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.