Lessons From a Mermaid.

She enjoys the smallest of treats with great excitement.  An Andes mint, a Coca-Cola, or a Sonic Limeade.  Wrappers fly off and wonderful slurping sounds fill the room as she rolls her eyes in delight.  Yes, the simple things in life are enjoyed with great gusto.

The Mermaid is my mom.  She got the handle given to her when the grandkids were learning to talk.  ‘Mermaid’ made much more sense to them than ‘Myrlee’. Even friends of the kids call her “Grandma Mermaid”, delighting her to no end.

Due to her being a Pearl Harbor of medical issues that affected her brain in a myriad of ways, she has lived in different world than the rest of us for about a year now.  Still her face lights up when we appear.  She still knows us and likes to visit, although not as much.  We have the privilege of dancing her dance with her.  Somedays we are successful in gliding through the visit with her and sometimes—-well, toes get stepped on as we are learning about her world.  Here are things we are gleaning from her.

1. We are learning to bloom where we are planted-even we aren’t really sure where the location is.  Most generally she enjoys being in ‘this resort’, although it has nursing home stamped all over it. Even though she is taken care of quite well, the fact that this lady, who was so concerned if her car looked like a ‘grandma car”, has wound up here would put her in severe depression.  Instead she has friends, gets manicures, and even plays a little basketball from her wheel chair.  The aides love her as she has them in stitches ‘being her adorable self.”

2. She has no worries. Her 5 years of lamenting about how the next scan for cancer would turn out has vaporized.  Doctors appointments aren’t her only social life anymore, although she convinces the staff at the rest home that she has appointments on occasion.  That has caused chaos for us all.  Even during through the season of the parade of doctors, she was pretty content to roll with whatever punches they required to try to help her.   Now, she trusts whoever is guiding her wheelchair to get her where she is going when she  needs to be wherever.  Oh, to trust like that!

3. She gets the joy of hanging out with my grandparents. What if they’ve been gone 20 years or more? She talks about them quite often, and even shared that Grandma Moore and she went to Hutchinson one day. I was still new enough to the game not to ask any questions, but I am so curious to know who drove!  Since they are a constant desire of hers, she has rebirthed in me anticipation of the day we all be reunited.  How I itch to see them!

4. To enjoy every moment.  At Christmas, we turned her tv to her favorite movie A Christmas Story. It brought back many childhood memories. She’d seen it a zillion times, but today was different. It seemed absolutely new to her and we heard belly laughs for the first time in ages.  It reminded me to throughly enjoy doing something the first time.  There is freshness that is precious we should embrace.

5. Words aren’t everything. (Can you believe that is coming from me?) In this generational lineage of talkers, writers, and storytellers, one has to fight viciously for airtime. Mom and I would chatter until the wee hours over nothing.  Ma Bell’s stock plummeted when she moved to where I saw her everyday.  Today it is different.  We just sit and enjoy the time with either the innocence of Babar the Elephant or the action of the Terminator playing on her tv.  She might make a comment about Arnie’s girlfriend’s hair looking worse than hers, but just being together saying nothing is good.  Real good.

Mom has taught me so much through my life-like not to kick a sleeping skunk and that you can travel the world over with a toothbrush and a clean pair of panties.  Today God uses her to teach those around her things no one could fathom.  I get torn between this wild wonderful woman of God going through drastic changes I would not choose for my worst enemy and thanking him for the lessons he continues to teach through her.  Following her example, I must trust him. Teach me your way, O’Lord and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.  I will praise you, O’Lord, my God with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. Psalm 86:11-12.   May we continue keep our hearts open, always learning from the purpose God has for the adorable loved ones in our lives.


Road to Frustration Flats

Have you ever tried your best to get off on a trip, but the harder you tried the behinder you got?

“If we could just get out of town” was my mantra last week as we prepared to head to Keystone Lake in Oklahoma. The In-Laws were snuggled in there, competing with us on who was more anxious to see the other.  Afterall, it had been over a year since our Texas Snowbirds and our schedules had lined up to reunite.

The plan was to leave Thursday afternoon. Due to life’s unexpected surprises that week, there was no way we were ready when the estimated time of departure arrived.  Cliff’s job had snafus that kept him running.  We had no clean clothes. Exhaustion of the mental and physical kind were weighing heavy. Knowing gale force winds were not worth fighting for 3 1/2 +hours, we opted to catapult out of bed the next morning, refreshed and ready to take on the highways with dazzling smiles.

Cliff left before 7 a.m. to get his hands squared away at work. He’d be home 7:15 at the latest. The evening had allowed us to get packed-with clean clothes even. Due to a literal ‘key’ mistake, I would be transporting our daughter’s car to Camp Horizon in Arkansas City and Cliff would pick me up.  I was ready!  Then the call came…

One of the employees had a tree blow over on his car from severe winds in the night. Two guys called in sick. The much-loved dog of the boss died which added a dramatic twist. Eleven fires in the county had burned the night before and two employees had been out all night fighting those.  Work plans were being changed at lightning speed.  I could hear the frustration in Cliff’s voice as he assured me as soon as he could he was on his way.  I conforted him that these were bigger fish to fry and we’ll get there one way or another.

At 8:45 he pulls up,  jumps through the shower and proclaims he has to get fuel in the truck.  Another delay compounded with a stop to get the necessary caffeine to keep him running.

Finally I lead the charge in the Kia since he has no idea where we are going. I put the pedal to the metal until I am reminded we are in Kansas in the summer about 5 miles out-of-town.  Wheat trucks.  Road construction. Tractors. Grrrr…. Finally we hit a stretch of highway that is free and clear.  I look down at Casey’s speedometer and it has decided to take a break.  It is at zero.  Oh great!  Just what we need.  I conservatively guesstimate and go.  Ever so often it would wake up, then take a dive.  Speed Racer did not need a ticket.

Cliff follows close behind as we weave our way down the narrow gravel road going to the isolated camp ground—along with every Methodist parent in South Central Kansas on the way to pick up their beloved campers.  Yes, it is 11 am on Friday. As we park and then search for our lead camperoo, we are accosted by hoards of campers who are excited to see their parents and some in tears knowing they will not survive not being able to witness every breath of their new very best friends in the whole wide world they will be leaving.  Caught in a slow-moving sea of parents, we pitch Casey her keys as we swim back against the current to get on the road.

My dazzling smile had dulled to the gnashing of teeth by this time.

Finally! Prue, OK here we come.  I become little Kelly MapQuest and announce to Cliff that there are several ways to get there, but, sadly, none are good.  We take a guess and proceed onward, but starvation cause us to stop for lunch.   We feel the frustration boil.  We should have been at our destination way before lunch.  Double grrr….

As the roads start getting narrower and generous with potholes, we come to a Y in the road. We ponder which are we supposed to take.

“Robert Frost would say to take the road less traveled, but I’m guessing that theory won’t get us to Prue,”  I say.

“Who’s Robert Frost?” Mr. Longfellow asks as he heads down the road most traveled.

“He’s a famous poet that evidently had never been in eastern Oklahoma.”

The roads wind around to the point if we had a GPS, it would have had to take 2 Excedrine Migraine and requested a dark cool room to sleep off a screamer of a headache.  We know Cliff’s dad has to be antsy as all get out by now.  We are amazed he hasn’t jammed the Verizon system by now.

As we discover civilization and are cruising down what we guess is downtown Prue, the phone buzzes.  A familiar gravely voices asks, “Where are you kids?”

In a couple of minutes, we finally pull up to the lakeside haven and are joyously welcomed.   The frustrations of our delayed time frames have been forgotten.   We got there and that is all that mattered.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

We may never know the reasons for delays, but we trust there was purpose—even if it could have been an uninvited lesson in patience.

Photo credit- http://www.seeitornot.faketrix.com/comedy-photos-18-lighted-road-sign-driving-prepare-to-be-annoyed.htm

The Knights of the Rectangular Table

  They are fascinated with fire, put away groceries like hoard of starving Vikings, and display great sword-fighting skills rivaling the Three musketeers—-had I not hidden the knives.

On Wednesdays through the month of June, I spend the afternoon with four interesting young men.  The goal is to teach them biblical truths wrapped in the guise of  basic cooking skills around the church’s rectangle kitchen table.   Honestly, I wonder if they are learning a thing, but I am definitely a student through this experience.

Let me introduce them-

Sir Talks-Cars-A-Lot is going into the 8th grade, but is already assuring a 7th grader that one of these days he can make him a good deal on some wheels.  He can’t help it.  It’s in his DNA.  With his grandpa on mom’s side and his father in the biz, he can spout off years, makes, and models with the best of them.  Last week, I was the target and almost had Cliff in a new ride had I not come to my senses in the nick of time.

Sir Gun-A-Had is honing his skills in the art of firearms.  He started with BB guns and has advanced up the ranks with his eyes on the biggest firepower the world has seen.  With Dad as a great teacher, he is an apprentice in the hunting world.  Critters had better take for cover!  He has viewed the classic westerns and analyzes every move John Wayne makes on the silver screen.

Next comes Sir Sam-Ur-I.  His personality seems to be the quiet innocence, but if you catch that twinkle in his eye and a hint of a grin, you know he is oozing with good-hearted oneriness.  Chopping ham for an omelet with a mid-sized knife simply will not do.  He is out for the giant Rambo model to pulverize any poor cucumber in his path with great flair.   When I hid the knives, he smuggled in his own.  (More for a joke on me than anything.)

Sir I’m-Keeping-Up-With-The-Big-Boys is the youngest of these 2 bands of brothers.  He is oozing with energy and personality. He knows if he is going to run with the big dogs, he is going to have to run fast.  Unlike a lot of guys with pesky little brothers tagging along, they accept him as an equal, but he sure doesn’t want to lose his ground.  He expresses himself with passionate sound effects and great tales of gargantuan explosions with fire-crackers, 4 wheeler adventures, and anything that oozes ‘guy-stuff’.   His eyes are full of expressive enthusiasm as he is on board with whatever plan these other three cook up.

These 4 amaze me with their appetites!  They eat lunch and are at the church at 1:30.    They polish off big plates of spaghetti, salad, and lemonade pie on full stomachs.  The French bread barely made it out of the oven and it was devoured. They sneaked enough brownie batter that I was amazed it covered the bottom of the pan.

As the responsible party, they make me nervous as knives flash around and sticks of spaghetti are set on fire from the stove’s pilot light.  I do what I can to keep them safe, but remind myself God is working through them just  being boys.  I am so privileged to enjoy these moments with them.  They are the future that will be passing on spiritual food someday.  I told one of the moms I am not sure what lessons are sinking in.  There aren’t many cars chases or fireworks stands in the bible, but I trust God when he says that his word does not come back void.   He has reminded me that the disciples were into fishing lures, what was for dinner, and Sir Peter ginsu-ed a guard’s ear off.  As long as they keep a ravenous appetite for him, they will dish out a buffet of his truths to others, just like a certain band of disciples’ testimonies that continue to set the world on fire with their gifts, graces and unique personalities.

I sweep off my chef hat to the valiant Knights of the Rectangle Table.   God has chosen well.

photo credit: http://www.partykiosk.co.uk/medieval-knight-plastic-party-tablecloth-3332-p.asp

Jesus, I Sure Hope You’ve Been Brushing Up On Your Golf Game.

Jesus, have you been brushing up on your golf game?

I sure hope so.  If you and Grandma haven’t had the chance to play a round or two, she is going to expect a lively competition.  It has been such a long time since she has been able to tee off, so this event will be a treat for both of you.

I know you know her better than we do, so I hope you don’t mind me boldly, yet, humbling asking you for a few things, probably more for my benefit than helping you out.  So here is my list~

1. Cheetos and Pet Milk.  She is going to want to feed any cats that may be wandering through heaven.  Actually she’s a friend to any critter.  Remember her feeding the possum on the porch, much to Dad’s chagrin or the fawn she coaxed home and took care of in her kitchen until Fish and Game could come pick it up.

2.Her mansion needs to be tucked in the middle of couple of creeks with a big old porch and a lawn chair she can sprawl out on.  She has a love of fishing with a simple pole and a big jug of limeades.  My guess is she will want to take her great-grandkids that we have yet to meet down to a sandbar for a weenie roast pretty quickly.  Have tucked in her bag “The Little Red Hen”. “Rumple T. Stiltskin’, and “Cousin Matilda and the Foolish Wolf” for no one do dramatic voices on these stories like she can.  She needs a kitchen to whip out her shrimp and French fries that are ‘as hot as fire’ and some dirt to dig in to make flowers and veggies grow.

3.Speaking of family that has gone before her, you had best have a BIG banquet hall ready for the Kerrick reunion of all time.  I remember the last big family dinner, which was a Grandma’s.  People were crawling out of the woodwork!  Her big old house could not contain them all. Laughter was the main dish that everyone was going back for seconds, thirds and fourths.  They are a bunch of colorful personalities!  It will be a party of epic proportions.

4. Have the Monopoly board, dominoes, and cards ready.  Since her eyes recently been upgraded to perfection, she will have a much better chance at winning, although I sometimes wonder when her eyes were good, if she could have won, but landed on Broadwalk on purpose.  I know you do not cheat or throw fits, so you don’t have to worry about her giving you what-for unlike the rest of us.

5. Plan for the Smiling Seamers Quilt Club to start up there sessions again.  I think they all are now present and accounted for.  They can all see to thread their needles and make perfect stitches with no finger pricks due to steady hands and nibble fingers.

6. Would you hold on to the moment when she and Grandpa reunited on the DVR until we get there?  We know they went through the rough patches of life, but they went through them together and she wore that wedding ring until it wore off.  42 years apart has been a long time.  We can only imagine how it must have been.

Ok, enough of my requests and its time to thank for a couple of things.

Thank you for giving us every single moment with this spitfire of a little lady.  Yesterday a couple of things hit me like a freight train.  All these years, she was the example of the scripture “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependant on anyone.” (1 Thess 4:11-12) Oh my, that is her!  I don’t ever remember her gossiping and if she got in your business, it was because she loved you.  She also showed us that a quiet life does not mean a boring life at all!

She was a whole orchard of the Fruit of the Spirit.  Her life was lived producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness and self control.  Just being with her, you couldn’t help but fill a basket to take home, no matter what shape you had shown up in her kitchen.

The phrases that comes to me to describe Grandma are “She has been our rock,”  “She provided for us when we needed it”, “She’s one of the strongest people I know” and many others.  Using your attributes, you used her to point us to you.  Whether it was through her actions, singing “In the Garden” as she sewed, or the kids hearing her say her prayers in her bed when they spent the night, she has been a bright shining beacon to point us to you.

So as you shine up your golden golf clubs, Jesus, know that we can never thank you enough that you picked her to be a part of our life.  My prayer is that we all will be able to pass on her legacy.

Olive Bertha Kerrick Parkin  March 23, 1915-June 11, 2011

Doing It Afraid

What does this picture say to you?  I marvel at how casually these guys eat their lunch, living life as if the there is no reality that one false move or a gust of wind will turn them into a splatter on the concrete below.  If they fall, it’s a long ways with no hope of recovery.

Who is with me on not being able to get to the top of a 6 ft ladder without feeling like they are going to be sucked off?  (I put myself in this picture as laying welded to the girder, whimpering, as I pray for God to just take me now and get it over with.)  Or even worse, who has voices whisper just enough doubt about our abilities and identity to paralyze us into standing dead still, running the other direction, or just giving up?

While picking through a bin of postcards at a poster sale on campus, I stumbled upon this picture and was so intrigued, it now sets on my desk as I try to peck out a few words here and there.   Attempting to write something and having no clue what I am doing is pretty darn scary.  I learned years ago that my name means “brave warrior”, which I think is ludicrous.  If I had been cast in the movie Braveheart, William Wallace would have stripped me of my clan’s kilt and named me ‘Kelly the Chicken-hearted.’   When it comes to fight or flight my natural bent is to be on the next plane to China.  Seriously, how can God even work with that?

Then I read about Apostle Peter.  He started out as Simon, but Jesus blessed him with a new name.  When he would revert to the clueless guy Jesus first met, Jesus would refer to him as Simon.  But, when he had high hopes for him and was speaking encouragement and purpose, he referred to him as Peter-The Rock.  Before long ol’ Simon began to take on the identity that God in mind for him all along.  His chicken-hearted claim to fame with the rooster crowing paled to how he became a brave warrior as he worked fearlessly to build the church.

Have you ever considered that through your knocking knee situations, God has a lot more confidence in you that you do?  He is the girder that we can dance on in the wind storm.  It may not mean we aren’t shaking in our boots sometimes, but he is holding us up as we do it afraid.  I’m learning that the more I take the steps afraid, that being afraid isn’t as big a deal as some voices have led me to believe.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:13

photo credit- http://www.wozo.com/products/Men-on-a-Girder-Having-Lunch-%252d-New-York-City-Poster.html

The Cloud Delivery Room

I know the exact spot in the road where you can catch the first glimpse of them.  On a clear day as you cross the bridge heading out of Los Animas, CO the tops of the Spanish Peaks may wink at you, teasing you to step on the gas and come play at their house.

Clouds scattered hither and yon as I scooted up in my seat-just in case.  Cliff was getting a kick at me because I was acting like a four-year old on her way to the circus.  I had chattered non-stop from Lamar to this point in the road about how my Great Grandma Myrtle Mae Moore had watched for those mountains such as I was and how her eyes never left the back car window with tears streaming as she left them much like I probably would in a few days.  The man needed warned for goodness sakes.  I blame it on genetics.

No mountains appeared, but they would.  Right before we got to La Junta, I saw them.  Cliff, with an amused twinkle in his eye, countered with “oh those are just clouds you’re seeing.”

“No! Don’t you see them?  MY mountains are right there.”

“Ah, those are just clouds.” He then pointed to the northwest. “those are the mountains you are looking for.”  Here were the outlines of purple bumpy triangles. “All I’m seeing to the south are clouds”.

“No, those (pointing to the north) are not my mountains.  You are just blind if you can’t see those. (emphatically pointing to the southern skyline.) Trust me.  I know my mountains.”

He was chuckling and I was giggling.  He gave me fits about ‘your mountains’ quite bit, which reminded me a lot of my Grandpa Moore when he would try to get Grandma’s dander up. I’m sure they had this exact conversation as they headed this way on their honeymoon way back when.

After we got to the cabin, I was leafing through all the tourist info left on the coffee table.  “Aha!”  I exclaimed. “It says right here that the Indians believed that the Spanish Peaks are the place that clouds were birthed, therefore resting my case that we were seeing them in labor on our way here!”  Cliff just smiled and shook his head.  I had won!  I didn’t care if I was using Indian folklore to nail it down.  I had won! Aha!

I hate to admit I have done that with scripture as well.  Occasionally, I have tried to prove my point by digging for scripture to back up my case.  I really didn’t care about the context or used different versions to find one that said what I wanted it to prove.   Can you relate?  There looms a danger of being so focused on being right that I have used it wrongly for my selfish purposes.  Our hearts set on winning are not open to the truth God is giving.  It’s as simple as that.

Oh Lord, that we will never let our pride get in the way, but have open hearts for your truth! 

(By the way, the mountains aren’t really mine.  Psalm 121 is the truth that clears that up in a hurry.  It’s our little secret. Just don’t tell Cliff.)

The Place Where Dandelions Belong

While soaking up the view of a meadow below our mountain cabin, my breath was taken away by the scene that only God could orchestrate. The glow on the east ridge slowly increased as the morning did a sneak-attack on the sleeping valley below. Mountain peaks still frosted with snow framed the slopes below with its forest green cape of pines.  A meadow spoke of winter being finally kicked to the curb as a blanket yellow wildflowers put the finishing touches of perfection.  A fishing pond shimmered like a crown jewel in the morning light.  We drank in the dramatic presentation from our VIP seats as we sipped too strong coffee on the porch.  It was a masterpiece frozen in our memories.

Due to the  jolt of caffeine and the itch to shuck off being just bystanders to this display, we wandered down into the meadow.  Walking around the pond, I snapped pictures of every detail I could find.  Rock benches.  A woodshed with a giant daisy painted on it.  A hitching post.   As we strolled around the pond and watched for fish in the crystal clear water, I realized dandelions were the wildflowers that made the masterpiece we had sat in awe of complete.  Really.  Dandelions.

“Cliff, these are… dandelions!” I was astonished.

He looked at me, totally unimpressed and was chalking it up to “Kelly getting her aura again”.   (This was his catchphrase of the trip when I started scribbling or snapping pictures of seemingly insignificant things.)  In our yard at home, he is the 5 star general leading the charge in the war to eradicate any yellow invaders that break the property line perimeter. We spray. We pull. We dig. We panic as we know that their seed will spread like crazy and the roots go clear to China.  In our yard they are not welcome.

But, here, it’s a different story.  This is definitely the place where dandelions belong.  They complete the portrait God had painted.

Do you ever feel misplaced?  Maybe that job you are in, the location where you live, or that very trying relationship.  Health, kid issues, and aging parents are just a few of the stresses that make you believe you don’t belong in this arena of life.  It is sure not fun to be pulled, dug at, and your spirit seems to be being snuffed out a little at a time.  But, make no mistake that you are exactly where God needs you to be at the time.  He uses the situations of our lives to mold and shape us, to bring us closer to him, and to bring attention of who he is to others.

Nothing is more precious than when a child proudly presents one with a grubby handful of dandelions picked with love.  I believe nothing thrills God more than when we embrace that we are dandelion bouquets, trusting that He will use us in a masterpiece created to take the breath away.