Although this is not an actual account of what happened to me on September 11th, I was in fact a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines and woke up that morning in Indianapolis, IN to this sight all around me. I was not yet 21 years old and I was stranded in that hotel for over a week. I will never forget flying an empty plane out of there and empty planes for several days to come. The thought still haunts me..
STAY CALM by Grace Davis
The Captain’s voice, a silencing boom, resonated through the plane, “Flight attendants please secure the cabin for landing.” Immediate panic as each of us realized we were 37,000 feet in the air, followed by curious passengers who would only be answered with darting glances from their youthful crew. Pounding hearts, racing minds, and a noticeable buzz zinging off the walls of the cabin. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. STAY CALM.
Southwest Airlines Flight #2367 was not scheduled to land in Chicago-Midway for at least another hour. Why, then, were we being asked to secure the cabin for landing? Was our bird out of fuel? Was there an equipment malfunction? And most importantly, why had we not been informed of our situation by our pilots? My 20 year old heart took a nose dive deep into the queasy pit of my stomach as I realized something was wrong. Something was very wrong. We were about to go down. STAY CALM. I was the Lead on this flight and, by God I was going to pull it together. Hands were raising, bells were ringing and a sound slowly crept into my ears, not a sound close to me. It was coming from the aft of the plane, overwhelming however distant. Yet I could hear it, piercing and small. A child was whimpering. Vacant blue eyes, speckled green eyes, dark amber eyes, short lashes, thick lashes were consuming my every move. Fear was suffocating the 737 Boeing and without answers mayhem would ensue.
“ What is going on,” I gasped. “There is an emergency and we must divert into Indianapolis. Please STAY CALM and keep the cabin CALM. We are not sure of the exact details but have been notified we must land immediately. Again, you must STAY CALM.” I turned. I faced them. I praised God nothing was wrong with our plane and set out to do what I was trained to do. STAY CALM. I explained the situation to my crewmembers and decided to address the empty faces seeking a shepherd. A sound wafted through the intercom system. A sound so hollow and flat it was unfamiliar to me, unrecognizable, distant: my own voice. “For reasons beyond our control we have been diverted to Indianapolis. Please STAY CALM. The plane is in complete working order and we are not in an emergency landing situation. I will advise you of the details as they become known to me. Again, we appreciate your cooperation and ask that you STAY CALM. Please make sure your seatbelts are fastened, your tray tables are in their full upright and locked position and that all of your carry on items are completely stowed. Flight attendants, please be seated for landing.”
The mind reels. Perhaps it is something as minor as weather. That must be it. The weather in Chicago is……it’s September…..too windy. It must be too windy to land in Chicago. STAY CALM. You’ve worked hundreds of flights. No, more than that. You’ve worked at least five hundred. It cannot possibly be the weather. Maybe Captain Thomas is not feeling well. Perhaps something is going on with his heart. Shit, what if he’s having a stroke? He’s got to be over 60. Jesus, what will we do if the Captain has a stroke during landing? Don’t look into their eyes. They will see right through you. They will sense your fear. She’s crying, 3A is crying and, my God, 14B has a newborn in her lap. STAY CALM. STAY CALM. I need to call my parents. Wait. They are in Paris and your cell is in your bag anyway and they will see your hands trembling. Something is wrong. Something is terribly, terribly wrong. Your fists are dripping sweat. Unclench your fists. They see your fists. Breathe. Why is my heart slowing down? Shouldn’t it be racing? Does it feel death lurking 30,000 feet in the air? What if the landing gear is jacked up and he’s just not telling us? Shit, I am going to die on this plane. I am 20 years old and I am going to die. What if there is a hole and everything breaks in half? That’s not possible right? We won’t all get sucked out of some gaping hole into thin air? Dear God, please just let us land safely. I beg you, for myself, I am 20 years old. I have so much life left to live, but mostly for these innocent people, babies crying, mothers patting, heads bowing. God, forgive me for all the crappy things I’ve done in my life. I’m sorry I had too many beers at happy hour and I’m sorry for using a fake ID to get into happy hour. Do you hear me God? I am not old enough to die. I am not even old enough to drink. I’m sorry for not going to church enough. I am a glorified cocktail waitress. I am not prepared to be the last hope these people have. God, I will do ANYTHING you ask. I will STAY CALM.
What the hell? We are circling. Why are we circling? Why aren’t we landing? This is taking entirely too long. People are shifting; their shoulders lowering. They know. They feel the scales teetering. They are reaching. Their breaths are becoming rapid. Will it be their last breath? Should they write a note? Ha. Should they make a call? STAY CALM. STAY CALM. Enough. I’m going in there and asking them what in God’s name is going on.
“A hi-jacked plane has flown into the World Trade Center. STAY CALM.”
Thursday, November 3, 2011-Many months ago, a vegetarian friend of mine introduced me to an author by the name of Johnathan Safran Foer. After all the Super Size Mes and other crazy food documentaries, his non-fiction book, Eating Animals, actually made me stop eating meat....for about a month. I remember reading the book and feeling differently about myself...something had stirred in me. I felt a bit smarter, a bit more open minded and a bit changed. Me, little ole me, started thinking bigger thoughts.
Amarillo College sponsors a Commonreader program every year. They select an author/book and host all sorts of activities around it ie visual arts contest, art exhibit, etc. This year's author was none other than JSF and my English prof suggested we enter the writing contest for extra credit. The prompt was to write a poem or personal about JSF's latest book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or something related to 9-11.
I completely forgot about the competition until the day before and threw something together so I could get the extra points for entering. A few days later Mr. S notified me I had placed third out of over 50 entries. I was, I'll say it, ECFRIGGINSTATIC. Yesterday the Amarillo Museum of Art had a reception for Joel Meyerowitz photography display followed by a lecture at Amarillo Globe News Center.
I almost did not go. I felt silly about being proud amongst the two other 18 year old winners. I felt silly about being 31 and attending a junior college. But I went, and Dr. Matney recognized me and my work was displayed all over the place and something hit me. BE PROUD. Look how far you have come in the last year. You write well. It's not the best ever but at least you dang tried and you just shook JSF's tiny hand, cool no?. You are bettering yourself to better your daughter's life. And when I called home to check on my greatest accomplishment, she said in her tiny little voice Mama, I am so proud of you!
I thought about our miscarriage the other day and then I thought about how I never think about it anymore. It was like a phantom that snuck in and then left as quietly as he arrived. Like an unwanted house guest that overstays his welcome but not until you boil over the breaking point does he finally leave. Weeks of being polite and bearable and hospitable until you lose your $hi* and send an eviction notice. Time’s up. Get out. Move on. I don’t even remember now how long it all lasted, weeks I know, but maybe not quite months and months. I thought about how fortunate I am to barely remember. How blessed we are to not be tracking a loss date or thinking about how old the baby would be now. I often feel guilty because that short stint of suffering was immediately replaced with a new beautiful life and so many people are not so lucky. I thought, on this day, that I would go through every single second again one million times over to have this baby boy in my life. I talk so often about light and darkness and suffering and triumph. I have been through those cycles in my life and if there was ever a story of low and high, this son of mine is the epitome of strength that comes from pain. I cannot imagine the finality and heartache I would feel now if he had not come along. It’s as if God had to make room for him in our hearts, A HUGE space, the biggest space He could and then that empty space was filled with so much life and love I can barely put it into words. But so many I know still just have the space. Empty. Waiting to be filled.
It is no secret that our first son was not planned. Total surprise and a shock that caused some major changes in our lives, mainly getting married which we should have done long before but Ashley was too scared and durn if I don’t blame him. I had not been a parent in a very long time nor had my hubby and our anxiety was through the roof. It really felt like starting over again, learning all over again, and even though we were better versions of ourselves, we still had a lot to figure out. Also, we did not sleep for three years so there’s that. I begged for another baby pretty much every day after we started sleeping again (makes sense right?) and so I would consider TAP a joint decision, planned if you will. Ok, close enough. Then came the news of needing to have a c-section and I felt that terror all over again, the phantom was back creeping around, causing that heavy looming omniscient feeling of doubt. I had never had major surgery, never taken any sort of pain meds or any prescription meds for that matter, besides antibiotics. I was afraid of death and scarring and death and pain, being too out of it to breastfeed, becoming addicted to opioids (way too many Intervention episodes). You name it and I was afraid of it. I prayed every day for that baby to get in the right position and it just never happened. Meanwhile just for precaution my doc decided to have my family donate blood in case I had complications from his position thing and I am a tad anemic when I am preggo so that gave us a very queasy feeling. The day after Christmas morning we checked in and I legit thought I might have a panic attack. I will never forget the stainless steel, sterile as hell operating room and the 8 million people in there about to see me in all my glory. I am so private in so many ways and the random drug rep in there on his cell phone just about did me in. It is hands down the most terrified I have ever been in my life. I could not let AAP see my fear so somehow I hunkered down, prayed my heart out and made it through. I will never have to do it again I said over and over and over to myself…..
And then I heard him cry and then I saw big huge crocodile tears rolling down Ashley’s face and I knew I would do it 100 times again just to see and hear those sweet sweet sounds. All of the trials from beginning to end, loss to love, somehow magnified that beautiful moment to words I cannot express. He was perfect. Quite frankly, knock on wood, he still is. He reminds me so much of Betty who rarely cried, slept like a champ and was an overall delight. He smiles and smiles and smiles some more. He smiles so much his paci falls out. He laughs and goes to bed at 6:30 and sleeps all night and is the best best baby. He is a blissful snuggly ball of baby fat and smell good Iove I could kiss for eternity. He is perfect. He is Heaven on earth. He is everything we wanted and needed 1,000 times over.
I have wanted to give up at times in my life. I write about it all the time and I think we all grow weary and cranky and first world spoiled sometimes. That’s just life. It’s hard. It’s challenging. It’s scary. But I have found that there is always always always a plan for those challenges. There is always something on the other side of that trial or tribulation that is even better than what we ever imagined. God made room in my heart for a new tiny life and who he is, the light he shines, the joy he has brought, is more than I ever knew possible. Every single thing we endure shapes us into what God has planned for us. It takes fire to meld gold. What is on the other side, what is our God given plan and destiny becomes stronger and more beautiful by the trials we face. I have thought a lot about Anthony Bourdain lately. I identify with him because he loved food and travel and writing. I have wondered if he would have stuck around just one more week or even one more day, if his plan would have been revealed. I wonder if it was and he just couldn’t ever get there, couldn't fill that big ole space. I do not care that he had a previous drug problem or was an alcoholic or that he took his own life. His life was very beautiful to me and I am sad he is gone. He was someone’s snuggly smell good baby boy and he has left an insurmountable space.
"As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small.”-Anthony Bourdain
I hope today and every day we all realize how profound the marks we leave behind are, however small. I hope we know that the slightest changes we make in this world can have the most impact. You may not know it but your smile may change someone’s day, may save their life. This world is nothing but all of those slight changes and small marks coming together to create life and love. Your small mark and slight changes matter in more ways than you will ever know. Fill your space, fill your space, fill your space. To my son Theodore and to all of my children, YOU are my plan and my destiny and the slightest change that has made the biggest impact. YOU are my never giving up. YOU are the greatest mark I will ever leave behind. I am so very glad I did not give up and filled my space with YOU.
Two years ago today. After two years, I still do not believe he is gone and after two years I have no idea if I will have the words. Two years ago today the devil won but Jesus took him home.
Ryan was a light. He was always smiling, laughing, hugging and making you feel good to be in his presence. He was a jokester and a big ole teddy bear. Huge in stature and even bigger in heart. He loved his family and friends and rap music and making people smile. The world was a better place with him in it and people just gravitated towards him. You wanted to hang out with him because you laughed until you cried. You wanted a hug from him because it made you feel better somehow. I had lunch with Ryan’s big brother, who was my first and longest friend at Amarillo High School, and we both admit we feel like we just haven’t talked to Ryan in a while….as if he’s gone on a long vacation or joined the military or something. As if he will be back any minute and we can all go have a beer together. Ryan left a hole in our hearts that won’t ever quite be filled, a secret chamber that will always be empty because when you know someone like him, when you love someone like him, your world becomes bigger and better and changed for the good. Your heart grows and expands and knows a new light and when that person is gone, the space is still there but smaller and emptier somehow.
Two years ago today Ryan was found in his apartment in Houston by his momma who he loved more than life itself. He had overdosed sometime before and his light had burned out.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
Addiction is a deep, dark, sad, pit of a disease….a disease with no cure. No surgery or chemo or pill to take to stop a person from destroying their life and their family’s lives. No answer. No saving. No winning. So many people think it is a choice. It is not. I assure you. People do not choose to live in the deep dark pit, alone, scratching and clawing their way out of the clutches of the devil himself. No one chooses it and often times it cannot be escaped. In my life I have found that most of the time, people suffering from addiction or mental illness also have the biggest hearts. So many people I know, just like Ryan, seem like the happiest folks on the outside but are struggling so badly on the inside. Ryan was the nicest guy. He had a good job. He was handsome and his smile lit up a room. He was my friend. He was a great man who was addicted to heroin. I have often asked myself why God would ever create a person with those tendencies. I think of Jesus up there on the cross saying where are you God? Why have you forsaken me?? Because I think that is what it feels like. When you are at the bottom of the pit....forsaken and suffering. I think I understand what God must have felt as he watched his son suffer that day.
We despised him and rejected him;
he endured suffering and pain.
No one would even look at him—
we ignored him as if he were nothing.
“But he endured the suffering that should have been ours,
the pain that we should have borne.
All the while we thought that his suffering
was punishment sent by God.
But because of our sins he was wounded,
beaten because of the evil we did.
We are healed by the punishment he suffered,
made whole by the blows he received.
In my life I have been blindsided by this disease. People I know and love with lives destroyed. It has broken me and crushed my spirit at times. As I remember Ryan, like so many others, I want to shake him and bring him out of the pit. But I cannot, no one can. That hole that we feel without him, that hole than only God can restore was too big for Ryan to bear. That hole, if not filled with the Grace and mercy of God, consumes you and sends you to the fire.
Watching people spiral down is inconceivable. You can only understand it if you have been there alongside someone you love destroying pill by pill, drink by drink, drug by drug. It is a painful process that has no words. Gut wrenching. Absolutely gut wrenching. It is as if you are standing at the edge of a pool watching the person you love the most drowning. You cannot jump in and save them. You cannot throw out a life vest. You are screaming at them to SWIM. SWIM. SWIM. But they do not. Or they might swim, even if just for a minute. They might swim and even walk right out of that pool but the very next time you turn around they are there again, diving right back in, forgetting how to swim, drowning.
Today, after searching for the words for at least two years, I heard a quiet voice say: Go, God will help you find the words, go write. If you know someone who is suffering from addiction, if you are suffering from addiction DO NOT BE QUIET. DO NOT STAND ALONE. GO GET HELP. Just as satan sneaks around at night in the quiet darkness seeking to steal, kill and destroy, so does addiction. For far too long, we have treated this ailment as a secret, as something people should not talk about, as something shameful and self-inflicted. That cannot be further from the truth. It is not your fault. Seek help. Call a friend. Talk to your pastor. Call me. Do not listen to the whispers that you are to blame, that you can conquer this alone or that you are less of a person because you are an addict, you are not. Do not let the devil win.
"But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”
- 2 Thessalonians 3:3
Today and every day, but today more than ever, I have looked at my own tiny sons and wondered how a mother could ever survive such heartache and loss. I have seen the toddler pictures of Ryan and the smile that melted your heart. He was a tiny son unscathed and strong. He was someone’s brother and son and friend and his memory will forever live on but he lost his battle. I believe the battle can be won. I believe if light can be shed on this disease, if the whispering can stop, if we beging to talk openly about it....We must start with recognition and compassion and understanding that addiction is not a choice. It is a disease. I pray over my own children EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. that they will never suffer in this way. It is a suffering like none other. I pray they will live many many years of happiness after I am gone. I pray that no matter what, no matter what that I know Jesus will be taking them home after they have been old and gray.
Two years ago today my life was forever changed. Two years ago today we lost a great man. Two years ago today the devil won but Jesus took him home.
We don't really take naps in our family. It shows weakness. Never tire. Never give up. No napping allowed.
I screwed up the family mantra and took a very short nap last weekend and when I awoke it was like an outtake from Fixer Upper. Side note: We should be the real reality version of Fixer Upper. The version that shows crying and cursing and WHAT THE FRENCH TOAST IS GOING ON HERE and running out of money and moving hundreds of bricks yourself and saying this is the last project I am ever doing 15 times and and and. Because ya'll. That is what happens. Chip and Jo Jo surely scream at each other from time to time because I just don't think it is possible to endure a remodel without some tears shed and f bombs dropped. It's real. Fo true.
So on this particular letting my family down nap day I had several missed calls from the one I love the most and little did I know they signaled great distress in decision making. Also little did I know when I was forced out of my slumber by distress calls that I would arrive at the building and that ever last loving piece of sheet rock we had upstairs would be gone. BYE. Bye walls, bye dream of being so close to starting to build back up instead of tear down. Bye budget and bye promise not to fight during this remodel. Ok, I am being somewhat dramatic but in the blink of a shut eye my hubby and contractor decided all sheet rock was rotted and must be a)demoed b)rehung c)insulated d)taped e)mudded f)painted. "What the mother french toast is going on here," I said. Insert head in my hands crying. My sweet business partner said all of the sheet rock is rotted so we have to rip it out and so I had the lumber store bring new and we will insulate while we are at it. Insert me storming down the stairs and hearing OH GROW UP being shouted at me. Oh man I am laughing as I type this.
Here's the deal folks. Ashley and I are very, and I mean very, different remodelers. I am the sort that likes to put lipstick on a pig and still call it a pretty little pig type. I would have covered the sheet rock with shiplap or tin and moved on. No need to insulate when you don't have central heat and air but whatevs....He is a perfectionist. He wants everything done right. He always has. This is not news to me. I should not be so shocked. Sadly very meager budgets don't allow for that sort of perfectionism ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU AREN'T LIVING THERE. But I digress.
Did I mention naps are not a good idea in our family. While you were sleeping....indeed...
Against our initial plan of making this place 'just liveable' everything will be ripped down to the studs and made brand new. New electrical. Check. New plumbing. Check. Now new sheet rock with brand new insulation for that brand new heating and air we can afford in 10 years. Check. Here's the thing. Mr. Perfect is, well, almost always, right. Dead on. A thousand percent R I G H T. And although it will take twice as long and possibly cost twice as much everything we produce as a team is done the right way because of him. People may think I am the shining star of this duo (I doubt it but just in case) but I am 1000 percent NOT. The quiet, hard worker in the background, as hard to admit as it is, is what makes us be the best we can be. He is the one that makes it all happen the right way and nothing would be good without him.
I am so so so excited for the next phase of this project. That's another thing. You know the cute #demoday t-shirt at Magnolia Market Farms Bakery Restaurant Empire? It should say #demodaysssssssssssanddaysanddays. Many days. It should also say you will most likely run out of your prelim budget right in the middle of #demodaysssssssssssss because your plan will inevitably be rerouted by rotten sheet rock or some other nonsense. Here's what I am saying folks. Remodeling is not for the feint of heart and it sure as hell isn't like what you see on Flip or Flop or Fixer Upper or Trading Spaces. Listen, I love Chip and Jo as much as the rest of us but IT AIN'T REALITY. Reality is hearing OH GROW UP and knowing you really should. Reality is belly laughing at the first fight of a project that may not get completed until 2035 at this rate (we will still have kids in the house so who cares right?). Reality is working through it and moving forward and knowing that you have learned a heckuva lot since you remodeled your house three years ago and durn if you aren't even keeping an expense spreadsheet this time. I read Chip and Jo's book and what I took away from their experience is that with each project they learned something new and found a deeper love for one another. I also learned that he buys random house boats and that they spent a lot of time broke in the beginning. I am the Chip, no doubt. Reality in remodeling is just like it is for every other aspect of life. Ups, downs, disagreements, happy days, mad days and a whole lot of hard work. It is recognizing your weaknesses and trying real hard not to make the same mistake twice. As I looked through the pics below I just feel so proud of the work we are doing here. I feel proud that I grew up a little and realized insulation and sheet rock are pretty dang cheap (much cheaper than the two fireplaces I insisted on adding). I feel proud that we can work through anything and just keep learning from one another. These projects, however draining they may be, are such a blessing to me. As you scroll through, I hope you can see what I see which is a clean, cozy, comfortable, happy spot where you might be able to curl up in front of the fireplace and take a good ole Saturday afternoon nap.
For about five minutes, my MOVING SALE SIGN read CLOSING SALE. And it just didn’t look right. It didn’t feel right and CLOSING just wasn’t working for us. Closing is sad. Closing reminds me of the part in You’ve Got Mail where she remembers dancing in her mom’s old bookstore. We aren’t closers. We are movers.
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”-Newt Gingrich
Yellow Bird has been more successful than we could imagine but for a minute, I felt like we weren’t capable of juggling it all. I felt as if we weren’t making a difference and just going through the motions. I felt like I didn’t have a plan that was working. And as usual, God intervened with HIS plan instead of mine. I pray every day for Yellow Bird Boutique to bless others and for God to show me what HE has up His sleeve when it pertains to our little business on the corner. I pray that it is more than just owning a business but that we actually help people and serve our community and make people feel happy. I pray that we are in this together as a family and I pray that my children will be blessed by hard work and tackling all sorts of surprises. In the 4 years of our relationship, we have married, had a baby, remodeled a home, opened a business, had another baby, painted about 43,000 pieces of furniture, traveled to 116 auctions all the while maintaining full time jobs and raising our childrens. We decided it was time to close up shop and recharge and focus on our family. We both agreed that when YBB started to jeopardize one ounce of time with our kids, we would figure something else out. So figure something else out we did. That closing mindset lasted for about 5 minutes and without a FOR SALE sign even being hung, we found a new home. When I walked into the 100 year old newspaper building down the street with its tin ceilings and original hardwoods and exposed brick, my mind was made up. And when my partner love saw the amazing workshop soon to be brewery? Coffee shop with rooftop patio? Dance hall? with cedar beams in the back, his mind was made up.
Yellow Bird Boutique will relocate to 213 Main St. this month and I am beyond ecstatic for the project ahead of us. I tingle with excitement with thoughts of exposed brick, 10 ft. ceilings, concrete floors and the usual YBB industrial farm twist. We have big plans for the retail space downstairs but the 3 bedroom loft upstairs is going to be the coolest and possibly only NYC style loft in town. Think pulley lights and a claw foot tub and open windows with geranium filled window boxes and subway tile, lots and lots of subway tile. We are changing things up instead of closing things up. We are putting our babies first but also launching something completely new in our precious little town. A dear friend of mine told me today, “The devil is stagnant. Jesus moves us.” She is right! We are moving! We are movers and shakers and I cannot wait for you to see what is up next!!
Thank you for being patient with us! We have some great things just around the corner and we will keep you posted on an open date! We will be back with the same Yellow Bird charm and some completely new concepts too! As always, thank you to my husband who does not just support all of my crazy dreams, HE DREAMS WITH ME. And to our family who teaches us about hard work and perseverance every single day. And to Feathers who pretty much runs the show and especially to each and every one of you. We hope we bless you as much as you bless us!!!
“You only live once but if you do it right, once is enough.”
February 26th, 2015
HAP graced us with his presence on February 26, 2015 at 11:15 a.m. as the snowflakes turned thick and heavy. Throughout my pregnancy the words MIGHTY! AND REJOICE! would blare in my head. Mighty, indeed. He is tiny weighing in at a mere 7 lbs. 14 oz. but he is surely mighty. He found his way into this world swiftly and boldly and cried the moment we set eyes on him. Seconds later he was nursing with full force and the undoubted ‘ruler of our hearts’. His name sake is a German/Russian potato farmer I never had the pleasure of meeting. I have been told he was somber and hardworking and stoic, as is his grandson, my husband and my partner in this life and all the ones before and after it. The father of this child and my second chance to do it right, to do it forever. The single person who causes me to look in the mirror every day and want to be better and know that I am my best.
I knew long before Henry burst into our lives that day, that he was special. Blessed, anointed, a child held in God’s hands, an old soul and the truest of gifts. In all the whirlwind that is child birth, I felt a strong presence of the Heavenlies in the delivery room that day. I believe I even spoke the words out loud. Perhaps Henry August himself, his wife Pauline (Ashley’s beloved grandmother), Adam Crownover, Justin Gifford, Beatrice Benton, Roy Bulls. Angels delivered him into our arms and I could keenly sense our great cloud of witnesses cheering us on. He is a miracle and a gift and a combination of all that is good in both of us. Here to remind us of the race that is set before us. To remind us to shed the heavy cloak of our past sins and mistakes and to start anew. Running with such might and force towards all that is good and lovely and angelic. I can and will always remember looking around the hospital room that day and envisioning the faces of those who have gone before us smiling and clapping and whispering of his beauty and might; rejoicing as he left them to be our son. The love and grace of the past year and the jet black Mohawk atop his perfect head has forever changed my soul and changes it again and again every day. Mighty. He is mighty. I will forever rejoice.
‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.’-Hebrews 12:1
I wrote this on the day Mr. Ruler of the House was born and since then, man have we needed a great cloud of witnesses. The love of my life had school and was gone M-F for three weeks in February. This past Friday was his last day and upon his return home HAP was pretending in his kitchen. When AAP pulled up, I said in a sing songy voice, someone is here to see you. My sweet child threw his pots and pans down, ran as fast as he could to the front door and when he saw his daddy's work truck pull in the drive he screamed with GLEEEEEE Holy Crap. HOLY SHIT. I fainted. I fell out of my chair and fainted. I could not even reprimand him. He looked at me and knew he was about to be in big trouble but ya'll he was so excited those bad words BURST out of his mouth. It was single handedly the cutest thing he had done all week.
I do not know what our lives would be like without this rambunctious, wild as a march hare, crazy kid. He is uber smart and uber independent and that makes him uber challenging. Can I get an Amen? This morning I had to give myself an ole pat on the back for keeping this kid alive and healthy for three years because there have been days I have wondered..... I have wondered how we manage to stay sane, teetering on that ledge at times, yet love a boy so much we explode on a daily basis. Isn't that what parenting is? These moments of utter desperation, fear and frustration only to be trumped by moments of sheer joy and adoration. We simply adore him, frustrations and all. Swearing and tractor crashing and chicken chasing and MESS MAKING and fit throwing. Because it is all wrapped up in the sweetest most precious kiss giving, big heart having, fun loving package. This kid is our challenge, our race that is going to take some endurance. The guy that is the sugar and spice to our family. Sometimes I am afraid. Afraid that he will always buck the system and grow up to be something....I am afraid of...... because he is so strong and pushes so hard. But deep in my heart, past the fear, I know that all lives need a little color, a little vibrance, a little exasperation because it makes the sweet times all the more sweeter.
I would have NEVER, and I mean never, allowed B to consume the amount of sugar this kid has on a daily basis or use the swear words or go to bed without having 8 books read to her or, or, or. But he isn't B and God knew I needed to be stretched and tested and pushed outside the box. For every swear word and every fear, there are 1,000 moments of absolute pride and joy and the icing off of a cupcake on his birthday morning. I cannot fathom a life, a boring ole life, without this spunky guy in it. We were blessed on that day 3 years ago and he has blessed us in the most hard and delightful ways every day since.
...Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.’-Hebrews 12:1
It doesn't say the jog or or the walk or the sunny stroll on a summer's day. It says the RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US. Like all things in life, it takes the shadows to see the light, the hard times to appreciate the good, loss to remember life and tests to value patience. Happy happy birthday to my beautiful boy, the ruler of our hearts.
When I was called to give the devotional, I immediately asked God to present a topic that would help me reveal how He has been at work in my life. What could I tell our church family about myself that you don’t already know? Let’s be honest. Most of you have known me since the day I was born and you already know more about my struggles and triumphs than I might want to imagine. You have witnessed my highs and lows and there isn’t a ton to reveal that would shock you. Many of you were probably here the day my parents got married and the day I was baptized. Right after that prayer for guidance a very dear friend of mine sent this video by Neale Walsch and I was completely touched with a tug in my heart and I knew I wanted to talk about YOU and the divine miracle that you are.
Deuteronomy 7:6-8 says, "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt."
I have loved God my whole life but my journey was truly transformed when I began to put Him first, above all else. When I began to let go of so many of the selfish behaviors that crowded my heart there was room for Jesus to go to work….. To transform, change and mold me. I needed the Lord to bring me out with a mighty mighty hand. I have a cousin who attends this church and he has been my friend for a very long time; He may be shocked to know that he has had a huge impact on my spiritual life. I remember a time many years ago that I looked at him with judging ‘He’s a Bible beater’ eyes and could not comprehend his deep connection with Christ. I couldn’t fathom having that sort of relationship with Jesus. Sure I loved him but this guy had completely turned his life over to him and wasn’t that a little bit much? I wanted to stay in my surface comfort zone and believe that loving God was enough. I didn’t really want to do the work. I didn’t really believe I was his treasured possession. After years of struggling and making poor decisions and continuing to put myself first over and over and over, it finally clicked. I finally got beat with the Bible. I finally quit resisting and let the Holy Spirit flood into my life unabated. After much persistence, my life began to change. Nothing has been the same since. I began to feel like a chosen one. I began to believe I am his daughter. I began to know there is a higher purpose for me. I began to really understand those words in Esther 4:14 that say, “And who knows that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” I began to believe I was put here to help fulfill His royal plan. When you give more and more to God, when you really really start to buy in, your eyes begin to see things in a new light. When you know Him more, your heart becomes more. New chambers open and there is a capacity within you that is more than you can imagine. I finally understood why my old friend had changed so much and why his life was and is such a blessing to God. Your spiritual depth and realm of influence strengthens and expands because you are living out His destiny for you. Let that soak in: He has a destiny designed just for you.
Ephesians 1:4-7 says “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”
BUT it is not always perfect, peachy and rosey…..Even in this new improved Jesus loving skin, I still have times where my faith feels weak, when I feel my anointing has run dry. When I question the ways of this world and exactly what my purpose is. Empty and perhaps a bit alone. Over the past couple of months, I have experienced this drought. I have cried where are you God? I cannot hear you. I cannot feel you. It has been as if my faith has felt tossed into a very dark hole. There hasn’t been one specific event to cause this mindset but several things that have honestly made me believe our world is broken beyond repair. Where is the divinity? I believe most of you can relate to the issues of this world being very overwhelming and heavy at times. Children dying from cancer, mass shootings, suicide in our young people, mental illness, addiction, homelessness, divorce, sad, sad, hard things. It hurts my heart. I am a tender person when it comes to other people’s pain and I can get saturated in the sadness of it all. I can get down and out with what can feel like such brokenness in this world. Sometimes, it is enough to begin to lose sight of the glory, not only in this life, but in ourselves. With each difficult event we question; Who are we God? What is our purpose God? Where are you God? My 10 year old was telling me every friend at school that is sick right now. Chance had a fever during trick or treat. So and so has a bad cough. The list was long and at the end of it she shook her head and said, “So many people sick. Jesus take the wheel.” I can, at times, lose sight of who is behind the wheel. I can forget the miracle of this life that is going on around us every day and I begin to lose sight of the miracle I am intended to be. The joy of a little life kicking inside of me or a warm fire on a cold October evening or a beautiful Panhandle sunset or the hysterical things my kids say. Those tiny miracles and amazing blessings that swirl around us all the time can be so taken for granted. I am certainly guilty of it. The message by Neale Donald Walsche says, “There’s a purpose behind it. There’s a mechanism in place. There’s a process that’s being undertaken in life by life itself. That process is the process by which we as deliverers of this life, as those who are living into the experience, create the experience we are living into has a means of experiencing and expressing who we really are.” Each and every one of you sitting in this room is part of this process, part of this mechanism that God has in place. All of us are deliverers of life. Timothy 4:2 says: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season, whether the time is favorable or not; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” Timothy 4:2 teaches us to persist no matter what. Whether it is convenient or not, whether you feel like it or not, whether you can hear God or not, you must persist. Because you are the axis for this miracle of God’s plan. You are intended to be a miracle and you were put here for a purpose so specific, so ordained, so anointed that the rest of God’s idea for this earth revolves around you. You are such an enormous part of this process that this miracle of life cannot go on in the same way without you. You are crucial to His plan. You are divine.
I have found a deeper layer in my heart for Christ but I am still working on the persistence part among other things (many things). I believe we will continue to grow in persistence every day for all of our days, because that’s what life is: an ebb and flow of triumphs and trials. Pushing your faith in the hard times can be so challenging and I am learning that you must do exactly that: PUSH. FIGHT. Never give up. Stay in the word, serve, pray, hit your knees with gratitude whether the time is favorable or not. Lean on your brothers and sisters in Christ when your faith needs pushing. My cousin Ryan, my husband and family, this church, the altar where I have received communion for over thirty years, the bell my son now rings on Sundays at noon, the faces of each and every one of you are a critical part of my persistence. Our church family is so important, those who have witnessed the good, the bad and the beautiful contribute to our lasting faith. We fuel one another with faith and fellowship and familiarity (fu mill yarity). We are all integral to God’s plan and purpose and when this world is chaotic and crazy is when we need to persist alongside one another the most. We must remind each other:
When the anointing has run completely dry. Persist.
When it seems you have been walking in the wrong direction towards your purpose. Persist.
When you feel uninspired and God feels far away. Persist.
When your faith shows no results. Persist.
When your obedience has not paid off. Persist.
When your prayers seem like they echo out into the abyss. Persist.
When your bones feel dead-and so does the word. Persist.
When your heart feels empty and your soul feels lost. Persist.
Let Jesus take the wheel, He is on his way. Your anointing has not run dry. You are walking in the right direction no matter how curvy the path might seem. Your inspiration will find you again. The results of your faith will soon sprout from the fallow ground. Just a little more rain. Just a little more sunshine. Your obedience will pay off. You have not wasted a single breath to prayer. There is still life in your bones, and child of God, there is still life in His Word. Persist. Be Divine. Live the purpose that was set out for you. First Peter 2:9-10 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Your heart will be filled. Your soul will be found because you are God’s greatest and most divine miracle.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”- Peter 5:10
So much “I am just not happy. I am trying to find my happiness. He doesn’t make me happy. I just want to be happy!” We are living in a culture that teaches us we are supposed to be elated all of the time. Happy about our bodies, happy about our careers, happy about or children’s grades, happy, happy, happy. If you are looking for what makes you happy, you cannot be whole.
The suffering Peter is referring to does not really mean for a little while. He does not mean life will be hard for like five minutes and then you will be blissfully happy for the rest of your lives. I believe the little while is your whole live long life. You will suffer throughout this journey but this life is only for a teeny tiny little while.
Last night I walked home from dinner at my sister’s. Betty was on her bike singing loudly. AAP drove home with HAP in his lap who had on a bright orange hat…backwards. Precious sight. I almost burst with happiness in that moment because my life is so full. A moment. A fleeting moment that comes and goes. I am not happy all the time but I have so many wonderful moments of happiness that the rest of life is pretty great too.
After you have suffered a little while…
We all suffer in our own ways. Life is hard. Life is challenging and sad and complicated and sometimes lonely. I heard an addict say recently, I was sober for 15 months and it was the most miserable 15 months of my life. But what she didn’t see on the other side was that it was the BEST 15 months of her family’s lives. They spent 15 months, for the first time in years, not worrying if she was dead or going to be homeless or if her heart was broken. Which brings me to this, joy, in my eyes, almost 1000000% of the time is about selflessness. It is about putting others happiness before your own and sometimes, just sometimes, you get a big return on that investment. What you give comes back around and that brings joy, lots and lots of joy. Perhaps that 15 months of sobriety was no fun for the girl but for her family it was the most relief they had felt in a very long time. It was the most connected her child had felt to her and so although she was sober and ‘miserable’, she was making such an enourmous difference in other people's lives.
We are not called to an easy life. We are called to a purposeful life. Life is not about being happy, yippety dee da day all of the time. It is about finding what makes you whole. Serving others. Helping friends. Your children. Your sister. Your brother. Giving back. Hearing someone laugh. Cooking a meal. Friday night football. Double strollers. Matching tees on cousin brothers. Hugs. Listening. Being compassionate. Being like Jesus. Jesus suffered for a little while and I doubt he spent every hour of every day happy. But he was whole. He was whole because he always put others first. He was whole because he sought God. He was whole because he spent his life serving and praying and healing. If you are searching for your own happiness, if you are constantly wondering WHY CAN’T I JUST BE HAPPY, if you are so focused on your own joy and glee, you have it wrong. Wholeness. Wholeness will restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.
I love wine. I love red wine and white wine and even pink wine. I love to smell wine and taste wine and cook with wine. I have been to Napa and Sonoma and Rome and in wine clubs and I have drank enough wine to fill Lake Meredith perhaps. So after HAP was born I quit drinking (obviously before he was born too). I miss my fun care free self a lot. I was happy in my wine days. Travelling and laughing and letting loose and man I was a whole lot of fun. But I was not whole and I was selfish and I was not the absolute best version of myself for my family. Not drinking is boring….a lot…..and I miss it sometimes but I miss the false sense of wholeness it can bring ZERO. I was happy, and did I mention fun, but I was very incomplete.
I still have a very long way to go….I have also come a very long way. Over the past few years, I have moved closer to being restored, strengthened and established little by little. I have moved away from being happy all the time towards a heart that is whole. Fillin’ up the cracks. Lordy, do I have some cracks. A Biblical Definition of ‘Wholeness’ – The state of being perfectly well in body, soul (mind, will and emotions) and spirit. Complete sanctification and restoration. God’s original design for man before sin entered the world, and now attainable only when one’s body is in heaven after the second coming of Jesus. (A noun). I don’t believe God designed us to be doing cartwheels about life all the time. We were not put on this earth to always be HAP HAP HAPPPPPPPPY. It is so much more than that. As his children, we are so much more than that. Through our suffering, through HIS suffering we are warriors for God's kingdom. We are children of light, sons and daughters of victory and the best symbols of God's love.
But when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:10
If you are seeking what makes you happy, I encourage you to put a twist on that search and look for what makes your heart and soul whole. I encourage you to shift your focus towards the happiness of others. Help a neighbor, take back a mean word, pray with your spouse, take flowers to a friend, hold back the ugly comment, GIVE RATHER THAN RECEIVE. The only thing that will make our “little while” the best little while until we get to the rest of our while is surrendering to ourselves.
This morning my little nugget made blueberry pancakes all by herself and brought me a plate with a sweet pink rose from our yard. That. THAT brings more wholeness than all of the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc in Lake Meredith.
Today as we walked to the park and B rode ahead, she took a spill on her bike. I walked faster towards her but she was already back up, assessing her scrapes, not a tear shed. She was waiting for us, tar kneed, at the park as if nothing had ever happened. I put my arm around her and we sat in silence, me crying inside. I wanted to take her home and swaddle her up in the softest blanket and hold her in my lap for the rest of the night. I wanted to rock her and sing to her and read her Llama Llama Red Pajama. But she will not fit in my lap any more and she reads mysteries to me now. Long legged and lanky. Tall and skinny. Brave and big. She doesn't really need her momma any more.....
Ten has strainght crept up and snatched my heart. As her tiny little self rode ahead of me today, I felt a little robbed. Where has it all gone? How is she ten? TEN years in a blink. And ya'll I mean a blink. The fastest longest decade of my life. This last breath of summer has been a gut punch for me. As her 10th birthday and 5th grade year approaches, she wants to spend countless hours with her friends and soaks in the sunshine while she rides as free as a bird on her bike. She doesn't really need her momma any more......
She cooks supper and brownies and makes her bed and showers without being asked. She braids her own hair and picks out her own clothes. She hasn't asked me to tuck her in at night in a long time. She is growing up and ten came too fast. I need a few more minutes with that little girl who needed her momma ALL the time. Ten is change. Ten is big. Ten is the beginning of new things.
When I was pregnant with HAP, before I knew he was HAP, I was certain I would never love any child like I love my first born.....and that is true. I love them both in completely different ways, equally, deeply, but differently. My girl is my girl. My first. She is funny and laid back and kind and an old soul and soft and sensitive and bubbly and different and loves Jesus. When she was born my heart changed forever and when she rode off on her bike today, unscathed, it changed again. Everything I know about being a momma has stemmed from her. I asssure you she has taught me equally along the way and I have made 1,000 mistakes in this past decade but she is a testimony that doing your very best works sometimes. All that is good in my momma heart started with this little lady. And now she doesn't really need her momma any more....
In the exact same breath that my heart felt sad, I felt more gratitude than I have ever known. Grateful that she can ride a bike and dive off of a starting block and braid her own hair and bake brownies. Grateful that I have kept her alive for ten whole years. Grateful that I can blog about something as trivial as a bike wreck. We are truly sheltered in our little safe haven. I am so grateful for her health and her heart and her independence because I think that means we are doing something right when we haven't really a clue what to do at all. My heart sank and then almost burst out of my chest with so much thankfulness and pride that she doesn't really need her momma any more....
Happy Birthday to one I love the most. You are loved.
"I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well." Psalm 139:14
Because I genuinely fear this blog might ever lose its sense of realness, a new monthly entry which I will deem "Dose of Reality".
I posted a sweet pic today of my precious family in their finest Easter gear, hair combed, clothes ironed, color coordinating and looking mighty fine.
Dose of Reality: The very first thing that happened when H woke up was to somehow find a piece of chocolate (I hid the rest), unwrap, drop wrapper on the floor, stick chocolate in his mouth, drool on self, wipe chocolatey drool on his clothes, repeat. The very first thing that happened when B woke up was to discover her Easter basket (swim bag) and declare (in tears) that she knew everything was from us and the Easter bunny is not real. She saw the tankini at the Dollar Store previously and the white chocolate bunny was in her Easter basket from her Poppy & B. I digress. After some raising of the voice and tears and changing outifts 3 times and curling 86 curls, we left for Sunday school where all children were pouring Skittles on their donuts. Again, I digress.
I came home from SS to get H ready who was fast asleep in his bed all snuggly and warm. It literally broke my heart to wake him up knowing I was about to force him into a suit and bow tie. After thousands of tears and a few slaps, he was dressed and we were out the door. Needless to say I did not get to paint my nails or finish drying my hair or pick up the 87 candy wrappers off of the floor. Speaking of hair, I had so much dried paint in my hair, I had Betty cut off an inch or two at the end of my ponytail. Needless to say, my hair was alllll kinds of uneven when I wore it down today (like layers but not so much). Perfect. I did make blueberry pancakes so the kitchen (and house) were a disaster. Reminiscent of Christmas morn.
Following a beautiful service, Easter egg hunt, lunch (chocolate), second Easter egg hunt, kitchen cleaning only so I would have enough pans to cook again, supper, and now bath time and bed, I sit totally exhausted and completely happy.
Dose of Reality: Life can be dang hard, especially holidays and especially toddlers. But I will never forget this Easter for the few minutes I spent ironing his suit (I typically do not iron. I spray wrinkle release on their clothes while they are wearing them), the way our Pastor shined in her white robe, feeling very close to Jesus and the unending gratitutde I have for each and every dose of reality....
The picture of the suit and bow tie should be complimented by the one of him sitting on his firetruck in his underwear crying (chocolate on mouth) because all candy has been moved to the top of the closet where it can be recycled for a certain birthday in August.
Looking back to the time of my divorce and the time after when I was a single momma in this house, I feel like I was afraid of the dark. I feel like those nights were long and I lost sleep and heard noises and felt afraid and alone. Daytime never seemed to be an issue but I remember tossing and turning and constantly checking on B throughout the night. My heart would race in the darkness and I remember times of feeling paralyzed in fear under my covers. I remember having my grandmother smudge my house and pray over every room to keep the bad spirits out. Long nights....fear that I dimissed at the time because morning always came. The sun would always rise and I would go about my life in the light. Sometimes when my husband is gone I can creep back to those days and feel just a tad bit of the anxiety but for the most part, being afraid of the dark is gone. Light prevails.....
Honesty time: I love Easter more than Christmas. I love that there is no stress over gifts and that there are not 100 parties to attend (let’s be honest I don’t go anyway but that is irrelevant). I love that Easter is warm and breezy and all things new. I love that my entire yard is just beginning to burst into bloom, just on the verge of the peony blooms busting wide open. There is such a feeling of renewal and freshness and new beginnings around Easter. New life is happening all around us. I love brand new haircuts on toddler baby boys at Easter and bopping blonde girls donning special dresses. Easter is my favorite holiday which is what I say about every holiday during that particular holiday. I am a lover of all things. The thought of sweet baby Jesus being born is so special and sweet to me but as Maundy Thursday happened yesterday, I began to feel so weepy and emotional and overwhelmed with gratitude for that cross he chose to bear. Can you believe he loved those guys enough to wash their feet? I shake my head. I want to be a servant like him. I really do. As we go through this weekend I cannot help but feel completely consumed by His love.
Someone died for our sins. For my silver Choctaw tongue and my impatience and my over indulgence and my jealousy and my judging and a thousand other things, someone died for those sins. Someone loves us enough to forgive us and bring us out of the darkness.
“You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.”-1 Thessalonians 5:5.
Before Jesus we were all just wandering around in the dark, a tunnel with no light at the end. We were dust. We are dust, but because of his sacrifice, because of those nails driven into his hands and feet, we are children of the light. We do not belong to the night, we belong to the day. I believe Jesus had a choice. I believe he could have ran. He could have turned the other way and not fulfilled his destiny. He could have forsaken us. I believe when he prayed for the cup to be taken from him, he was terrified and perhaps having second thoughts. “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Yet he stayed and cast his own will aside for the will of God so we would not be forsaken. When I think about Jesus in a more human nature, when I think about him being afraid or in pain or sad or alone, it is almost more than I can bear. He was such a nice guy. He was such a giver and a teacher and he just wanted to love everyone. I am sad he had to die. I wish I could have known him. I wish I could have had dinner with him. So that we would not be forsaken. So that we would have a life in the light and not in the darkness. So that we could live again. So that we could be free.
Isaiah 42:16 God says, “I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”
You are a child of the light, a child of the day. You have been chosen by God himself to walk into His marvelous light.
Friend loved by God, remember this Easter weekend that you are a peony bloom just about to burst open. Remember that all of your sins were placed on that cross and that you are forgiven. Remember that you are CHOSEN, that you are a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD. God loves you so much. He isn’t up there judging you or scolding you or being angry at you. He is loving you. HE CHOSE YOU TO BE HIS. He paid the price. He gave his only son. The tomb was empty. Whatever your fear in the darkness may be, whatever struggle you may have, whatever aches in your heart, choose to walk in the light because someone loved you enough (the one and only wonderful you) to choose death for you. Hold your head up high and be His possession, be His prize. Jesus did not run. He stayed. He stayed for you and for me. You are worth it. Every bit of afraid and alone and sad Jesus felt was worth it because of how marvelous you are. Because of how good your heart is and how bright your light shines and because this world is so much better with you in it. This Easter above all else, be reminded of how much you are adored and that no amount of night will keep the sun from rising. Breathe in and out and feel that warm air on your skin and show yourself some love. You are a child of God, a saved one in Christ and your rough places will be turned into level ground. For you Jesus stayed, for you he took the cup, for you he walked into the darkness so that your light may shine. Because he lives.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9
“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who addressed the words of this song to the LORD on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said:
I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.” Psalm 18:1
This morning as I was looking for a scripture in my Bible, I saw this passage highlighted with the date November 8, 2013 written next to it. I sat for several minutes and tried to remember what was going on in my life during that time. I believe our Bible study group was examining David who wrote this song and we were learning about the books of Samuel. I was dating Ashley. I was trying desperately to get super healthy; working out, running, zero alcohol, raw foods, planks, etc. I was sort of scratching and clawing my way towards God and towards a better life. I was standing on the edge just about to take a full leap towards Him but I was in need of that final push to really just turn it all over, to really dive in head first and trust that God’s got this, no one else. I remember thinking about David during those days. Our study, “Seeking a Heart Like His”, talked all about David and his wild sinful ways and his dramatic journey. I remember thinking how in the heck did this guy get to be King? THIS King didn’t seem so great to me. What a sinner! Knockin’ up Bathsheba and killin’ Uriah and sportin’ at least 8 wives and who picked this guy to slay Goliath? He was sort of a wreck. Just sayin’.
Let’s rewind long before November 8, 2013...I was done. Doneskis with relationships. Completely and utterly DONE and committed to being Calvert plus one and that one being Betty B for the rest of my live long life. That door was closed and I absolutely in no way, shape or form wanted to ever get married again and I sure wasn’t EVER, and I mean EVER, having more children. And then, (we all know how this goes down) and then I just kept sort of begging God to take over. I kept reminding myself over and over, HE is in control. I figured out HE is my stronghold and I just kept seeking refuge in Him and asking Him GOD, what is your plan for me? GOD what do you want me to do? GOD I am yours. YOU are in charge God. And then, I saw the most random long lost number on my caller ID from someone I had dated in like 1998…. News flash I am a huge introvert and I never answer the phone, ever. But for whatever reason, I answered that random day and when I saw him in the parking lot at a local restaurant for the first time in I don’t know how long, every single thing I had been telling God? Well, it was time to mean it. It was time to take that leap and I sure got that nudge I needed and I fell right off that ledge…..I fell and I flew.
November 8, 2013…..studying David, loving my guy, having ZERO clue what was in store for us, he needing a final push as well. One of the many things about Ashley was that he had a heart like mine. He had a heart that was ready to move from its past and make some changes and give some things up and BE MORE. We had hearts like David, totally knotted up in sin with a laundry list of poor choices and yet, still somewhere in those hearts a yearning to do good. We had been burned and burned others and our hearts were ready to do it right. Both of us scratching and clawing and searching for God’s plan for us together. Both ready to leap and both needing a Rock to bang our silly heads against.
On November 8 2013, I just wasn’t quite there yet. I just wasn’t 100% on board. I needed a shove…and boy did I ever get one.
On November 8, 2014 my father walked me down a hay covered aisle in my backyard. It was the most beautiful fall day I have ever witnessed and the light through the trees made everything warm and glowy. Our daughters waited for me with him and our family sat quietly ready to cover us with bird seed love. I wore moccasins I hand beaded myself and he a brown suit and simple tie. On November 8 2014, one year after highlighting and dating David’s song to the Lord, I married my absolute best half. I married someone who every single day makes me want to be a better person. Who every single day makes me take a long hard look in the mirror and say, girl you are so blessed. You better live it right because YOU ARE BLESSED INDEED. I married someone who made me want to get my poop in a group for cryin' out loud, someone who does all of the hard things. As I type this our son sits next to me with messy morning hair smelling like oatmeal and keeps asking where his daddy is. "Ashley where awwwwwwwwwwww yoooooooooooou?" On November 8 2014, all of those things I had been telling God came true. We stepped up. We made changes. We left things and never went back. It was time to right some wrongs. It was time to live out HIS plan for us.
"But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;let them ever sing for joy,and spread your protection over them,that those who love your name may exult in you.For you bless the righteous, O Lord;you cover him with favor as with a shield." Psalm 5:11
Like David, Ashley and I started out in sin, lots of it, and we still sin errrrrrrrrrrrrrry day but like David we were both looking for something bigger to take a stronghold in our lives. We wanted to be better than OK and even better than good. We wanted to be great. We wanted a second chance. We wanted to slay some giants.
On November 8, 2014 exactly one year from noting David’s song I, with babies’ breath in my hair, walked down the aisle to the best thing that ever happened to me. The most selfless, hard-working, quiet spirited, loyal man I have ever known. I walked down that aisle because that is the God we serve. Because our God forgives, renews, fulfills, makes whole, completes, and covers His people. Because our God is a God of one more time. Because God knew we both needed each other and that we would honor Him. He knew two can defend themselves but THREE ARE NOT EASILY BROKEN.
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
Without a doubt, 1000% David would have never received his royal position, he would have never found that smooth stone that knocked that ugly old guy out, he would have never written the songs of rejoicing that he did and he would have never been given that chance to do things right without the Grace of God. Yall I was so lost. I was so ALONE. I was so putting on a good front but inside I was so wretched and empty. You have an empty place inside of you that cannot be filled up with anything but the HOLY SPIRIT. No man, no car, no job, no house, no vacation, no glass of wine, no trip to Rome, no nothing can fill that place up but God Himself. Once David figured this out, once I figured this out….that the emptiness inside of you is there for a reason, an emptiness meant to be filled with JESUS…..my life began to transform. Life is still hard. You are not called to live an easy life, you are called to live a purposeful life. It is still hard sometimes and I still have loads of sin but if you will find a smooth stone, draw back your sling and let Him fill you up, you will conquer.
God has a plan for you. God has a plan for you. God already knew that day when I noted David´s song that I would meet Ashley again, that I would walk down the aisle exactly one year later, that HAP would be born, that we would want more children, that we would grow old together, that we would be bound together by that third cord. He knew David would slay that big old mean giant and be the greatest king of all time other than the Son of David, Jesus. God knew David would screw up and he knew he would have to give him a second chance because He is a God of second chances. He knew the Great King David would need a day like
November 8th, 2014.
A Christian leader recently did a survey in his audience and estimated over 80% of the students (adults) raised their hands when asked if they feel guilty or live their lives in guilt. I am dismayed by the words ‘I feel guilty’. I feel bad because I took the day off. I feel guilty because I wasn’t at his assembly. I feel like crap because I missed her game. I feel sooooo bad because we didn’t have anything for supper. I feel terrible because I didn’t buy fall pictures (how many seasons of pictures can there be?). I feel awful because I didn’t go have lunch with her today. At least once a day from someone, especially myself, guilt is in play. I read a great article yesterday regarding the 9 things children need from their parents and I was going to write about it but instead I am going to write about this:
"Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is His flesh, ... let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." (Heb. 10:19,20,22)
There are thousands of articles out there right now, all of which, tell you how to parent better, how to say no less, how to limit technology, how to reaffirm with your words and a million other things all directed at our heartstrings and all super successful at making us feel guilty. I am not saying these directives aren’t significant and often very true. BUT STOP WITH THE GUILT. After reading said article I came home and sort of had all of these tips in the back of my head as we went through our evening. All of these things that I am clearly lacking to start with. Listen parents, keep it simple: do your best. That is all. Quit with the laundry list of things you need to do better and just do your best. Quit enrolling your children in 17 guilt driven activities and sit down at the dinner table. It is so uncomplicated, I think. We feel the need to overcompensate for whatever reason and feel so much social pressure for our children to be the best of the best that we are missing out. I posed the question at a small group meeting last month. What is this all about? The scheduling and taxi driving and child shuffling? What are we really doing it for? And my answer is this: we want our children to be better than us. We want them to have more, be more and do more than we did and we want them to be happier than we are. At the end of the day, aren’t we protecting them from becoming who we are or are not? I was not the most popular. I was not the best athlete. I made bad decisions and on and on…So in turn I am trying to protect my children from experiencing the heartache and suffering and poor decision making I went through in my younger years. I am trying desperately to change the course of her path from mine when in essence, THE PATH IS GOD’S. What would make my 9 year old most happy is to go climb a tree, kick a ball or ride her bike. What makes ME most happy is for her to win the 50M butterfly amongst 10 year olds so I KNOW I am doing it right, for her to place first in UIL so I KNOW I am doing it right. Well guess what? I am doing it right. You are doing it right. You are doing it better than right and the more you let go of what drives YOU the better off they will be. Whatever you are overcompensating for (in my case divorce and the fear of them turning into me) STOP. They see you. They know how much you love them and getting them to two practices in one day does not change that. You are doing your children and God a huge disservice with all this running around in overdrive. Go back to God. Go back to bike riding. Go back to the dinner table.
“You can’t do everything. Your children can’t experience everything. To them, every opportunity looks good. It’s your job to keep your children grounded and prevent them from drowning in activities. Don’t allow your family to worship the idol of over-commitment. Learn to say no. Over-commitment is one of the great idols of American Christianity. We worship this idol because it tells us we’re important and our children are gifted. And, unfortunately, we sacrifice our children on this altar. We enjoy the satisfaction from our children being the best. This gives us importance. But it creates teenagers stretched thin, obsessed with outward achievements, and overcome with anxiety.Your children might not say this, but they need you to say no.”-Frank Powell
At 9 years old Betty believes she will be an Olympic swimmer. She believes it and therefore so do I, but that is not up to her or me. It is up to Him. I totally support youth sports and I love her basketball team more than life itself but the fate of our children is not really in our hands. We must guide them and love them and above all give them to God. I love this poem by Kahlil Gibran. “Your children are not your children.” They belong to God. “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are set forth.” HE is the archer. “For even as HE loves the arrow that flies so HE loves the bow that is stable.” HE loves you as much as your children and so doing your best, putting your faith in Him, is ENOUGH.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
As we were driving home from a practice the other day I looked over at my long lashed beauty and I thought do I really know her? Do I really listen to her? What is her favorite flavor of milk shake? What book is she reading? What does she want to be when she grows up? What does she pray for at night? With the barrage of things we expect from ourselves as parents, the little tiny parts of their hearts get overlooked. In so many realms, I believe, it is time to get back to the basics. Time to simplify and let go and do LESS. Let Jesus take the reins and just do our best. It is time to make sure we are the keepers of their hearts.
In the midst of typing this I went and layed down after work (we are all fighting the crud here and feeling pretty worn out) and thought about feeling guilty since everyone needed to be fed before a game in another town. In the dark, I heard the clibber clobber of little feet coming down the hall. He cracked open the door and whispered, MOM. I waited to see what he would do. He came in, crawled on the bed, whispered MOM a little louder this time, patted my face and gave me a big ole slobbery kiss. Off the bed and back out the door he went. Man, are we ever doing it right……
Let these moments guide you. Kindness and generosity and humility should be your compass, the moments when sweetness shines through and love is displayed should be your affirmation. Not awards, medals, swim times or ribbons. Compassion, gentleness, joy and empathy. That’s when you know your bow is stable, that your arrow is flying straight and the Archer has the prize in His sight.
I have been searching for the right words…... really throughout the entire Presidential campaign but especially since Trump’s win, the inauguration and the protests. It is most simply put: I am, to the depth of my core, GRATEFUL.
In my community, as wee as it may be, we are too busy serving to take a moment’s pause to think about what we deserve. We were over the election long ago and would have basically felt the same if someone else would have taken office. Scouts honor.
“But we urge you brothers to excel more and more and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you.”-1 Thessalonians 4:11
I am so grateful to live in a place where the needs of others come before our own agendas. We have been rallying around our village and finding ways to bless those less fortunate than us. No time to even fathom taking a Saturday off to march in cute hats. Here, it is about lending a helping hand, providing a warm meal, giving back and keeping your promises. There are fences to mend and fires to put out and seeds to be planted. It is about reaching deeper to fulfill your purpose. And I believe the majority of our wonderful country feels the same. Most of us want to move forward, do our best and leave this sense of entitlement and hatred behind. We want to go on worshipping and sowing and praying and reaping and just LET. IT. GO. because there is so much more to life than what could have been. Don’t get me wrong, we have our disagreements in our town and we are not always on the same page all of the time. But in general, we all want the same thing and that is to unite for the good of our neighbors, to put our differences aside and come together for one Common Purpose. I, in spite of all the things I have been through in this life, have never had much to protest about. I am so grateful for my warm bed and healthy children and hardworking husband and abundant freedom. I am so proud of my community for free hot dog lunches and homemade cookies with handwritten notes. I am not the most educated person and I do not pretend to have a vast amount of knowledge regarding politics but I do know that how you handle all of this is a choice. It is a place in your heart where you decide to be kind instead of mean, supportive instead of complaining, quiet instead of shouting out, flying your flag high and SERVING. A place in your heart where you do something for someone else instead of demanding your own way. Selflessness is not really a huge price to pay.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
It is time to put down our weapons and band together. It is time to love our nation, our president, our brothers and those most different than us. It is time to heal and mend and embrace. It is time for peace. It is time to get busy livin’, button up, give back and make all that is good start with YOU. IT STARTS AND ENDS WITH YOU. It is time to quit deserving and start serving. Above all, it is time to be GRATEFUL.
“One evening an old Cherokee Indian told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’
The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed.’
Which one will you feed?
When I was 9 years old, I wrote a ‘book’ titled Charles Squirrel (my brother) & Matilda Robin (my sister) complete with illustrations by Gina (my mother) and with her help (God Bless her for raising me) we mailed it to several publishing companies. My 9 year old self absolutely, without a doubt, believed that book would be published and on the Bestseller List by the time I was 9.5. So when the rejection letters began to pour in I was distraught for about five seconds until I moved on to the next project i.e. Save the Earth Club, meeting with City Council regarding a recycling program and posting only elephants should wear ivory signs in our small town. I am basically the same person today and I never stopped writing. I wrote all through school. I have blogged for over a decade and I have a special gift. I have many special gifts and one of them is sharing God’s message through writing. Can you believe it took a NO from Random House and 27 years for me to utter those words? Even as I type it, I feel a twinge in my stomach that I am being arrogant.
You have a special gift. Perhaps you are like me who spent years in denial. “God would never pick ME. I am just an ordinary Joe who could not possibly be equipped to work for God’s kingdom. I am not talented enough. I am not good enough. I am too damaged. I am too much of a sinner.´ Etc. Etc Etc. Lies, all untrue. Perhaps you are also like me and have had a hard time finding what your spiritual gift is. Spiritual gifts come in all shapes and sizes. Teaching, preaching serving, cooking, sewing, counting, mothering, fathering, drawing, painting, playing, decorating, baking, listening, singing, smiling...Every single one of us has a special gift from God. Somewhere deep in the secret places of your heart, you know. You know this thing that makes you tingle, this thing that you feel passionate about, this flame. If you are like me, you just need to fan the flame.
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to HIm.-2 Chronicles 16:9.
He is looking for you. His eyes run to and fro, just waiting for the time when you decide to turn your loyal heart over to Him so that you may be blessed indeed. Looking and waiting so that He can raise you up and put you to work and use you for the good. What I truly believe is if you will, to the depth of your core, turn your heart over to God, your gifts will become so apparent to you, you will wonder how you ever missed them. I have always loved God. But for a very long time I loved God on MY terms. You know the whole, ¨He wants me to be happy. He wants what MY heart wants. Jesus drank wine. I am entitled, deserve, etc. to feel MY way?” I loved a God who served me, a God who would bless me for good behavior and forgive me even when I knowingly sinned. A God who looked past all of my flaws and accepted me for me when I wasn´t really even trying to love Him, only myself. As imperfect as I still am, I have changed my mentality in so many ways. I have began to ask God how can I serve you. How can I further your kingdom? Make me a servant for you, God. I have quit making a lot of excuses and given up some bad habits. I have slowly turned my heart over to His hands and the transformation has been completely and utterly apparent. Listen, I have a long way to go but as I give more, as I dive in more, as I let go more God is showing me my place and purpose in this world and it is inevitably without a doubt to serve. Slowly and surely the doubtful, insecure, lost, thin skin is molting off and new brave, solid, tough skin is being formed. I have, throughout this process, continued to ask myself why me? If you know my past you are most likely wondering the same. I am an ordinary sinner with a treacherous history and the ONLY way I have an opportunity to share my gifts is by the Grace of God.
Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time-pray that our God will make you fit for what heś called you to be, pray that heĺl fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus he will honor you, Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely-2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
Can you believe that? Can you believe that really all you have to do is give God your heart? Turn over that damaged, cracked, sinful, used up, broken heart and HE WILL HONOR YOU. He will HONOR you. It is amazing in my eyes. What has happened in my life is nothing short of a miracle and nothing short of God filling my good ideas and acts of faith.
I have no idea what my plan is, what my future holds. Will I publish a book? Not likely. Will I write beyond my blog? Maybe. Maybe not. I yearn to live quietly, to mind my own business and devote myself to my family and to my God. I do not know how the two can mesh. But it is not up to me. I will continue to pray that I will be used as HE sees fit, not the other way. The plan He seeks for us must come first in our hearts. The possibility that even one single person might be uplifted by my gift is enough for me and I assure you God has made me keenly aware of that possibility. What I am suggesting is that perhaps my gift is never going to get the nod from Random House but it can always glorify God and that, my friends, is ALL it is all about.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.-2 Timothy 1:6-7
As we ring in a new year, BYE 2016 is all I have to say, make a little room in your heart. Fan a little flame. Add a little power not fear. Let a little something go and replace it with Him. Give Him a chance to show you what can transpire when He is number one. Seek to serve HIM so that he can, in turn, HONOR you. It is in you and through the laying of His hands, your gifts will emerge and you will be blessed. As I have typed this blog, I have thought of at least 100 people and all of their special gifts. Kindness. Generosity. An open heart. Humility. Self-control. My daughter´s teachers and coaches and their spouses. What gifts they have. Our pastor. Our civil servants. The sweet ladies behind the fountain at our local drug store. My husband. Oh the special gifts that guy has. That story will come soon. My sweet neighbor across the street brings us soup and treats, and most importantly tortillas from our little tortilla factory, at least once a week. She has many, many special gifts but sharing is up there with cooking. A bowl of soup dropped on my porch helps give Henry an early bite, helps pack Bettyś lunch, helps when I do not want to cook at all, helps me have lunch during work the next day. To her it is a small act. To me, it changes my week. You do not have to be published or have a million dollars or get 1,000 likes on Facebook. You do not have to be famous or attractive or educated. Sharing your gifts in your small circle is equally important.
I was moved to tears several times over the past month when I heard James Taylorś version of In the Bleak Midwinter:
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what can I give Him: I can give my heart.
I am no Danielle Steele or Michael Phelps or Ivanka Trump. I screw something up every day and I really need to work on some of my not so special gifts. I am just plain ole Grace Davis Pshigoda.
What can I possibly give Him? I can give my heart.
This morning my babe was able to load a bus with her very healthy, happy, rambunctious, precious 4th grade class to attend the Nutcrakcer. I was able to afford a $30 dress from Amazon that she twirled in all morning. I put a big ole red bow in her hair, took her picture by our glowing tree and sent her on her way. Tears. I am not much of a crier. I think over the years, I have become somewhat desensitized and I just don’t cry very often. Not at funerals or weddings or sappy movies or baptisms or award ceremonies. But this Christmas season I have shed many a tear. Tears of gratitude. Tears that can only come from someone who has had one heckuva year, one heckuva life. In spite of being a smidge broken and a tad ‘minus’ this year, my heart is so full of thankfulness, I cry at a moment’s notice. Thankful that my bed is warm. Thankful that my children are healthy. Thankful for our little shop on the corner. Thankful for this man who is by my side no matter what. Thankful for cheap poofy twirl dresses.
O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Til He appeared and the soul felt it's worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees
FALL ON YOUR KNEES.
Since I last posted, I have thought of a time not so long ago when I went into my church of 30 something years and fell on my knees at the altar. It was about this time of year and it was dark and empty and I sort of just dropped to my knees. Privately, desperately and quietly. Before I knew I would find Ashley Pshigoda again. Before I knew of a brown eyed boy that would steal my heart 1,000 times over. Before I knew that you could love a 9 year old so boldly and deeply you almost forget how much you loved her at two. Before so many things, I fell to my knees that night.
The past 7 weeks have been a physical test I was not prepared to endure. My body is trickling, TRICKELINGGGGGGGGGGG, back to normal. I have been angry enough to throw a glass on the floor. I have been numb. I have been doubtful. I have been small. I have put my husband through hormone hell and I honestly have no idea when it will really just all be over. But, I have also fallen to my knees…..in gratitude. In gratitude because I will never be able to explain how the stories shared with me have touched my heart. Thankful because I have been reminded that my situation could be 1,000 times worse. Grateful because I was able to share in some heart ache but more importantly, I was able to share in some JOY. Thankful because smack dab in the middle of typing this, I received a call from a sister whose story is finally over and I also believe, just beginning. Grateful that people would actually call me to share the deepest parts of their hearts.
We all fall to our knees don’t we? We are all, at some point, aching and grieving and at an altar in our lives. Just asking WHAT? WHAT LORD DO I DO? But then we are also allowed to bow and thank God for such a magnitude of blessings. For so much favor it hurts. For red bows and holding hands in bed and even for heaping piles of clean laundry.
This Christmas I have been given the greatest gift of all: perspective. I have been reminded that NOTHING, nothing wrapped in a package really matters. I have thought so much about Mary and how she must have wanted to cry out WHAT DO I DO???. How dismayed she must have been but instead chose acceptance and reverence with a grateful heart.
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:11
As I read this verse I felt moved beyond tears. I have looked at each and every nativity scene with a new appreciation for Joseph and Mary on their knees before that tiny baby, for the wise men who traveled well past the day of His birth to bow before him and worship him. I have been keenly aware of the many ways we serve our God from our knees. And that all of it, all of it is really about serving. I was fortunate enough to watch the rehearsal of our daughter’s Christmas pageant from a back pew in our church. As the final song came to an end, the music leader gathered the children, bowed to her knees and prayed over them. I realized then, that bowing is surely in gratitude as much as it is in pining. Joy finds joy. Happiness creates happiness. I have been blessed enough to hear true miracles over the past month. I have been reminded that God is always at work. In our own homes, at treatment programs, under downtown bridges, by weekly Sunday flowers to remember a baby boy lost, in our churches, in our crying out and in our tears, He is always at work.
These stories of loss and heartache and holidays missed and bridges near burned and fires almost being snuffed out…..of tiny embers that are fanned into an enormous flame of compassion and understanding and forgiveness and joy and gratitude. These instances where despair gets all mixed up inside of us and shoots out as new promise, as new faith, as new belief. This Christmas season, I have been convinced of one thing, our stories open the door to bear much fruit. Our suffering is Christ-like and paves the way for us to help others. Our suffering teaches us to be more understanding. It teaches us to cry more tears. To look back in reflection and know that we have so much to be grateful for, we have so many abundant blessings, we have so many opportunities to share hope.
This Christmas I ask you to find someone who may not see the light. I ask you to seek out the oppressed and the forgotten and take one minute, one minute, to pray over them and with them, to remind them of the good in this life. I ask you to take that thing, that one thing that almost destroyed you and turn it into a sliver of hope. What has made you better? What is your message of hope? What has rocked your core? What has strengthened your faith? There is someone out there going through the same thing, someone in sin and error pining, someone lonely or sad, someone who cannot even find the tears, someone who just needs a tiny breath added to their ember and there is someone like you who can show them how to
fall on their knees.
Early in the morning of October 23rd for absolutely no reason at all, I opened my laptop and typed these words in a fresh new blank document.
I am not done yet.
Early in the morning of October 31st I was ecstatic to tell my beloved hubby the news of two positive pregnancy tests driving it all home with a picture of one wee tiny extra punkin. But as the days went by, we realized something wasn’t quite right. I was ordered to complete several rounds of bloodwork and finally a sonogram. Fear began to creep into my heart and soul with words like levels dropping, not out of the woods, etc., etc. It is amazing the bond you can feel with something after only knowing about its existence for a few days, how much your heart can yearn for its safety and well- being regardless of size or state. It is because God loved us first.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5
I began to panic but simply would not let my brain go there. I believe one of my most special gifts in this life is mothering. My family is my life. I do not drink. I do not smoke. I am genetically blessed to be as skinny as a rail. I exercise. I go to bed before 9:00 p.m. even on Saturdays. I have zero health issues and my last two pregnancies were flawless. So it just wasn’t possible that this could not work out for me. But fear, especially in the dark hours of the night, just won’t rest, just won’t let go, just won’t give in. Fear, in spite of all efforts to be positive, keeps knocking at your heart’s door...tap, tap, tap. Fear is the devil.
On the same day I found out things were in a very fragile state, I received this note from a former teacher and fellow church member. Someone I have admired and respected my entire life. Someone who means the world to me.
Dear Grace, the unexpected passing of Jill caused me to wonder if she knew how very much she meant to me, so I have vowed, in her memory, to make sure I let other special people in my life know what they mean to me and you are one of those people! I have admired you from afar these past few years. You are so very beautiful on the outside and that is because you are truly God servant with a loving, kind and generous heart. You have overcome and triumphed some personal battles, and I so admire the way you haven’t let any of these battles defeat you. You & Ashley are committed to God and each other and your example is encouraging to others. You have embraced motherhood with your whole heart and that thrills me. I want to encourage you to continue fighting the good fight you are the hands and feet of Christ. I will always be one of your biggest fans cheering you on. You are so very special to me.
And with blinding hot streaming tears I turned away from myself towards God. I began backpedaling from that anxious, terrified person and I jolted towards that someone who is so much bigger than I. I decided to fight and I knew that no matter what the future held, we would triumph. With each obstacle, with each unexpected fork in my path, I have slowly and surely made a turn. I imagine myself as a dial, as a ticking clock edging closer to Him with each tock. Those ticks, those life events, are not always what we imagined for ourselves. They are not always self- inflicted pains either but they are the shutters that draw us nearer to Him.
My testimony is this dear friends: I HAVE been through some personal battles, some ugly, messy, nasty, personal battles. Some, just the cards life has dealt me, but most, I have waged upon myself. There is a mascara stain on my pillowcase at this very moment. I have layed in bed thinking I will not recover from this. I have felt punished. In spite of EVERY attempt to dismiss that feeling, I have felt punished. I have surely hurt others and made some really detrimental decisions. I have swept those transgressions under my cloak hoping no one would ever recognize who they belonged to. I am, as we speak, going through a battle I never thought would be mine but the encouragement from a sister loved by God caused a TURN in my faith. I decided at that moment I was going to own every single battle whether won or lost. Those mistakes and scrapes and scars and deep wounds that have shaped my very existence would be covered up no longer. As I walked through the halls of BSA I envisioned myself with boxing gloves on, fighting the good fight.
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12
I would not let the devil steal my faith. I would not be afraid of the news we might receive and I would not cower in the shadows. I would NOT waver. I am a child of God.
I am not done yet.
We all have the chance to make a difference in someone else’s life EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. We are charged to encourage one another and lift each other up.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Being kind is free. Pursuing love takes little effort. Listening, helping, sharing, opening our hearts, PURSUING LOVE. It is all simple really. On that day, in that moment, God knew I needed kindness. God knew I needed to be reminded of His armor and His strength. He knew I needed to be reminded of my own witnesses cheering me on. He wanted me to quit being ashamed and stand TRIUMPHANT, win or lose.
We did not receive the news we wanted to hear. I did spend time down and I am still not 100% back to normal. I wailed but I GOT UP. RISE UP. GET UP. GET UP. I dug deep and I remembered things that have been harder than this. I would survive and the perspective of that loss was cast in a new, softer, light because someone else encouraged me. Raw words, honest words, resonating words. A simple reminder that God is a faithful God. God is a loving God. GOD IS GOOD. God is on our side. If you are suffering, if you are going through a divorce or have lost someone you love or if you are consumed by depression or if you are afflicted by addiction or maybe you have lost your job or if you never got to meet your baby, do not be defeated. Do not give in. God loves you and with Him we are never hopeless.
“Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for HE WHO PROMISED IS FAITHFUL”-Hebrews 10:23.
Beth Moore states, “Life can be painful here. Loss is inevitable. So let us grieve when we must, but God forbid that we grieve as the hopeless do. In His hands, we find solace. In His heart, we find rest. In His time, we find meaning. In His eyes, we are blessed. In His strength, we’re made mighty. In His light, morning breaks. In His Word, He has promised. In His coming, sleepers wake.” I can promise you one thing through it all. Through the loss and the grieving and the tears and the pain. Through the bad decisions I have made and the second chances I have been allowed, one thing is certain. I will shed this cloak and let God’s light shine all over me. I am going to be showered in His blessings and believe in His plan for me. I am going to be the hands and feet of Christ because
I AM NOT DONE YET.
‘Do not be afraid. Stand your ground’. Exodus 14:13
A week ago, our community lost someone unexpectedly and I am reeling…..still…. reeling. She was 37 and a mother to three amazing young daughters, one of which is in Betty’s class and plays on her basketball team. We team taught Sunday school and she was a PILLAR in our church’s infrastructure especially when it came to the family side of things. She was always smiling and pure joy to be around. She was good, very good.
Yesterday in our ‘Children of the Day’ study, Beth Moore said you should feel nurtured by God. And I have to say I am not feeling very nurtured at this moment. Honestly, I feel a little forsaken. Beth said God is like a dad and sometimes you need to crawl up in His lap and cry the day away. From the moment Jill’s service started, that is just what Betty did. She cried and cried and I almost exploded from how tender her little heart is. Why do these things happen? Who decides it is our time to go?? Why now? I can’t help but feel like we are always a breath away from disaster, from grief, from loss. Why is life so scary sometimes? I am searching for some sort of answer and there isn’t one. Because it is not AN answer I want. It is THE answer. That voice I have talked about. I want it to boom down and say THIS WILL NOT BE YOU. You will not get left behind. Your children will live to be 115 and DEVASTATION WILL NOT COME TO YOU. YOU ARE SAFE.
Before Sunday school this past week, I suddenly realized those sweet ladies might very well be there. I prayed for the right words to come, to teach the right lesson, to hold it together. Would we cry? Would we hug? Would we talk about their loss? It was Jill’s Sunday to teach and I was not prepared. They were there. I opened the worksheet and we talked about the Egyptians and the chariots and Moses crying out to God and the sea parting and that no matter your situation, you can call upon God and He will be with you. We did not cry. We did not talk about loss or death or grief. We played musical chairs and laughed and almost got kicked off of Haney Street and we chanted DO NOT BE AFRAID. STAND YOUR GROUND!!!!
Jill Ann Barrett is in Heaven, there is absolutely no doubt about that, but the gaping hole she left here is so exposed and tender right now it is almost as if it is hard to breathe, impossible to even fathom. I did not grow up with her. I did not graduate high school with her but she was part of our church family. When you lose a church friend, you lose one of your own. Your heart flails about and breaks into a million pieces just as if she was your very own sister, because she was.
Our Pastor told us that in the wake of her death, the day after, her husband and three daughters held hands in a circle and vowed that they will make it. Vowed to survive and to carry on. Life goes on. The beat goes on. You breathe in and out and move forward somehow. You fill that empty space with love and gratitude and joy. You realize that life will come to an end for us all. You remind yourself that what Jill would want, what her husband and children want….. is for her legacy to live on, her good works and warm smiles to continue. She is with us firmly saying GET UP, PRESS ON, LIVE LIFE,
DO NOT BE AFRAID. STAND YOUR GROUND.
Oh, If I had a dollar for every time I hear or see ¨Where has the time gone? And slow down time! And time just flew by!”, I would be a very rich woman indeed. Where HAS the time gone? Our baby boy will be two in a few months and I swear the past 20 months have been a blink. A BLINK. He is a full on walking, talking, reading, climbing, kissing toddler and those tender middle of the night memories of when I nursed him are becoming foggy....distant. He will be 9 before we know it.
My brother texts me a quick prayer starter every morning and today it read, ¨One of the most important things we can learn in this day and hour is how to be still. I believe that one of the significant reasons so many of us are burned out and stressed out is that we don’t know how to be still. We don’t really know God and do not acknowledge Him. And it is only by spending time getting to know Him that we learn to hear His still, small voice so that He can direct our paths. We need to learn to be quiet on the inside and stay in that peaceful state so that we are always ready to hear the Lord’s voice. Many people today just run from one thing to the next. Because their minds do not know how to be still, they do not know how to be still in their heart. If we will just slow down and quiet our minds enough to hear His promptings, we can live in a place of peace, ready to respond obediently. It is easy to see that leading a peaceful happy life, free from exhaustion and burnout, is not all that complicated, as long as we remain still before God.¨
I don’t know about you but I don’t think I have ever really heard that voice….that whisper. I have certainly felt His presence and known He was there but I have never really HEARD a voice and I have always wondered if perhaps there was something missing... If maybe I am not quite connected enough to hear Him or maybe He is too busy or maybe I am not ‘worthy’ of the voice. If any person on this planet runs from one thing to the next, it is me. I have a busy mind and I work most efficiently when my mind is occupied….by a million things. This week my swimmer will begin practices and our week will consist of Monday night basketball, Tuesday night basketball, Wednesday night swim, Thursday night swim, homework, studying for multiple UIL events, an open house at our business, preparing for Art Walk on Saturday, friends in town, getting ready for Bible study next week, painting furniture, blah, blah, blah, etc., etc., etc. ZERO stillness. Even in my quiet time in the morning while I read my devotional and my Bible, my mind is wandering off to a thousand different places. That my friends is where the time has gone. When is the last time you spent an entire block of the day being still? When is the last time you spent an hour being being quiet, being small, being open? Our time is spent driving, corralling, fretting, working, stressing, chasing, checking, Facebooking, texting, Instagramming, emailing, worrying and losing precious moments. There is a line in the movie Hook when Granny Wendy says to Peter, as his cell phone rings for the 800th time, “Peter, YOU ARE MISSING IT.” We are ya’ll. When I was a child, my parents unplugged our television for about 6 years. None TV. Zero TV. Nada TV. No The Voice. No college football. No 48 Hours on Saturday night (that seems incomprehensible to me). We were shoved outside to climb trees and eat mulberry pies and play hide and go seek around the block. God wants that for us I believe. He longs for us to TURN. IT. OFF. Shut it down and seek him or perhaps there is no seeking required. Perhaps in that stillness and solitude, He will seek you. Sister friend, there is so much life happening right before our very eyes but we are not seeing it because of an acute overload of stress. A list of to do’s so intense, we wake up and a year has gone by.
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalm 46:10
I want to be still in my heart. I want to make time to lie flat on the floor and be still in MY SOUL and let God go to work. I want to LISTEN. I don’t hear it because I am NOT LISTENING. I have a best friend who just won a bodybuilding competition. Through this training process, the transformation she undergoes is beyond belief: “Someone asked me why do you compete? Months of dieting, not being able to indulge in birthdays and treats, hours spent in the gym, early mornings of cardio...my response? It is my gift exchange with Christ. These mornings? They are time to get to know Him. These hours in the gym? They are time to refine my spirit and attitude. These food choices? They show me that He gives me discipline that bleeds over to every area of my life and builds my character. It is NOT about me - this is about Him. I give Him all the glory in the everyday victories and the ones on the stage as well!”
Gift exchange with Christ. Isn’t that an amazing thought? As the holidays approach and we add even more chaos to our crazy busy schedules, I ask you (and mainly myself) to ponder a different kind of gift exchange. Time. Whether you are in the gym or lying flat on the floor, find a time slot for your relationship with Christ. Find a place for the voice. Turn off Fox news, remove the FB app from your phone, get up 10 minutes earlier and be still. Be still.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9
He is there. He will establish our steps. He will exalt us and lift us up on high. He will speak to us and change our hearts and our paths if we will just let Him.
And at the end of the movie, Granny Wendy says to Peter, “So your adventures are over? And he replies,
“Oh no. To live….to live, would be an awfully big adventure.”
Many moons ago, a therapist I was seeing told me I have a super harsh punitive ego or a harsh punitive superego or something like that. Basically, I am extremely hard on myself. I internally question every decision I make and just beat myself up over and over and over. Where this came from I do not know. I grew up in a home full of love and support and I am beginning to realize one thing: it is an attack on our souls from the depths.
I feel like I have been having lots of conversations with other women lately and if I see one thing we all have in common it is this trait. SO HARD ON OURSELVES.
We apologize. We question our self-worth. We dismiss compliments. We lack confidence. We feel guilt. We compare ourselves to others. We are discontent with our appearances. We put on fronts. We lower our standards. We give up. We overload ourselves with so many to do’s, we can barely keep it all straight. We are entangled and consumed and exhausted and unsure. We beat ourselves up over and over again. I am so guilty of this. I am not sure what my fear is. Perhaps what others will think of me? Fear of failing miserably as a mother, wife, sister, daughter for the whole world to know? Fear of not being enough compared to other women? Silly, silly fear. I have thought about this so much lately. I am surrounded by amazing, beautiful, strong ladies in my family, friendships, church and community. Women that I aspire to be like. Women that teach me and strenghten me. So, why then, are we in a constant state of snuffing out our own torch? Why are we cowering, doubting and back pedaling when we should be enlightening, mentoring and encouraging?
Lisa Bevere writes, in her book, Girls With Swords, “You are a beloved, royal daughter of the Most High God. The enemy’s approach may look different with each of us, but he will do all that is within his power to hinder or bend your growth to his purposes and distract you from your heavenly destiny.”
Have you ever thought, beloved, that perhaps you are being attacked? That the little voice inside your head saying you are not good enough, saying that plan will never work, saying that idea is laaaaaaaaaaaaaame is an actual attack on your destiny? Have you ever thought it is all part of a perfect plan to wrongfully claim what is rightfully yours, to hold you back from greatness, to destroy and crush God’s plan for you? It is. It is exactly that. The enemy that seeks to steal, kill and destroy is doing everything in his power to darken your path and to cover up your trail.
“The whole course of human history may depend on a change of heart in one solitary and even humble individual…..for it is in the solitary mind and soul of the individual that the battle between good and evil is waged and ultimately won or lost.”-Scott Peck
I can safely say I have spent a good part of the last decade of my life letting the evil voice win. I have listened to those whispers of how unimportant I am. How much my voice doesn’t matter and how much I hate my too small chin. Yesterday I met with our Pastor and presented an idea which caused her to clap. She legit gleefully clapped for my idea. It was a pivotal moment for me. It spurred this article and made me feel so WORTHY. Because you know what? I am. I am worthy. And so are you dear one.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”-Hebrews 12:1
Ladies, not only are you surrounded by people that love you here on this planet. You are surrounded by the greatest cloud of witnesses clapping so ferociously for you and the amazing things you are accomplishing. That’s right my Granny Bea and Ashley’s Grandmother Paulie and all the women (and men) who have gone before us are up there cheering us on. Let us throw off everything that HINDERS us and the sin that so easily entangles us…..that snakey quiet whisper that says you cannot…..THROW. IT. OFF. Let it go. Move it out. Toss it into the ocean with an anchor so heavy it will never resurface again.
Because sweet sister, you are beautiful and majestic and all things Holy. You are anointed. You ARE ANOINTED and there is a race you MUST run. There is a battle you must fight, an attacker you must conquer and a path you must forge.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Today my friends, go out and run your race. Believe in God's purpose for you, know that you are worthy and give yourself a big ole clap.
'Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses.' 1 Timothy 6:12
This past Saturday I visited our local flea market and found a bargain. I have been looking for a jogging stroller for months now but refused to pay more than $50 bucks because let’s face it: I don’t jog. The stroller at the flea market was squeaky clean and when I asked if she would take $25 for it, she said yes. I was joyful. Exuberant. Ecstatic. I am a bargain shopper and could NOT wait to show my hubby my find.
Fast forward to yesterday on a very humid mid-morning walk with my oversized 17 mos. old, overexcited 2 year old retriever and my daughter on her overly tall bike. It was hotter than a well digger but I cared not because I was pushing my new $350+ stroller that I STOLE from the flea market. La tee da. And then the front wheel fell off mid-trek and I sort of panicked. I had a looooong way to go and was clearly one less wheel. So to make a long story short we made it home after much sweating and danging it and switching who pushed the stroller (think chariot style, think Arabian Desert hot, think miles to go).
I always post cute pics of my kids or my precious hubs or our house. I rarely post real life pics which are paper towels strung out all over the floor, guacamole smeared all over my brand new super cute dish towel, stepping in dog poo when I mow the lawn, temper tantrums, disagreements, unpaid bills, sharp tongues, long days, etc., etc. Isn’t this life? Broken wheels and dog poo? It is so easy to get caught up in all of life’s tough little challenges. It is so easy to lose your temper, complain, moan, grumble, stoop low, speak ill, and lash out. It is so easy to forget how important our roles as wives, parents, sisters, friends are and how much we matter in the grand scheme of things. We are not called to leave an easy life. We are called to live a purposeful life….an eternal life to which GOD HAS CALLED YOU.
God tells us to fight the good fight for the true faith. Maybe that fight does not have to be a battle of massive proportions. Maybe you are not required to stand behind a podium and address Congress or join the Peace Corps or serve on a board. Maybe you do not even have to speak outside of your family unit. Maybe fighting your very own good fight right here in your very own small town in your very own home is enough. You can make a difference. In your community, in your neighborhood, in your house. YOU can make all the difference. Enough. Enough. Enough.
The ebb and flow of this thing called life is challenging at best. Hard moments, obstacles, disappointments and lessons learned but how you accept those challenges makes all the difference. It is a choice: how busy you are, how cram packed your schedule is, how stressed your life has become, how you start each day. We feel such an obligation to strap more burden on our shoulders. More meetings, more events, more clubs, more groups, more Facebook posts, more possessions, MORE, MORE, MORE. One of my biggest focuses right now is to hone in, simplify, say no, let go, be still, be quiet, and be present. Be here now. What I give back to my family is more important than any single thing I do.
Everyone’s good fight is different. Everyone has a different purpose to serve. Whatever that may be, whether you are a brave soldier armed and ready for the battle of impact and change or a quiet mom at home battling toddlers, FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT. Start each day with a kind heart and choose to fight for what is good and true and most importantly for faith in God’s plan. Let God work within you. Pick your stroller wheel up off the ground and get that baby home for a cold drink. Mother Teresa said, “Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do... but how much love we put in that action.”
As you go out today and strap on your shining armor, remember how important you are, remember how much those mama/wife/partner/friend hugs matter and that God sees you putting love into every.single.action and recognizes that your stroller, your stroller sister, is a chariot.
The biggest obstacle I have with blogging and more importantly actually sharing the blog is lack of confidence. I typically write something and send it out to those closest to me for a little reassurance (as if they would tell me differently), re-read it 78 times and then publish it on a web site that has about NONE traffic. Sometimes I will feel brave enough to share with our Pastor or post on FB but most of the time, my little tidbits never leave the privacy of my own laptop.
Little ole me.…..Who am I to believe my message is worth sharing? Who am I to suggest I know anything about Jesus Christ? Who am I to insinuate I am all goodie goodie with the Man Upstairs? I am a sinner after all. Sinner with a capital S. I have been through a divorce. I am an extreme introvert=I screen phone calls and I use emails instead of words and all kinds of other introverted things. I am addicted to Amazon Prime=I sigh with relief when the gargantuan box on my front porch is only a TRASH CAN (who can remember what they ordered two days ago?). My past is filled with all kinds of crazy, sad, happy, mad history (enough to fill a book) and I Sin with a capital S every.single.day. So who is this Sinner to be acting as if she has some special know-it-all relationship with JC or some greater understanding of the good book? Who is this Sinner to blast scripture all over the world wide web as if she has a clue?
‘But he knoweth the way that I take; When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.’-Job 23:10
This Sinner is workin’ on the gold. I am not there yet but I am better today than I was yesterday and I am TRYING so very hard. Aren’t we all? Everyone of us, Sinners with capital S’s, constantly trying to be better, to grow, to transform, to open our hearts, to do good, to dive into scripture or quit an old habit, to love on a neighbor or forgive a transgression.?? The Sinner in all of us is what creates that gold, what shapes us, what purifies us, what reminds us, what causes us to dig deeper. Gold. Gold. Gold.
So Sinners go with me here. I am just like you. I am trying every day, just like you, to COME FORTH. To leave the sin behind and come forth as the person God wants me to be. I don’t know anything more, probably less in fact, about Jesus Christ than any of the rest of you but I do believe the trials and tribulations I have been through have shaped my core and their lessons speak through me when I write. Divorces, addictions, judgements, harsh words, anger, racism, biased, and so much more are the scars that remind us of being TRIED and of being healed. My prayer every single day is for God to use me as servant to further his kingdom. And I know in the depths of my heart, that means using these things I am ashamed of as a way to speak to other people who can relate. I know that at some point if I lay it all out there on the line I will have the capacity to reach someone and only if it is just one, it is enough. And YOU know that those dark and scary sins=knowledge=understanding=transformation. So I encourage you to take your Sin and EMERGE. Come forth with those things that have brought you down and use them to rise above, to shine a light, to forge a path. Touch someone with your story. Let someone in your life. ANSWER the dang phone.
An update on the little girl swimming for another town: in her last meet she won EVERY event she was in except for one and she placed second in it. Her goal is to qualify for D2 this year a feat we never thought possible honestly. In the fly, she is one second away from reaching that goal. One second. After her meet last week, she asked if she could add an evening swim at the YMCA to her daily morning practice to prepare for the meet this week. I cry as I type this. Every day of my life I ache for that girl having to be split between two families. Every single day I feel guilt and remorse and a twinge of sadness for her. And every single day she reminds me that God has a plan for her that is beyond my wildest dreams. That God already knows the amazing things in store for her. She is my gold.
Last week our community laid a beloved young man to rest and we were utterly shaken. On the following Saturday, I attended the funeral of a precious young friend who left us too soon. We were shaken to the core. On Sunday morning, we awoke to the news of the mass shooting at a club in Orlando. We were beyond shaken.
If you are like me, chaos in this world gives me great unrest. When despair circles all around me I ask God, am I next? I become anxious wondering if my family could possibly be on the tragedy list. Who is protected? Who is exempt? Who does NOT suffer? As I read my devotional this morning, this verse presented itself and I found peace realizing that the only true place of safety is in God´s arms.
´I stand silently before the Lord, waiting for him to rescue me. For salvation comes from him alone. Yes he alone is my Rock, my rescuer, defense and fortress. Why then should I be tense with fear when troubles come?´ Psalm 62:1-2
Aren´t we all shaken? Aren´t we all waiting for rescue? For salvation? We are all cracked and scathed and healing and searching and hurting and hoping. We are all united in that way. We are all united in imperfection, all scared human beings starving for the same things: love, acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, understanding.....all searching for a Rock and a Fortress. And isn´t that what Jesus is? Isn´t he the rescuer of all souls in despair? Isn´t he the greatest love we have ever known?
My friends, when you feel afraid, when you feel shaken and rest will not find you, love like Jesus. Love unconditionally. Love with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul. And give that love openly to all. Give that love away freely to those that are not like you. White, black, clean, high, straight, gay, drunk, sober, obese, skinny, tall, short. Not like you. Because I believe that is what Jesus would do. He would wrap those different than him up in so much love, their pain would diminish and their tears would be no more. Their hearts would transform and their lives would be touched and their differences would become unrecognizable.
A little girl in our town whose parents are divorced is swimming with her dad´s town´s swim team this summer. It has been mentioned, lovingly, that she is wearing the wrong color of swim suit. That little girl, my little girl, could be swimming for a team in Montreal and love them just the same. She sees no color. She sees no judgement or biased nor draws any lines. She just wants to swim and love every one of her teammates and her opponents. Love everyone that is the same and everyone that is different. She teaches me every day. Just swimming mom, she says. JUST SWIM.
In the wake of these tragedies and all things dark and unknown I ask you to look deep into your heart and remember that we are in this world together, on the same team, looking for the same things, trying to live in hope and love and happiness. Weary of the sadness and fear and heartache. And ultimately just trying to find a place that is safe and friendly. Dancing at a night club or having coffee with a friend. Acceptance. Confidence. Compassion.
Jesus said, ´Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.´-Mark 6:31
Tonight before you go to bed or when you wake in the morning, lie still in your quiet place and put your weapons down. Whether it is a sword of fear or an arrow of hate, put it down and find rest. Stand silently before the Lord and let the love that only Jesus can give pour into your heart. Put all of your barriers down, forget all of the colors and let go of all the differences and JUST SWIM.
Man oh man, I look back at these pics and I can barely believe how far we have come or how bat crazy we were. I can be a bit of a sugar coater but for the sake of this blog and all things honest, I will tell the truth: some of the hardest days of my life. I don't want to be a big ole brat complainer but have I mentioned I am a creature of habit? A homebody? Living with Poppy and B for these several weeks was hard on everyone. HAP didn't sleep one solid night. He got sick which got everyone else sick. The hubs and I were under total stress and our best guy, Marcelo? Bless his ever loving heart. Who gripes about a remodel, no? I am just trying to drive the point home that we hadn't a clue what we were getting ourselves into. DO NOT get me wrong. I am so thankful for this remodel, I can't even tell you....But the destruction, the living out of our element, the cost, the never ending list of new things that needed to be done just about sent me off a cliff.
"You peel an onion, there's lots of layers."-Doc Hollywood.
Demo day was totally awesome. It took the guys like five seconds to knock everything out and I was so shocked I was gleeful. I honestly believed we would be right on track for our three week timeframe and all back in our safe place in time for HAP's first birthday in February. I was mistaken. Every single thing in that house needed to be replaced. Wiring, plumbing, AC/Heater ducting and unit, insualtion, etc., etc., etc. We also decided to raise the ceilings while we were at it, another timely decision that I would not trade. There was just SO much in need of updating underneath those walls. Things that if we didn't address, we would regret, and most likely have to deal with in less than 5 years time. So we said yes and moved forward and kept thinking normalcy was around the corner. We were mistaken. I am by nature an incredibly naive person and I truly had no concept of what this rehab was going to take to finish. The time, the money, the stress on my parents and us, the trips to Home Depot and the lack of sleep.
So as you contemplate your own remodel please remember this:
1)YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOUR REMODEL WILL TAKE until it is too late to go back to where you were. Once those walls are knocked out, that's it. You best put your head down and move forward because commencement has begun and there ain't no turning back.
2) No matter how much you plan (this remodel has been in the works for years and a solid year of planning for it before we laid a hammer in the walls) the rule of TIMES TRES totally applies. Three times the cost, three times the amount of days spent and three times the headache of your initial expectations.
3) You are not Chip and Joanna Gaines. Regardless of how smart you are or money savvy you are or creative you are, your remodel is not an hour long episode of Fixer Upper. Gutting a home is HARD. Gutting a home means starting over from scratch and there is no rad camera crew to make you look super hot with your long braid and Waco t-shirt.
4) All of the above could have been 1,000 times harder if we had worked with a different crew. Our guy had NO other major projects going. He was there with his guys over 12 hours a day most days and what he accomplished in 6 mos. could have taken 6 years. I have heard nightmare stories about no shows and crap work and a million other things. We were 1,000 times blessed with our guy and his talent and impeccable work is beyond what I can type here.
Dear Home Depot,
Your carts with steering wheels are DA BOMB. My little contractor stayed happy in the cart for at least 5 minutes longer because of those bodacious steering wheels. However, your facilities should include a play yard or better yet, a daycare. There are daycares at the gym. Why not at your house, Home Depot? When mommies are driving 180 miles roundtrip to shop at your store on a daily basis with a non-sleeping one year old, there should be a) a daycare and b)fine adult beverages in every one of those fridgerators. You could even offer a laundromat, just sayin.
Love you Home Depot. Your return policy is OH.MY.STARS.GREAT.
Soooooooooooooooooo after all that whining and poor pitiful me story, would I do it again? You bet your ask.
Stay tuned for THE AFTERS! Watch out HGTV we did some super cute and awesome stuff!
Luke 4:38-"Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. 39 So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them."
Ten days ago my very active, very curious son put his tiny hand in a much too accessible cup of coffee and pulled it down from the Keurig. I was close (not close enough) and watched it all happen in slo mo. He immediately began screaming and his onesie jammies were soaked in hot coffee. Frantic, I stripped them off and put him in a cold tub. His hand was red but I did not think it was serious. Nothing seemed to console him and after five to ten minutes, his thigh began to blister and I could clearly see the situation was more grave than I thought. I loaded him in the car and my mom and I took him to the ER. By this point, I knew we had a long road ahead.
Henry suffered second degree burns on his tiny fingers and that day was the worst of my life. He was in indescribable pain and there was nothing I could do for him. I feared long term damage as his fingers were blistered beyond any burn I have ever seen. The doctors suggested seeing someone at the burn unit in Lubbock so I began to pray. I wanted a miracle, a miracle like Simon’s. I bowed and prayed in front of his crib while he slept. I prayed morning, noon and night for total and complete healing so we would not have to make the trip to Lubbock. I begged and prayed for his wounds to disappear. I asked others to pray. I bargained with God and kept thinking of all the miracles Jesus performed. And I prayed some more. So on Friday, when his bandages were removed and his hand was still burned and the burn unit was still eminent I cried. I questioned. I balked. I grumbled and I cried again. If Jesus could cure Simon’s mother-in-law from a fever, if he could heal the paralytic, if he could walk on water, if he could multiply the fish, then WHY couldn’t my Henry be healed? I also felt guilty for feeling all of this resentment for not getting MY miracle.
Throughout these hard few days, Henry never once seemed bothered by his burn. He never indicated any sort of pain and even removed his bandages on several occasions. His only issue seemed to be disruptive sleep which is something we are VERY used to. Overall he was his happy, active, smiley self. I continued to pray.
Nine days later at the burn unit in Lubbock his mitt was removed and the nurse practitioner spoke the words "his wounds are healed". His hand is still visibly burned but the bandages have come off and he will suffer no scarring, no immobility and no long term damage. His fingers bend and again he seems to feel zero pain.
You see, I have learned yet another lesson regarding patience. I have bee made aware once more that miracles are not always immediate. They are not always huge productions or even apparent to the naked eye. Perhaps a miracle was being performed every second of the past 10 days. Miracles of protection from pain, miracles of rejuvenation, miracles of safety, miracles of growth and miracles of understanding. Sometimes I just ask too much of my God. Sometimes I am just incredibly impatient for what I believe is the best plan. Sometimes I feel I deserve certain allowances for my faith or should be punished for the lack of. But God is always there, steady and strong and true. He always has our best, everlasting, interest at heart.
Perhaps you are waiting for a miracle of your own or your miracle seems to be in the 'denied' column on God’s list. Maybe you just can’t see a clear path set out before you or you have lost someone you love and you feel God wasn’t listening to your pleas for a miracle. Be patient. Establish your heart. Believe. I believe that no matter the outcome, even if Henry’s hand was never going to be used again, that God has a plan. I believe your miracles will be revealed to you at the time He knows is best even if it is when you are reunited with Jesus. I believe the biggest lesson I need to learn is patience. Don’t we always want instant gratification? Don't we always NEED an immediate answer. We want what we want RIGHT NOW. Right now, God. I am so guilty of not being still, of not listening, of not trusting, of not establishing my heart. How long had Simon been seeking a miracle for his mother-in-law?
Since Henry has been making the tractor sound long before he knew what a tractor was (I have been told by my father-in-law that farming is bred in him), I love this verse.
James 5:7-8-"Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand." Speaking of, if you see Happy Henry in the days ahead give him a hug, ask for a high five, and even shake his little miralce hand.
Of all things materialistic, our home is the only one I really deeply care about. I drive a junker car. I am not into clothes or travel or shoes or really anything else one owns. I do love candles and masages.....hmmmm......I have become, in my old age, a homebody. I am a creature of habit, an introvert, a recluse.. deserving of the L shape on my forehead. I get a bit panicky in large crowds and consider myself socially AWWWWWKWARD as my daughter would say. I once traveled to Rome alone for 7 days and the thought of that now is about as desirable as a shot of tequila. #woof. No thank you. So my home is very very important to me. I am here, within its walls, as much as I am any where else. I love to cook for people. I love to soak in a hot tub. I love to sit in my yard and stare at the flowers planted by someone 60 years ago. I love a blazing hot fire and rocking my babies. I love finding new ways to make our bed comfy for my hubby. I love this house.
Our bungalow, a Lubbock home, was moved here/built in the 1950s and is a brick ranch style home with 3 bedrooms, 1.75 baths. I bought this home in 2010 from my mom and step-father who did some major renovations of their own but moved down the street to gut yet another old beauty. The biggest issue has always been the wall between the front living space and the den. In all of my time at the house (over 15 years combined), the space (about 200 square feet) was only used during Christmas. In my opinion it was a total waste of space as everyone congregates in the den where the fireplace is located near the kitchen. The house has amazing bones, an outdoor cooking space (complete with fireplace, pizza oven and bar), landscaped yard and lots of natural light. Most importantly, it has been a place of protection and retreat, a place of new beginnings and a place we hope to call home for many years to come.
"Parlor" or sitting room (wood floors) separate from den (carpet) with large rock fireplace
Medium kitchen (laminate)
Oversized laundry room (laminate)
Large bathroom with tub/shower combo (laminate/original salmon tile)
Tiny 3/4 bath with shower, sink, potty (tile)
8 ft. ceilings
Mostly original wiring, plumbing, heating/ac venting, insulation, cabinets, tile, flooring, etc.
As I look back through these pics I almost miss the ugly ole dirty thang. As you can imagine, once we opened it up, there was SO much under the surface we did not expect. Those pics to come soon....
The blog. I am sort of bored with the blog. A wee bit over it. Who reads this stuff anyway? Who cares, I wonder, about my boring little life? I mean isn’t it a little arrogant to think everyone is interested in what I am up to? I used to blog often, daily in fact, and write all of my whimsical thoughts for the whole world to see with the honest opinion that my words were vastly important…..to someone. And then I grew up. Got a life and realized no one really cares. So when building the web site I was very close to deleting the blog feature and then I thought I will have guest bloggers. Some people do have very interesting lives and some people really have a gift for sharing their stories. And then I started blogging about products in the shop and in usual form, my little fingers couldn’t stay off the keyboard. So here I am blogging, arrogantly, all over again.
The truth is it is my dang web site and if I want to get personal (because what is life if it isn’t personal?), then I will. I have a story to tell and if I knock out a few holes in the wall and REALLY tell it, I might MIGHT cause someone to identify, to understand, to empathize, to say MAN.I.GET.IT.
This little blog here at YBB is going to be a combination of things. Products we sell, people we meet, things we love, things we dislove, guest bloggers, befores and afters, design ideas, cute pics of my cute kids, sweet pics of my sweet hubs and most importantly: LIFE. Even better? I have no way to check it 86 times and see if someone ‘likes or loves or eye rolls or burns in their belly’ because of this blog. I’m writing what I want which will inevitably be the truth. If you can do anything poetic and right in this life, it is tell the truth. Your truth all raw and messy and jacked up might just set someone else free. So I hope the 5 of you that keep reading realize that we are all just humans, living in the trenches together, trying to figure it out every day and do the best we can. Winning, failing, trying, crying, spitting, clenching and DOING THE BEST WE CAN. I have lived a thousand lives of mistakes. I have messed up more than anyone on this planet (ok, not more than that what’s his name Manson guy) and today I am just trying to not make those same mistakes again. I am trying to live it right and be a normal nice ole gal. So if you are like me and love it, LOVE this life but sometimes want to punch this life in the face, read away and along the ride you might just find a way to rehab an old antique mirror.
I couldn’t decide if I should write this blog about our friend Scott Carlson or his puppy Carlita (she runs the show for sure). She also sparked the love of small dogs in our son and we will probably have to get another puppy because of her preciousness.
Scott is New Mexican or Arroyo Texan or I am not sure what….He is a combination of all things nice, warm, funny and welcoming that are Texas and all things artistic, spiritual, and soulful that are New Mexico. A native of Pampa with a studio in Taos, he has become a bit of both over the past 15 years. We first met him at our Annual Barkley Street Art Walk whilst he was throwing pottery in my mom’s driveway. He was basically giving it away and so kind to all of our patrons and like most artists we recruit, he just stuck. He comes every year and our event would not be the same without him. Recently, hubby and I made the trek to his neck of the woods to pick up a rather large shipment of plates, bowls, mugs, juicers, vases, planters, etc. and we were also wowed by his professionalism. His pottery is one of a kind, a great piece of art to own, but also incredibly functional. As I type this I drink out of my mug that I will drop in the dishwasher without worry of fading, cracking or chipping. We use his lavender soup bowls all winter long and squeeze limes with his juicer throughout the summer. We adore each and every piece and use some of it daily. We are proud to call Scott our friend and truly appreciate his contribution to our event every year as well as our little shop on the corner. All of his items can be shipped for next to nothing and we promise you will love them with all your heart.
You guys! Best durn learning to walk shoes ever.
I wanted to make sure these deer skin moccasins were functional before I posted this and they have exceeded my expectations. Honey came when the boy first started taking some steps and he was always barefoot. UNACCEPTABLE. She drove straight home and stiched up a little pair of mocs for him. I heart Indian Gradmothers.
Comfort-Most important of all, they are comfortable. He was having a hard time walking in everything we bought because the shoes were just too clunky. He was falling often and it seemed other shoes were too heavy. Also, he has very fat (picture a loaf of bread) feet. I bought him some cute little boat shoes for Easter and we had to stuff his fat feet in there like sausage in its casing. The mocs give his foot room to move around and also tie at the top so he cant take them off. Every other pair we have owned he could take off and we were constantly looking for a shoe.
Durability-Even though they might look a bit delicate, they are not. Deer skin is very durable and we have had no issues with holes or tearing. He wears them everywhere and we have had no trouble with anything piercing the deer skin or rocks hurting his loaf.
Flexibility-Obviously, deer skin is a soft material and bends and flexes in the shape of his foot. He seems to be able to walk (now run) with ease and does not fall down nearly as often. These shoes really give his foot the chance to ẃalk freely.
Maintenance-The moccasins can be wiped off or even washed if needed.
Price-There are some cheap shoes out there. You can spend $10 on shoes if you want and the moccassins run $45 per pair without bead work (I recommend for learners). Although they arent cheap they will last much longer and you will get more for your money. I am not one to spend a ton on clothing and shoes at this age since they grow so fast but the moccasins give you that room to grow without the shoe being oversized.
As a momma of a rough and tumble boy, I highly recommend these moccasins and I am so grateful my grandmother made sure my babe has a pair!! If you are interested in some moccasins for your toddler, come see me at YBB.
Q: How do I purchase my items?
A: We are working on implementing a shopping cart but for now just send us a message on the website, email, text or call me. I will ship your item within 1-2 business days via UPS.
Q: How much is shipping?
A: Most of our items are small and can be shipped for a flat rate via UPS for around $5. Our larger items such as lighting, furniture and windmill pieces are mostly for pick up only. If you want a larger item shipped, it is possible, but you will be responsible for shipping fees. Our windmill pieces typically ship with Beaver Express which is affordable but may take a bit longer.
Q: Do you do custom paint jobs?
A: As of right now, we are not taking new projects and only paint what will be resold in our store.
Q: Will you find items for me?
A: We are always on the lookout for our customers. If you are looking for a certain piece of furniture or a specialty item, we can usually find it. Just let us know what you want and we will scout ahead for you.
Q: Why are your items so expensive?
A: Typically we travel a great distance to auctions or estate sales to pick up our goods. It takes a lot of time and effort to get our inventory in the store and we feel our prices are more than fair. Also, many of our items are hand crafted and we don’t use that term lightly. Hand poured candles, hand stitched leather work, hand beaded moccasins, handmade soaps, hand drilled lights, etc. Remember you won’t be able to go to Target or Amazon and buy what we offer in our store. That being said we have a store full of items in the $10-$15 range.
Q: Do you offer lay away?
A: Absolutely. We ask for 20% down and that the item is paid off in no more than 3 months.
Q: Do you take consignments?
A: No, we do not.
Q: How much commission do you charge to sell artwork?
A: For local artists, we do not charge commission. If you have artwork you are interested in selling, come see us. We will most likely be more than happy to showcase it in our store and won’t charge you a penny. If you are not from the Spearman area, we are still happy to take a look at your work but there will be a commission charge of 20%.
Q: Where did the name Yellow Bird come from?
A: I am a Registered Choctaw Indian (1/8th) and even have my CDIB card to prove it. Native Americans are often given names mainly at birth after the first animal they see. My Indian grandfather, Theodore Henry, was called Toad for most of his life. My grandmother is Many Feathers, my mother is Red Bird and I was recently deemed Yellow Bird by my Great Uncle Gene. I, for a long time, didn’t feel ready for an Indian name as I wasn’t exactly sure what it should be or if it would stick. After I met my husband, I knew it was Yellow Bird and I knew I would keep that name until we grew old together. Boutique is defined as a small company that offers highly specialized services or products and so became Yellow Bird Boutique.