Sunday, June 28, 2015

Baseball and my Firstborn

It's his true sport-love.  Baseball has his heart above all other sports.  There is something about setting up your tent and chairs, opening up your cooler of Gatorades, singing the National Anthem, watching the boys kneel to the Almighty, cheering on a great group of guys, and smacking on Peanut M & M's.  I'll miss this four year run of travel baseball, for sure.  Cade hopes to make the high school team next year.  And this baseball loving Momma hopes so, too. We'll miss our little Fieldhouse team, though; that's for sure.


















Saturday, June 27, 2015

17 years {marriage}


Happy seventeen to us!  Hand in hand we have walked.  I have only hit Eric once in seventeen years and that is while I was dreaming and deep in sleep.  ha!  He is the lighthouse pointing to truth when Satan twists things just enough for me to stop and ask, "which way?" He is my rock and shield.  My laughter.  Unlike me, He isn't afraid to get things out in the open and deal with them.  He is my discernment.  He is the one who shows me God. When I bottle everything up, he is my exhale.

I am blessed.

Marriage is hard (sin made every single relationship harder than necessary.) But, marriage is also a beautiful portrayal of Christ and His bride.  Marriage is a picture of the gospel.  In a Godly marriage, we can visually see Christ laying down His life for His beloved.  The climax of grace is when Christ loved his church so deeply that he gave himself up for her on a wooden cross. "Christ knew He would have to pay for His bride with His own blood." (Piper) Like the cross, every marriage will be marked with awe struck wonder and excruciating wounds.

Every anniversary allows us to pause and remember our vows and the grace that has enabled us to keep them. God holds our individual souls and our joint covenant bond of unity. We worship Him for bringing us together and keeping us along the way. 

John Piper says, "The world cannot know what marriage is without learning it from God."  Marriage exists to display God to a world in need of sight.

Happy 17th, babe! I'll love ya for always.




Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The LORD, the God of Our Fathers

This is a new one to me:  Jehovah Elohe Abothekem

It means this:

The LORD (Yahweh)
the God (Elohiym:  Supreme God)
of your Fathers (Ab: father, forefather, ancestor)

While touring Washington, D. C. last week, I was overcome with emotion time and time again.  I could have easily blamed the tears on the sweat rolling down my face, but they were indeed, tears.  From seeing the start of the United States of America to reliving the Holocaust, I was reminded that it is all God's story and it all deserves to be remembered.

One of the most memorable parts was taking in a large reproduction of Francis Scott Key's original draft of the Star Spangled Banner.



I had never heard the last stanza:

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "
In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Walking the streets of D.C. gives one a true sense of who the nation's founding fathers were.  As a whole, they worshiped God, putting Him on their currency, declarations, and national anthem.  They were not afraid to state that their only hope and trust was God alone.

How far we have fallen.

What has happened to the land that we love?

We have forgotten who our forefathers are.  Not just those of our nation, but those of our spiritual heritage.  Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. None of these men were perfect, but they all seemed to have mighty Jehovah etched deeply on their hearts.

Jehovah Elohe Abothekem. The LORD, the God of our Fathers.  Jehovah is the link between one generation and the string of generations before it.  We would be so wise to listen to the stories of our forefathers to understand who God is and to try to circumvent tragedies such as genocide, slavery,and apathy.

I find it striking that "abothekem" comes from the Hebrew "ab" which means father.  It is the very first Hebrew word in the lexicon and dictionary.  Numero uno.  It all seems to start with a Father.  God the Father places high emphasis on the concept of fatherhood.  God sent His only Son, in an act of courageous love, to allow a heathen world to experience the true love of a Father.

God the Father wants founding fathers of nations to point to the Ultimate Father.  God wants generation after generation to see what the founding fathers saw years and years ago as they searched for freedom.

In the Word, the context of Jehovah Elohe Abothekem is found in Joshua 18:3.  God had promised land to the patriarchs...the forefathers.  The land had been given, but the tribes had become lazy and apathetic.  They refused to go in and take over what had been entrusted to them.  Joshua asks the people of Israel, "How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?"

As Believers in America, I believe we have a dual inheritance.  We have the spiritual inheritance of our Lord, Jesus, as well as the inheritance of a literal free land in which to dwell. We are doubly blessed.  But, have we become lazy? 

The Message version says, "How long are you going to sit around on your hands?  The KJV says, "How long are ye slack?"  Slack here is faint, idle, lazy, slothful

We've become apathetic.  We are losing our national and spiritual identity.  We are looking sin straight in the face and on television and it isn't even bothering us anymore.  We as a church don't blush anymore.

I'm screaming this to myself:  there is sin in being too comfortable!  It creates an environment where we sit in luxury, refusing to see the glaring need that is all around.

What part of the land do we need to go in and take possession of?  The Hebrew word possession implies that we sometimes need to take BACK something that belongs to us....to drive out the previous tenants. 

We need to slough off the dead skin of apathy and put on courage.  We need to be reminded that we are a people under the God who calls himself Jehovah Tsaba:  The LORD our Warrior.  He wants us fighting alongside of Him. We must put on our armor, pray, saturate ourselves in His Truth, and stand strong against the enemy.

We must remember our fathers and all they taught us about the Father.

What land in our lives do we need to take possession of?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Amelia Love


When I was eleven, my parents went to the hospital and brought back a sweet little bundle of new sisterhood.  Her name was Schuyler Amelia and she was my new baby doll.  Old dolls got tossed aside as I fed her and changed her and inhaled her.  She quickly became my new love. 

When Amelia was two, she wore blond pigtails and tore our hearts asunder with her cuteness.  She seemed to fit right into our family, a sweet little soul that didn’t demand her own way or throw temper tantrums.  She brought a whole new dimension of God’s love to us all. 

When I was eighteen and home for the weekend from college, Amelia would pass me notes in church, begging me to stay.  I still have a pink little letter marked with a big heart and simple words scrawled out in her elementary handwriting. 

When Amelia was seventeen and in high school, God showed me just how different we were.  She played softball, excelled in cheerleading, and donned the rhinestone crown on the Homecoming Court.  When I was seventeen in high school, I sang, showed cattle, and didn’t dare attempt a sport. 

When I was twenty-one, Amelia wore baby’s breath and lace as she threw flower petals announcing me as the bride.  A part of me was joyous that day and a whole other part was broken because I knew I wouldn’t see her as much. 

When Amelia was nineteen, my heart ripped straight out of my chest as I listened to her sob and pound the shower walls after our sister died.  I was helpless in that moment.  Even though I was her big sister, there was nothing I could offer Amelia as her primal screams reverberated through the house.  My heart landed on the wooden floor amidst the scattered pictures of a beloved no longer with us.   

When I was thirty four, I stood by her side and listened to her groom confess his love through vows and tears.  I knew in that moment he would cherish her forever. My heart was content in turning her over to be his wife.

When Amelia was twenty three, she rented a booth in a flea market.  We frequently knocked over every antique store between here and Greenbrier, in search of cheap furniture begging to be graced with chalk paint.  We always drove through Mexico Chiquito, getting our extra-large Mexican punches, cheese dips, salsa, and tacos.  Even though it was eaten in her truck, it was a meal I loved.  We hit the road searching for treasure while I peed out a little punch in every restroom we could find. 

When I was thirty five, I let her and Mom stay in the hospital room while I pushed out seven pounds of pure boy-joy.  I wanted her to experience the happiness of birthing kids but also selfishly needed her comforting presence. She was one of my very best friends in the whole wide world and I couldn’t think of anyone else I would rather share that moment with. 

When Amelia was twenty five, I started saving all of my maternity clothes, toys, and baby clothes.  I was ready to be an aunt to her children, and repay them some of the love that she has passed down to my kids.  I think I will one day behold a little blonde niece in pigtails, tearing my heart asunder as she climbs into my lap. 

When I turned thirty eight, I came to the conclusion that an eleven year age span disappears as those sisters become best friends.




 
 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Summoned by the King: A Lesson in Delight

When I first met Herb Stuart, he scared the daylights out of me.  I was an introverted freshman in college and got invited to the Stuart’s house by some girlfriends I had just met and started to adore.

Herb was sitting in his oversized forest green upholstered chair with his legs kicked up on the matching ottoman.  He was the king of the house; I knew it instantly.  Kings can be terrifying.

He didn’t say much, which made me extra nervous because I didn’t quite know what he was thinking.  Painfully shy around people I didn’t know, I probably didn’t say much either that evening.

Herb and I didn’t know it then, but we would find ourselves very related in a few years.  I married his first born and birthed his grandsons while he became my second father.

Kings can be good.

Herb was instrumental in shaping my theology.  I loved to think about God and worship God and he loved to offer me the freedom that a correct theology would provide.  I’ll never forget arguing with him that I really could lose my salvation.  He told me that if I were really dead in my transgressions then only God could call me unto life.  If I didn’t really have a choice in the salvation issue (even faith is a gift!) then I probably didn’t have much choice in maintaining my salvation (it is God who keeps us!)  He stretched his big palm out wide and told me I was right there in God’s palm, forever safe.

There is something to be said for freedom as you abide with the Father. The weight of the world started to slip away as this truth sank in. I guess the Word really is true…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. I am the temple of the Spirit of the Living God.  I am forever free.

As the years sped past, my favorite thing to do was sit in a chair close to his as he watched golf and Fox news. Inevitably, we would start talking about eschatology.   Pretribulation, millennia, rapture…all these words encompassed our little talks.  I kept thinking surely Herb had all the end-times answers that no one else had been able to nail down.   

Herb was easy to be around, never judging or condemning.  He loved taking our boys to sports and helping grab them after school.  He was my guard dog, making sure I was safe when Eric traveled. He treated us to dinner, often a greasy burger, which was just fine by me. He almost always called me “Beck.”

I cry now, trying to type this out because I miss him terribly.

Cancer stole him away, his diagnosis being exactly one year ago. We had seven months and two days with him after we heard the words stage four lung cancer.  I am grateful for those days, time helping prepare our hearts for God’s sovereignty. Sometimes our human definitions of good simply don’t match those of the All-Knowing One.  Surrender leads to peace, though.  I was blessed to have already learned this excruciating lesson.

It seems that Herb was always in a state of teaching, even when his lips weren’t moving.  It was one of God’s callings on his life and he was one of the best.  If he wasn’t teaching the Word, then he was teaching us how to serve. If he wasn’t teaching husbands how to lead then he was teaching dads how to love.  If he wasn’t teaching my boys baseball mechanics, then he was teaching us how to see in this wayward culture. We are a people in desperate need of sight.

Even in Herb’s last days, he was teaching. In Herb’s last days, he taught us how to die with delight.

Two days before he passed away, I asked Herb if God had been teaching him anything new on his 7 month journey of battling cancer. (Yes, it was a selfish question but I needed to soak up everything that Jesus had been to him these last months.)  I guess I was expecting some long sermon or some Greek or Hebrew word, but he shocked me. It went something like this...

Yes, I have been thinking about God a lot lately.  But, more than that, I know God has been thinking about me.  You know, I just can't conceive how much the Father loves me.  It is just inconceivable to me.  I know He loves me and I am so thankful, but goodness, I just can't grasp the depth of it!

Despite the pain and shortness of breath, Herb was grinning from ear to ear as he said these words.  I knew at once he had not just accepted that he might die soon but that he was quite possibly excited about it.  If he had to die, he was going to do it with delight.

How beautiful that in Herb's last days, the Father's affection towards him is what stayed in his every thought.  A wise man's theology and deepest ponderings all the sudden boiled down to one thing:  a Father’s delight in His son.

I was sitting in church with Eric and Zach a couple of days later when we got the text.  Herb was ready to go home and wanted us to pray over him.  We sped there, my heart in my throat.  How on earth would I find the grace to tell this patriarch goodbye? Was he the thread that held the Stuart family together?  Would we unravel string by string once he left?

I want you to know there was a smile on Herb’s face on January 4, 2015.  The amount of pain he was enduring ripped my insides apart.  His cough was unbearable and his voice could hardly speak, due to the accumulation of fluid in his lungs.  What got to me the most was his inability to get a good breath.  I felt like he was suffocating.  I wanted the God of breath to come and breathe fresh into him. I have never witnessed such pain in my life.  At one point, I crucified my own selfish desires and starting begging God to take him home because it was simply too much.

Through all of this, Herb smiled anyway.

Herb laughed and cut up and made jokes in between gasps for air.  Eventually, the amount of morphine knocked him out, allowing some measure of rest.  But while coherent, he was trying to lighten the heavy load for us all.  He refused to complain or tell us how miserable he was.  There wasn’t a single ounce of fear in his countenance.

Every family member and friend that respectfully went to his bed side that day was offered a final word of blessing by Herb.  A whole group of men showed up to pray over him and were blindsided as Herb took over the prayer and blessed them instead. Giving was his way; it was in his very marrow.

Herb knew he was about to lay eyes on the Father who loved him with a depth he couldn’t fully grasp.  He told us he was excited and that we would all be ok.  He pulled me close and told me how blessed he was that I had joined our family.  He whispered a father’s love over me.

I’ll never forget the last lesson that Herb Stuart imparted to us all:  When the One True King summons you home, you go with delight.
 



 
{Last two photos by Todd Owens Photography}

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Elijah {Just Like Us}

The worship of Yahweh was at stake.  God raised up Elijah to turn the Israelite’s hearts back to the One True God.  Ahab, the evil King of Israel would rather have his ears tickled than hear the truth.  He quickly started calling Elijah, “the troubler of Israel.”  Who was this man, so fearless and mighty, that he would dare deliver God’s words of judgment?  Neither dew nor rain for three whole years, the bold prophet declared. The Strong God’s name would carry on amongst His chosen people; His faithfulness demanded it. 

God showed up at Mount Carmel, the day Elijah called upon His great name. The water-logged altar sizzled right up as the Holy Fire consumed everything in its path. God had His way that day as the Israelites fell on their faces in repentant dust. 

Perhaps the spiritual high left him unguarded, but the moment Jezebel intimidated Elijah’s life, he tucked tail and ran.  Satan took one of Elijah’s greatest strengths and twisted it completely around. This was the man that had killed all of the prophets of Baal, but a single threat from this woman left him undone. Elijah bowed low to fear that day. 

Elijah found himself a day’s journey into the wilderness where he prayed to die.  With the wilderness came a harsh and uncultivated land where his identity came into question.  In this place, God desired to come and speak into his ache, revealing Himself and thus, revealing Elijah, as well. 

After God met his physical needs, He asked Elijah a simple question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  Such a simple question asked, but one that would get straight to the heart of the issue.  I am all alone here, Lord.  I am the only one living my life for you!  {Have I not muttered these same words?  I am the only one who prays for national repentance.  I am the only one who changes so many dirty diapers.  I am the only one who cleans dish after dish.  I am the only one and surely this is all about me!} 

The wind tore off the rocks and the fierce earthquake shook Elijah to his core.  The Holy Fire consumed the shrubs huddled against the cave. But, it was the quiet voice of God that beckoned Elijah out of the cave. 

In that intimate moment, God tenderly knew what His child needed.  Elijah needed qol demamah daqah. Elijah needed a soft murmuring sound. Elijah needed a still small voice.   

God inquired once again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  Elijah answered the very same way.  I am the only one living my life for you! 

Perhaps I am the same as Elijah.  James 5:17 tells me that Elijah was a man, just like us.  But, it breaks my heart that Yahweh’s presence washed over the Prophet in a soft voice and yet Elijah’s perspective still didn’t change.  I would have hoped that a tender encounter with the Almighty would have changed his thinking. Have glorious encounters with the King left me unchanged as well? 

And yet, God’s tenderness didn’t stop with His still small voice. He sent Elijah out again, with fresh purpose. The Lord even threw in a little sovereignty for good measure:  I have seven thousand in Israel, none of which have bowed down to Baal.

You aren’t alone, Elijah.  There are others living their lives for me, as well. Things are not always what they seem to be.  I promise I am up to something good.  You simply need to walk by faith.  I’ll take care of my own glory. 

It’s when we feel alone that Satan preys upon this lie of being alone.  Feeling quarantined, even the smallest hint of danger spirals us further into isolation. We become depressed, sometimes to the point of begging God to remove the breath He breathed into us. Our sense of purpose seems to have been yanked away, because, well, how could God use us now that we have run?   

Lift up your head, dear one. Be nourished and turn your ear to the soft murmuring of the Holy of Holies.

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.