Friday, May 22, 2015

Bridgewater

{You guys!  I finally sat down and wrote a little about my childhood. I think I'll keep adding to it when things come to me.  It's purpose is to have something of myself to pass down to my boys one day.  I didn't know it would be so much fun, though!  I hope it brings you a giggle or two today.  Get your own story down!  Your words matter.}
 
Bridgewater
 

1.        Perhaps the story has been told one too many times by my Dad, so my memory may simply be based upon his memories.  The house at 3950 Bridgewater Lane began with a mere slab, and with it, a new name for me.  My Uncle Karl, missing half a finger, was hammering away alongside my Dad on wooden beams, the pillars and makings of a place that would later cradle a family of souls.  I was toddling around, pigtails and dimpled thighs, making up my own words and tripping over toolboxes with ungracious tact.  Karl said, “You know, Jerry, she looks like a little Lulu.” 

My Dad never turned back.  I was his Lulu from then on.  Sure, I was also Becke’ and Honey Pie and Sugar, but only he could call me Lulu and get away with it.

 

2.        The carefree summer days always rise to the surface when I think of Bridgewater.  I can smell my Mom’s tanning concoction, Johnson’s Baby oil with iodine bubbles swimming about.  I loved to give it a good shake and watch as the oil tried to collide with the iodine.  For a few minutes, it was a brownish orange mix that seemed to get along like the best of friends.  Mom would oil herself up real nice and I would help spread it across her back.  She would lie out on her lawn chair and watch me and Devin (my older brother by three years) play.  As in play, I mean, climb the mound of gravel that was waiting to be spread on our circle drive.  What kid doesn’t relish having her own mountain?

 

3.        Once I unwillingly overcame my fear of riding a bike (Dad puts me on a hill and down I go), Mom, Devin, and I would set out on mile long bike journeys together.  I see the dirt roads and feel the welcome relief of pavement greeting us once again. Up and down we went until we made it back home.  The hills that about killed us on these rides became our shouts of glee when the first snowfall would hit.  Before the last hill, we would go past Adam Eichler’s big brown mansion of a house, Adam being one of my first crushes.  As a preteen, I would play one single game of Life with him which is as far as that childhood crush ever went. My best friend later loved him for a spell.  It’s funny how these things fall.

 

4.        The creek that ran under the bridge by our home became the stomping grounds of a couple of kids who loved all things critter.  Well, all things but the lizards that Devin would lock me in a small bathroom with.  If I had known then that those lizards were probably more scared of me than I them, it might have helped matters.  To this day, all I can hear is the scream of a little trapped girl, banging the wooden door with all her might just to be free of the blue shiny tailed menaces.  I guess I didn’t like my older brother so much after that.

 

5.        The front porch quickly became my play area.  I would chalk large hopscotch squares onto the concrete slab and jump my way across.  I would build forts and sit with every single doll I owned, making sure each was well fed and groomed.  I had a plethora of dolls, from China to Barbie, but Cody was my favorite doll ever.  He had bright blue eyes and hair the color of sunshine.  He smelled delicious, almost like a real baby should smell.  The doll maker even gave him fake boy parts.  Gasp!  I was equally intrigued and equally horrified every time Cody needed a diaper change.  God must have thrown back His head and laughed at me, knowing He would one day give me four real boys, each with very real boy parts.  Cody is stored up in my garage.  He probably deserves better than that.

 

6.        What is it about girls that need good girlfriends?  I was lucky and got one of my best friends while in preschool.  I have a whole slew of childhood memories that include Amy.  There are two that stand out above the others.  Both were adventurous and daring, which is so unlike me.  But that was Amy, unlike me in all ways.

On our five acres, we had an old camper that sat in the middle of the field.  It was quite the distance from the house, at least for a couple of nine year olds.  Whose idea it was to sleep there, I will never remember.  When we pulled back the curtain to peer into the darkness and saw a pair of glowing cow eyes staring back at us, we about peed our little panties.  I’d like to say we finished the night in the camper, but I think I was so scared after that that I blocked out the rest of the cow alien event.

My other favorite memory of me and Amy at Bridgewater (we had roaring good times at her house that deserve their own written account) is when we saddled our horses and took off.  I mounted Joe the Bay and she sat atop Betsy the White.  We were queens and pioneers and cowgirls, wrapped into two pre-adolescent bodies thirsting for one glorious swig of freedom.  We made it all the way to Gulley Road, which was quite the distance for a couple of old horses.  It was that day that I discovered I like adventure but the sight of home is even better.

 

7.        The shop was my Dad’s territory and it was massive.  It sat atop a small mound where White Lightening, the best truck in the history of ever, was always parked.  Even though the shop felt huge to my little eyes, it was safe.  There is something reassuring about seeing your Dad at work, whether it be clipping cattle in the chute (that we pulled inside when it was freezing) or tinkering away on a tractor.

Seeing unforgiving sawblades, explosive power water sprayers, and big red toolboxes didn’t unnerve me but instead created a sense of trust and comfort in my Dad.  If he could handle these beasts, then he must have the rest of the world under control as well. 

There were big heaters tucked away in the upper corner recesses that glowed red in the winter time.  They kept Dad warm when he had to play Santa Clause and put together little red wagons the night before Christmas.

Dad’s office was nestled inside the right quadrant of the shop where his current blueprints lay sprawled across his giant desk.  I can still see the sticky fly catcher dangling from the ceiling, beckoning me to take a peek at guts and dying flights.

 

8.        Right past the large red farm gate that separated yard from pasture was the pond.  The pond held little significance to me because there were no fish in it.  It provided water for the cattle and looked pretty enough—in a murky pond kind of way--and that was about it.  One day that all changed.  Dad decided we didn’t need the pond anymore and so he got out a giant beast of a yellow machine, backhoe, I guess, and started digging large trenches so the pond would drain.

Enter my panic attack.  The so called non-existent fish were flopping and my heart was pounding to the cadence of save the fish.  Mason jars in tow and buckets galore, I plopped my cut off jean short self into the muck and mire.  Let’s be real here.  It was mud, pure and simple:  glorious mud that sucked my legs right under, threatening to hold me hostage forever.  Nevertheless, it might have been the most fun thing I’ve ever done, grabbing fish and tadpoles and all things swimmy, saving them in clear containers. 

We dumped what we could into the creek.  The next day, I loaded up the tadpoles, with the punctured Mason lids screwed on, and begged every other fourth grader to take one home. (Can’t you just hear the string of curse words at the 3 o’clock pick up line when kids climbed into the back seats with their new little tailed friends?)

Mrs. Whitlach, a 5th grade teacher close by, took the remainder of my orphaned tadpoles and dumped them into her large aquarium.  It might have been the nicest thing a teacher has ever done for me.

 

9.        No land is complete without a barn and truth be told, for the last few years at Bridgewater, the barn held my heart. I started showing cows in fairs when I was 11.  My first heifer was Dolly, black and furry and not a bit of harm to her.  Her halter was blue and she didn’t seem to mind that I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. I don’t remember winning much with Dolly but she gave me a love for all things bovine and boots. 

My next heifer was Sweetie and her name lied to us every single day.  Sweet 16 was sassy and pompous but a winner in the ring.  I am pretty sure the angels got paid overtime every time I tried to walk Sweetie around our pasture at home.  Like a true pre-teen devoid of any common sense, I would wrap the length of her rope around my wrist.  Not just once, but around and around and around and around.  My thinking was that she would never be able to get away.  Her thinking was that she would just have a little party by dragging me all over the field. Now, I hate to mention this, but my idiocy was not limited to just one occurrence.  Maybe I am a glutton for punishment, because I still have rope burn scars on my hands today.

Along the way, I started showing steers as well, knowing the payout at the end could be better.  Steers just might be the most amazing animals on planet earth.  For the most part, they are devoid of emotional drama and will remain loyal despite all odds.  At first, it emotionally annihilated me to put my pets down at the end of the season, but one bite of juicy steak later and I knew our family had a good gig going.

The funny thing about cows is that they need even more drinking water in the winter than the summer.  Maybe it’s because they have to eat and eat in order to stay warm.  I can remember grabbing the red handled axe, trying to puncture the ice in each of their giant tubs of water. The giant icebergs would just float around, daring me to stick my bare hands into the depths to fish them out. Nothing about raising cows was easy, but it sure taught me about life.

It’s probably not fair that the first mention of my sister, Kiley (about 6 at the time), is about the time she tied her big fat heifer, Coal Dream, to the rod iron fence.  We had to bathe our show cattle regularly, mainly to try and grow their hair and teach it how to lie correctly.  Kiley drenched one side of Coal Dream with the hose and was trying to get to her other side, but the 1200 pound gentle giant wouldn’t budge. Now Kiley wasn’t afraid of anything and she was determined to get her way.  She found the “hot shot” livestock prod that works well in getting stubborn cattle to move by zapping them with a little shock.  But, Coal Dream was soaking wet tied to a dad gum lightening rod.  I could tell you about the bellering of that poor animal, but you really need to ask my Dad to make the sound.  His vocal chords hold back nothing and you might find yourself in a hot mess of hysterical tears.

The day Sweetie became a mom turned quickly bitter.  Her little girl was crippled in her hindquarters.  Sweetie’s pride and joy was a rich shade of amber, like her grandmother, Zula. Her eyes were rimmed in black eyeliner and heavy mascara.  She was a knockout.  But, she couldn’t walk.  Kiley cradled her and held on tight, wanting to take away the brokenness.  I learned that day that not all brokenness is healed.  We buried her deep and a touch of my own innocence went right into the grave alongside of her.

 

10.      The exact replication of my Dad came about when Kirby entered the world.  I was seven.  He came out with a broken collar bone, thanks to his massive size.  He was a gentle giant from the start, though.  He had to put up with Kiley bossing him around (apparently being 15 months older made her his mommy.)  Kirby would don his superman pajamas, and run as fast as he could, thinking he was flying.  Screaming “Booter Boy to the rescue!” his red cape would soar as his dimpled cheeks melted every heart that stood in his path.  He was endearing, this little blond and curly Q’d boy who had a fetish for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and volt battery powered four wheelers.

 

11.      Every young girl needs a diary. My first diary was covered with Anne from no other than Anne of Green Gables.  I was in 5th grade and had important things to say, apparently.  I tattled on Kiley and how she kicked me in the middle of the night.  I chronicled our vacation via motor home, all six of us (Amelia was yet to be) piled in to discover the great West. I wrote about my first serious babysitting job:  my baby cousin Trey for a whole week!  He loved to cry but gosh was he cute.    I wrote my first song that went like this:

Raindrops keep on falling

They just keep on falling

Sunshine never shines

Not in mind

The second stanza redeemed the first and allowed Jesus to bring light back into my soul.  I guess I was a melancholy from the start, feeling the weight of the world on my sun kissed shoulders.

 

12.      I loved sitting around our curved bar to eat as a family.  We rarely sat at the big table and I was just fine with that.  We plopped ourselves onto the high back wicker barstools and sat down to something delicious every single night.  I won’t lie:  Mom could cook.  (Still can.)  We had the ever popular 1970’s Tupperware in shades of mustard, brown, and orange.  Come to think of it, our wallpaper, countertops, and carpet carried those same hues.

We licked the mashed tators and roast off our lips and then proceeded to do the dishes.  The kitchen sink overlooked the pasture and if you lifted the window, you could catch the faintest hint of honeysuckle. 

The kitchen bar beckoned sleepy school children who stumbled in, hoping the oatmeal would lift their eyelids.  The bar provided a secure platform for endless hours of schoolwork including Presidential reports and algebra equations. The bar begged all to come partake of what God had provided.  The mustard yellow bar was the bedrock of the home.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Squishy and the Strawberry Massacre

I shall call him squishy and he shall be mine. And he shall be my squishy.  Hey there little squishy.(Dory the fish touches the squishy floating light.)  Ouch! 

Toddlers are kind of like the cute little floating light.  So enchanting and adorable, they beckon us to them.  Then, bang, pow-wow, shazaam, they leave us with a little sting of destruction. 
I came into the kitchen today to find popcorn kernels scattered all over the floor.  I took another glance and there were green strawberry tops everywhere as well.  Whaa?  Asher (endearing squishy light) had managed to crawl onto the barstool only to find Sam’s leftover bucket of popcorn kernels and a whole basket of strawberries waiting to be devoured.  He dumped the kernels and proceeded to start the great strawberry massacre of 2015. His shirt is on round 2 of being washed.  I have enough stubborn in this house without having to deal with you too, strawberry juice.
But, then the squishy toddler peeks at me with those flashing blue eyes and grins from ear to ear and I can’t help myself.
I’ll roam the earth to make sure he has every last strawberry to devour.
Dad gum squishy light.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Her Hometown

We packed up the van, toddler included.  It was me, Asher, Mom, Amelia, and my Nana and Grandad.  We drove past the land of Goshen into Nana's hometown of Hunstville.  Now, the Huntsville I know is not the Huntsville she showed us.  Who knew there were so many back roads in Madison County?

We turned down the dirt road--clay road thanks to the constant rain-- that meandered into its own domain and I fell in love.  The green trees, the windy roads, the fresh wild lilac all beckoned to my soul.  It was idyllic and a perfect place to grow up. 

Here are a few pictures.  Some are ruins and others are pieces of land where the houses should have been.  The first pic is where she was born and the last is her city house when they moved to "town" while she was in high school.











Nana told some childhood stories while we literally drove down memory lane.  My favorite was of her and her best friend, mere kids (12, I think) walking miles to their job at the canning company.  She said the company had to fire them because apparently child labor was becoming frowned upon.  She hated quitting because she loved being able to buy new clothes with her money. 

My Grandad threw in some stories as well, including walking all the way to Kingston to see his aunts.  He said he didn't know how many miles it was, but that it literally took all day. Grandad is just the jolliest, most patient fella, I wish I could have known him way back then, too.

I've thought a lot about story and how important it is to pass story on to your children and their children and their children.  Even Deuteronomy talks about the importance of this.  I think it is the revelation of who God is that ultimately gets passed down in the every day retelling of story.

I've been reading a lot of books lately on how to write.  Let me save you the money and the time.  Here goes:  Sit down.  Write.

Now, I know how crazy simple that sounds but it just about boils down to that.

If I think things have to be perfect, then I will never begin.  If I compare myself to others, then I will throw in the towel.

Just sit down.  Write.  Your kids and grandkids and great grandkids will love you for it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mother's Day '15

I don't always get to go home for Mother's Day, but when I do, it is a special treat.  I like to eat Mexican, my momma's potato salad, banana pudding, and shop til we all drop (or as much as a toddler will let us.)  I can't tell you what this woman means to me.  I bawl when I think about the heartache she has endured.  She keeps pressing on, knowing her hope is in Jesus.  She pins house ideas on pinterest but I think she is really just thinking about her heavenly home that waits.  Through the years, she has modeled to us all how to mother well and fight the fight.  (Neither of which are easy.) I am pretty sure her crown will be stuffed with jewels one day, but knowing her, she will just lay it back at her Savior's feet. You've done good, sweet Mom. Real good.
 












Thursday, May 7, 2015

Prayers to the Giver

As we fall on our knees today, may our voices rise in a unified and yet harmonious ballad of prayer to the One who still gives.


Let the sins of our nation fall weighty on our shoulders.  Let us ponder the things that God calls morally disgusting like the murder of 60 million helpless beautiful souls that God created. Those babies alone could populate a nation the size of the United Kingdom.  We have killed a whole nation off, in the name of self.

Let us remember that God's definition of family (Man+Wife or Man+Wife+Kid/s) is being stripped away before our very eyes.  As man and wife parent, they represent the whole character of God to the children.  As a whole, they can show children strength and justice, mercy and tenderness. Man and woman were created in His image and it takes this beautiful combination for children to see God. If family disintegrates, then the nation will implode.  Lord, we cry out that your way be preserved!

Let us ponder the hypocrisy and lies and apathy for sin in our government.  Let us pray for those in office, that they would have eyes to see and that they would be burdened by sin and that God might do a work in so many hearts.  Let us start begging for righteous leadership to be voted into place to change our nation around. Lord, we ask for your favor on the courageous and Godly ones that might boldly lead a visionless people.


Let us remember Israel and pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Lord, blanket your chosen nation in refuge against the onslaught of enemies.  Remove their blinders, that they can see the Messiah that has already come and will come again.  Let us remember that our beloved nation has been blessed and God has been longsuffering because we have stood with Israel for so long.

Above all, let us not forget that God is Giver.  The God that freely gave His One and Only.  The Son that willingly took on our condemnation.  The Holy Spirit that daily breathes in us, wooing us towards holiness.  This God still gives.  He receives glory by giving!  Your prayers are being heard! 

He longs to grant mercy to a nation that repents.  He longs to show compassion to the outcast.  He longs to gather us under His wings of refuge.



As you pray today, on this National Day of Prayer, remember that God is still in the business of giving.  He will never surrender His glory of being the Giver.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Happy #2 Asher Tate!

Last night, I tucked him in for the last time as a one year old. We rocked and I sang of a mother's love so deep. I prayed God would redeem him at a young age and give him a passion for the Word. I asked God to make him an oak of righteousness. God has used Asher to bless each one of us and bring a whole other dimension of joy to our hearts. Thank you for knitting him together and dreaming him up, Creator. I thought I wanted him to be a girl.  God knew my heart just needed an Asher.





 


Monday, April 27, 2015

Fellowship on the River '15

I really dig this day every year.  We gather as a huge church body down by the riverside to eat, chat it up, listen to our awesome band, and play.  It brings such a sense of unity to have everyone together, laughing and sharing life.  Asher enjoyed a steady diet of Cheetos and dirt and decided going down the slide head first is really the best way.