excited that he (she) took a playful little plug out of Dad’s hand. 

This, being the series of unfortunate events that it was, of course, left Daddy’s hand bleeding. So now, we have a dog, who needs a rabies shot, who has been in contact with a wild bat, that’s taken a plug out of Daddy’s hand. 

“We really should go ahead and take the dog to the vet,” (although Celine’s just sure the dog has been spayed—“See there’s the scar from the operation,” she said. “That’s what it looks like. I googled it”) turns into “We are going to the vet today. But, if Celine is right, this transgender dog probably had a rabies shot whenever they spayed her.”

But Celine was not right. This goooood dog needs spaying, a litany of shots, a heart worm treatment (Do you even know how expensive that is?), and “…we can put her up for ten days for you for three hundred dollars, till we are sure it’s safe for her to be around people.” 

So this week it’s my turn to be here at Dad’s. I stopped at Walmart pre-arrival and bought some huge project boards. They were for a very important project. They are now duct-taped to the fronts of the fireplaces. They are lovely. You know, white on white is the latest trend in room decor, anyway. I actually told Dad I would paint a fire on them, but, wisely, he chose the Alabama logo I hung there for trial. Perhaps my favorite handyman will have time to cap those chimneys when he comes next, but, for now, I can sleep easier. (Well, truly that’s an overstatement at this house, but I’m getting up in the night for things other than bats, anyway.)

One thing I’m getting up for is to go outside and untangle the wailing dog. (Of course, you did not think we were going to pay three hundred dollars to have them observe Tommy for ten days when we have a 20-acre observation deck here.) So we bought one of those long wire leashes and put her under the woodshed with a little kennel  and there are only about 156 things she can get tangled around. How DOES a dog go around a see-saw handle fifty times, anyway? And why does she do it in the middle of the night? Maybe that’s what dogs who are developing rabies do. And if she does develop rabies, I will be the one to contract it since I am going out there in the night to untangle her and I could never see the froth if she WAS coming at me, when she is jumping all over me and knocking the flashlight out of my mouth (yes, my mouth). 

It takes a village to care for an elderly man who has a really goooood dog. But I can remember when I was a kid and we thought Lassie, who had the worst case of the mange and smelled like a wet dog even on sunny days, was the prettiest dog on Lynn Dale Lane. I remember my tadpole that turned into a frog and the trip Mother and Daddy and I made together to give him his freedom at the creek. I remember Prissy getting on Dad’s cars and I remember that cage he made for my bunny when I was in the second grade. I remember our chihuahuas and that awful lizard that lived in my brother’s room. I remember his peacocks that he loved to show the grandchildren and their being entertained by the squirrel on the patio that would sometimes eat a piece of bread from his hand. I remember. He called each one “Tommy.” That’s just his name for all pets. I remember lots of “Tommies.” And, I guess this particular Tommy hasn’t quite caught me up with dad yet on “Tommy-trouble.” I think I’ll probably never be really our of pet-debt with Dad. I am learning, though, that pet equity is sweat equity.

On Saturday, if we do not have any rabies at Four Mile, Tommy will be free. The deer that have loved his incarceration will not be happy. But Dad will be ecstatic. Garbage will be strewn again and Dad will have a tough time getting to the car. But Dad will be so happy to look out on the patio and see that good dog again. A part of me will be a little relieved, too. Dad, from his recliner by the glass patio door is on “Tommy-tangle” patrol during the incarceration. And he is vigilant. Right now, I’m headed out to the woodshed in the rain because Tommy is tangled around the clothesline pole…and he’s such a goooood dog.


                       A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast; But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

Proverbs 12:10


Sister to Sister: Barbie’s in Smaller Hands

In preparation for one of my lectures at Polishing the Pulpit (you know, the one that will be delivered in a pretty empty room, because it occurs while the solar eclipse is also occurring…you know the eclipse that only happens every 100 years), I came across a statistic that’s cast a cloud over this grandmother’s afternoon. Here it is:

In the year 1990, the average age of a child who played with Barbie dolls was age ten. In 2000, the average was age three. This was resultant, the article postulated (and, I think, correctly) from the fact that electronic devices have been marketed to ever younger crowds. By the time a child is five or six, he or she has typically lost interest in toys and moved on to become absorbed in the flashier, but far less imaginative, world of video games. 

I realize this is just one more symptom of the real problem. It’s not really the preferences of the children. It’s the lack of direction from the big people. It’s not the absorption of the little people in the games. It’s the absorption of the big people in pursuits that leave little time for looking in the eyes of their children—even less time for exploring their interests, their hearts and their aspirations. It’s just easier to let someone else provide the basic care for our kids and, all too often, even that care is, whenever possible and convenient, relegated to devices that mindlessly entertain, but largely do not challenge and certainly do not nurture. The real nurturing, the conversations about ethics, the sharing about creation, the time in the Word, the stories about real life heroes—well, that stuff just doesn’t find a place in our busy lives.

We have to take a leap of faith in this culture to place the nurturing of our children above the lifestyle of affluence that’s come to be expected of us. Millennials grew up in pressure cookers of affluence—driven to be achievers, I mean driven—literally— to ACT tutors, professional athletic trainers, and personal specialists in whatever fields they were competing. Scores and win/loss records and courting by ball scouts and resume prowess—all of these were emphasized and, too often, character and ethics were not focal points in their families. Some of them suffered, as a result of these pressures to achieve, from eating disorders, prescription medication addictions, and self-harming behaviors. 

And now, they are the parents. I know many of them who are rejecting the parenting styles of the past generation of parents. They’re choosing time with children over 2nd careers, parent-care over day-care, and often, home-schooling over the public system. But the vast majority of the parents of today are still in the passing lane. They are, perhaps for the most part, unaware of any alternative to the fast-paced lifestyle of affluence. They certainly do not intend to raise their children on electronics. But their children are away from them during most of their waking hours. They have movies on in the car as they drive. The television comes on when they walk in the door and it  usually stays on until the last person goes to bed. When a child becomes loud or annoying in a restaurant or social setting, it’s very easy to hand her a cell phone and connect her up to you-tube or you-tube for kids. It’s a whole lot easier at home to hand a child a phone than it is to get down in the floor and play with a bucket of cars or construct a fort with blocks or any of a bajillion things you can do when you pretend. Besides, there’s just not time to spend much of it on the floor with a toddler when you’ve spent your next ten years’ paychecks on the training for the demanding position you’ve finally achieved. Your investment is shouting from behind you all the time. It’s easy to think that, when you jump over one more hurdle, there will be more time for family. But one business success breeds another challenge and, truth be told, you’re moving farther from nurturing and the gap between you and your children is widening. 

I know the Mattel toy company is dismayed at the statistic. (After all, there are several years of Barbie-consumers who’ve moved on to electronics.) But, at the risk of the wrath of office moms everywhere, may I just say that the Mattel company is not the only casualty here.  Worldliness takes many forms and one of them is when we allow a first-world-affluence-chasing culture to pressure us into a conformity that often steals some pretty valuable commodities from our children. There is value in waking up, as a child, whenever the sun, the household noise and the smell of the coffee-pot or the waffles or the bacon wakes you. There is value in being lifted from the bed or the crib by a mom who has a few minutes to say “Good morning, Sunshine. I’m so glad to see you!”—who has a minute to rock you before your diaper change and who has time to sit across the breakfast table with you and talk about what day of the week it is or why the birds are so loud outside the window this morning. There’s value in play—with real toys and there’s even value in watching Mary Poppins or Dumbo, while you talk with your mom about the happy things and the sad things in the story and why they are such. There’s value in going to the mailbox and in caring for younger siblings and in chore lists and in story time before nap. There’s value in learning to wipe up messes and in learning to write thank you notes (even when you’re really just drawing them). There’s value in playing in your own backyard or on your own little porch. There’s value in pretending the puddle is a lake or the chairs you have lined up is a train. There’s value in learning to make a sandwich or bake cookies with mom or ride the horse that Dad can be when he comes home from work. There’s value in long prayers in which every relative and every food item is mentioned. There’s value in taking a nap whenever you are tired and not necessarily when the bell rings and there’s some value in taking it in your own domain when you’re a preschooler. There’s great value in the filter that is your faithful mama. When your faithful mother knows every song you’ve learned and every book that’s been read to you and every concept you’ve encountered in a day—well there’s inestimable value in that. There is just great value, for children, in savoring, even unknowingly the leisure of childhood. But it cannot easily be done on the tight schedules of adults in the workplace or in crowded daycare centers. It just can’t

There are some moms who find themselves regretting the fact that they’re in a spot in life in which they cannot maximize the amount of time spent with their children. They just cannot do it differently. Not right now. Not yet. They are doing the best they can and they need support and encouragement as they work to make childhood more child-friendly for their kids. There are some who, though not in the work place, are still not involved in the hearts and aspirations  and play of their children. These moms are legion in our welfare culture and their children are often in more than one kind of poverty. And then there are some moms who are very involved in the lives of their children and still find ways to earn a bit from home, build little family businesses with kids in tow, or earn a little money in small part-time ventures while children are with dad, for instance. In short, I know, the thoughts of this article are not one-size-fits-all parents. The thoughts are one-size-fits-all children, though. In a perfect (for children) world, kids would be raised, nurtured and disciplined by mothers who spend their days in that pursuit. They would be further supported, nurtured and disciplined by their fathers, who are committed to their spiritual success. And they would be brought to know and honor God by two faithful parents. 

Sister to Sister: Ezra and Goodness!

This is Family Bible Week at West Huntsville and my evenings are spent this week being a part of the throng around Jesus when he’s on His way to the home of Jairus. Our depiction of the miracle is focused on the power around the very name of Jesus. On His way to the home of Jairus, he heals a woman simply by her touching the hem of his garment. We’re trying hard in our little room to put reverence for the Lord and awe at His power in those little hearts.  The last line we sing to them is “Jesus…Jesus…Jesus…There is power around that name.”

I’ve had two of those sweet little hearts in my house this week (and seven more sweet ones coming tomorrow). I’m loving the expanding vocabulary of Ezra, the two-year-old, and I’m especially loving the expanding knowledge of Scripture, of right and wrong and of truth that will, if developed and nurtured make His life a glorification of our Father. 

Here are a few highlights of recent conversations:

Ezra: Dare’s good Bible cwasses and den dare’s bad Bible cwasses.

Me: Well, why is there a bad Bible class?

Ezra: Well, because day don’t teach de troof.

Me: Oh no, they don’t teach the truth?

Ezra: Well, dem fink dey do, but dem not.  


Ezra: Mammy, adultewy is not good.

Me: No, Ezra, it’s very bad. But what IS adultery?

Ezra: It’s when you have a boyfwiend AND a husband…both.

Ezra’s mom: Like who?

Ezra: wike Potipher’s wife. 


Ezra’s mom: Ezra, what is the kid’s sing rule?

Ezra: Do the right thing.

Ezra’s mom: But we just call that the “kid’s sing rule” because we say it at Kidsing. It’s really a rule for everywhere and all the time. It’s for when we wake up and when we are playing and when we go to Bible class. It’s doing right when we talk to Mom and Daddy and it’s telling the truth…and…

Ezra: I have an idea. Can we talk about this later?…like maybe tomorrow?


Ezra: Mammy, we do NOT say “Oh my Gosh.”

Me” That’s right, Ezra.

Ezra: But we can say “Oh my word.”…but not “Oh my goodness, because that’s sounds kind of like “Oh my Gosh.”

Me” That sounds right, Ezra.

Ezra: But some people dooz it just because nobody teached dem. They don’t know it’s a bad fing, so we dus have to teach dem….Aaaand…”Goodness” is good, but “Oh MYYY Goodness” is not good. 


Goodness IS good and I’m glad it’s growing in that little heart! I’m glad for all the young parents who are diligent about directing little consciences toward heaven. Family Bible week happens once a year, but every week should be a family Bible week at home!

Mama’s K.I.S.S. #47: Christian Camps

As you know, if you’ve been reading, for quite some time, I’ve occasionally been running little installments called “Mama’s K.I.S.S.” I know that lots of readers could give many more and far more creative ideas than I can offer, but these installments are just a few tried and true and mostly old-fashioned ideas for putting service hearts in our kids.  This is number 47 of a list of one hundred ways we train our kids to serve. K.I.S.S. is an acronym for “Kids In Service Suggestions”.

Christian summer camps can be  great service oriented experiences for your children. When I first began writing the Mama’s K.I.S.S. series, though, I would have recommended different camps than I would today. I say that just to place the burden of responsibility on parents to check out the camp before assuming your kids will benefit from going. I heard just today from two unrelated campers in different states who were very young and exposed at camp to conversations with sexual content that wasn’t fit for anyone’s ears, much less the very young. Just be sure the camp has a very high ratio of staff to campers and that the staff is fully committed to guarding the innocence of your young children and guiding them in holiness. I highly recommend the Apologetics Press weeks of Indian Creek Youth Camp ( and the amazing West Huntsville week at Camp Neyati in Guntersville, AL. I love POINT camp in Corinth, MS, as well and you can contact Sami Nicholas ( for more information about that one. 

The point, though, of today’s post is that it’s a great idea to become involved with your kids in a good and sound summer camp. Parental involvement is why we have only about three children to every one adult at Camp Neyati. If your children see you sweating, serving, cooking, and cleaning…and loving it, they are well on their way to doing the same. As you get involved, you can make sure the kids have a healthy balance of fun and Bible study and service, too. Every craft doesn’t have to be carried home with the campers. Gifts can be made in the craft hut for widows or nursing home patients. I recall walking in a a huge group from Maywood Camp, in Alabama, one year, to visit an elderly couple who lived nearby. And I’ve made literally scores of loaves of bread with teens in camps to deliver to those who needed encouragement and to teach the girls to continue a kitchen ministry. We’ve made cards to encourage teachers and visited congregations to conduct children’s classes..all while at camp. We’ve trained to do personal Bible studies and learned to serve at ladies days. 

Camp can be a great service training mini-course. Just be picky and, whenever possible, be a volunteer!

Sister to Sister: Guard the Perimeter



One evening recently I was visiting and enjoying sweet fellowship on the lawn of a church building in our area. It was almost dusk and cars were passing regularly on the highway several  feet away.  I had my grandson, Ezra, who is two years old with me that night, and he was having a good time running on the sidewalk, climbing the stairs and playing in the bushes. I noticed a frantic sister go and catch him when he neared the sidewalk that paralleled the highway. “Come back! Don’t go near the road,” she said as she ran to make sure he didn’t go in the street. I appreciated her care for Ezra.

That sister probably thought I was a negligent grandmother, letting Ezra play in that yard adjacent to the street. I appreciated her concern. The truth was that while, of course, I wanted Ezra to stay far from the highway, I really didn’t think he would go past that sidewalk. Earlier that day, I had experienced a very hard time convincing Ezra that it was okay for him to ride his scooter on our asphalt driveway…because he thought our driveway was a “woad”. Ezra doesn’t go near the street because his parents have trained him to keep a certain distance between himself and the road. 

We parents and grandparents do this. We give our children boundaries that keep them from danger. They know not only to keep out of the road, but to keep a prohibited space between themselves and the street. They know not to touch the fire, but also to stay back from it. Not to jump off the cliff, but also to stay back from its edge. We do not sit our young children down in front of a mixture of M&Ms and deadly drugs and let them pick out the M&Ms to eat. 

But do we do this spiritually? We fail to guard the perimeter of sin—the area that may still be out of the world, but is so close to its dangers that our children let their guards down. It’s the perimeter…the area all around the danger. It’s the places where the world backs right up to the church. It’s that area where the “ pleasure of sin” (Hebrews 11:25 ), allures the senses of our children but its stench can’t quite reach their noses. While we do not want our children to stop attending worship, do we give them our permission to miss it for a very hard test or a very “important” ballgame? (The root word “game” is operative. It’s a game.) We do not want our teens to commit fornication, but we let them “play” in the zone of temptation. We let them watch movies that glorify it. We let them go to dances that promote lust. We let them read books that normalize it and we let them dress immodestly to attract the attention of those of the opposite sex. We let them play very close to that street. We don’t want them to grow up to be gambling addicts, but, of course, we would never deny them the opportunity to participate in the raffle to raise money for their school. (One day the whole state lottery will be about “money for education”.) Do we not see the spiritual danger of allowing our kids to be casual around the perimeter of the world? …Of getting too close to the fire, too near to the street, or of letting them choose the M&Ms before they can distinguish the difference?

Every one of us has the roaring lion (I Peter 5:8) seeking and we may even have the devil sifting (Luke 22:31). His best efforts are expended on the young. His best chance to get your kids is around the edge of your spirituality. Oh that we, as parents, would be as diligent about those dangers as we are about the ones that can only harm our children in this lifetime. The devil’s street traffic can make your kids die eternally. Let’s make spiritual safety zones that make it safer for them. It’s just easier to keep them far from that street while they are young than to watch them venture out when we no longer get to set the perameters for them. 

Let’s guard the spiritual perimeters.



Q and A: Family Bible Time for Ages 6-12

Question: Okay, I have a couple of questions about Family Bible Time. I know how you would do a family night with the younger kids…but what about Ariel’s age 10 going on 16?  I guess if you could just give me examples of what you and Glenn did, that would be helpful.  Also, did you give a prize EVERY night or just sometimes?  I have given her candy if she recites 5-10 verses depending upon circumstances. I could see where we could play games while listening to Hannah’s 100 in the background – repetition does work it’s magic.  It makes me laugh because if I come across a passage that we’ve learned through your family, I sing it while I’m reading it 🙂

Answer: Well, for Ariel’s age, I think your reading Discovery and the Beginners Evidences Correspondence course from Apologetics Press ( would be a good start at Bible time. if you read a section and talk about it and then have her fill in some of the questions (a very limited amount) or work a puzzle from discovery before the next night, that would be a start. Then I would recommend (for your husband’s benefit) studying “Headed to the Office” ( as a family. You could tell Ariel that you were putting it in her head so that she could start knowing, even now, what kind of man she was going to look for in a husband one day. I think also, for her age, playing Bible Twenty Questions (let me know if you don’t know how to play Twenty Questions) would be a good thing…and Bible charades. (Don’t have a prize every night…maybe once every two weeks.) Have one night where you have found a faithful missionary to whom Ariel can compose a letter to ask questions about the culture and work and send her small contribution. Let her write for the Bible time. Have another night each week when you find a passage or Psalm about someone who was very grateful (the leper or Mary and Martha) and let her write thank you notes to all the people who have given her gifts or blessed her life in other ways. Have Digger Doug nights, where you watch an episode of Digger Dug’s Underground together ( Have a night where she reads aloud a chapter of Ruth from the Easy-to-Read version. Do this for four nights and then on the fifth and sixth nights, get her to make a flip chart (just use a school notebook) of pictures of the story. Then on the seventh night, let her tell you the story using her flip chart. One night have her go outside and pick a flower and then find what Jesus said about flowers in the Sermon on the Mount. One night let her tell you all the things salt is good for…look online. This lesson goes on and on. Then let her find what Jesus said about salt in the Sermon on the Mount. One night, let her find a Bible lands map of the Holy land online and print it off. Then on the following nights you can read through the missionary journeys of Paul in the book of Acts and let her draw the arrows and tiny pictures of what happened in these places as you read through his journeys. Light a candle in your dark house and read by candlelight what Jesus said about candles in the Sermon on the Mount. We also loved certain stories from “The Book of Virtues.” We would read a story out loud to the kids and then let them find verses that taught the same lesson from the Bible. When we studied Genesis together, we put a roll of white paper all around the wall of one of our rooms and each night we let the kids draw what we had read about that night, till we had a whole timeline of Genesis starting with creation and ending with Joseph’s family down in Goshen. Sometimes they would paste things on the time line, like a miniature “coat of many colors” they had cut out of striped fabric or kernels of corn to fill in the shape of a number 7 to signify Joseph’s solution about saving up the corn during the seven lean years. Tell Ariel to let me know when she can sing the whole book of James and I will send her something I want her to have. Be sure to video some of her memory work, so she will know you think it is very important.  Sometimes we just went around the room and quoted verses. You had to quote a verse that began with any word that was in the person’s verse who went directly before you. To make it competitive, sometimes we would challenge dad to quote a verse before or after any verse that we could quote. Sometimes we went through the books of the Bible and challenged each other to say one verse in each book. For sheer fun, we challenged each other to say all of the books of the Bible in one breath. One of us, who is particularly long-winded, can say them through twice in one breath. And, finally, some of our favorite nights were under the stars or in our little living room or in our van…just singing praises. We just went from one person to the next choosing the song…pretty much favorite times we remember. Every time we ended with prayer…still do.  This is a start. Let me know if you need more, but I’m pretty sure they will come to you naturally and you will quickly become a Deuteronomy 6 “all day long” mom. Much love to you and all moms who are molding hearts and lives for eternity!

P.S. There’s also a three week guide for Family Bible Time in the back of the book “Picking Melons and Mates” that’s great for jump-starting your daily time together. It’s an easy DIY kind of outline. You can get it here:!/Children/c/3290196/offset=0&sort=normal