Raising a Pack of Gypsies

BurnsYears ago it came apparent that our children did not come with a homebody gene. All those self-esteem building jingles from primary school like ‘the sky’s the limit, so be a star!’ and Buzz Lightyear’s “to infinity and beyond!’ ours took seriously. Our basic front door morphed into a revolving one, our cars usually had someone itching for a permit behind the wheel, and some times only a heavily marked calendar actually had a clue where any of our clan was.

I partially blame our oldest daughter< Robin< for being such an excellent example. At a year and a half, she stayed with a grandma for an entire week. How I worried! Of course, she was crying herself to sleep every night and was most certainly on a hunger strike. If the crunch of driveway gravel hit my ears about Tuesday, I would not be a bit surprised!

But the week dragged on until Saturday hit. My arms were prepared for the Munchkin dissolve into my arms to drink in my hugs. Instead, Robin bopped right past me to dig in her toy box.

The first day of Kindergarten I was informed that I would not be driving her the 11 miles to school. She wanted the bus experience, thank you very much! Daggers shot out of her eyes when I raced out to undo the wired yard gate. “MOM! The kids will see you!”

There was nary a glance back at Girl Scout Camp. The mission trips to Mexico had her daddy wearing out the floorboards until his bed-bug bitten darling was back snoozing under her Jayhawk bedspread.

The one softball game I didn’t go to, Robin’s perturbed tone reached through the phone lines to share that she had been thrown into a freezer at McDonald’s due to being in the path of the tornado wiped out a section of Haysville, KS. Again, a phone was repeated during a mission trip to Denver. “Mom, I’ve got a towel pressed to my head and am being taken to the ER. A window fell on my head.” On each occasion she was merely ticked that her adventures had been detoured.

On the home front we threatened to lock her in the basement and feed her through a tube, but instead the butterfly motioned the rest of the sibling larvae to burst from their cocoons and join her. Oh great! The swarm was set free!

Emporia State was chosen, a mere three hours away, but I kept telling myself she was only on a mission trip to Mexico. The rationalization being it was Mexico was a short-term excursion, instead of the gypsy actually leaving the family permanently.

Then she messed everything up. We were finally getting used to the dynamics of no Robin, when she came home for several weeks at Christmas. Here came a routine again including her. The day she left, I was a soggy mess as I ran the sound at Mary Jean Rickard’s funeral, who I’d never seen in my life–I was such a spectacle, I know everyone whispered, ‘but we didn’t know they were so close.’

I came home and through sobs announced, “You don’t have to go back! You can just sit here and be a slug on the couch for the rest of your life and it’s fine with me!” She bolted and fled as fast as her little red Kia would scoot down the road.

And off she went to Myrtle Beach, SC. Light danced in her eyes as she swirled her brightly colored stories of sharing Jesus at Campus Crusade Summer Project, following God’s call whether her parent’s were freaked out of not.

Now it’s years later, and she’s doing it again! Instead the stakes are much higher. Santa Clarita, CA is a l-o-n-g ways from Kansas. With her will move King of the Gypsies she married and that has been grafted into our hearts, Karsten. (She also adamant that the new grandson, Bren, will be going with them, but we are working on that feverishly to change that or even trick her into leaving him.)

For five days no one could look at me without a cloudburst of tears drenching us both. Although God has been preparing us for this since day one, it is amazingly heart-wrenching.

While excited for a new adventure, the homing gene has made a rare appearance and the Queen of the Gypsies has realized that her life is being yanked harder than the gnarled roots of a deformed wisdom tooth. But she isn’t alone. King Karsten is forging into a foreign field of work and enviorment that he had never caught a glimmer of in his crystal ball. They are leaving the closeness of their church family and living the security of small town life for the LA area.

However there are too many God-cidences lining up that this is the path He has chosen for them. How can we stand in the way of that westward bound wagon? The greatest gift we can give is letting them go with as much encouragement, grace, and packing skills that we can muster. There is so much they are leaving behind–including Minnie the dog and, of course, Bren. (Shouldn’t we be able to keep a minature version of our beloved gypsy with us? It’s only right.)

If God has worked the smallest details out to get them out there, He will work out our family ties as well.

By faith Abraham when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, eventhough he did not know where he was going…..For he was looking forward to the city with foundations whose architect and builder is the Lord.” Hebrews 11: 8 and 10

Ok, so by faith, we’ll let them take Bren-sniff. Would hate to break up the Burns Gypsy Band, but insist on Skype dates and possibly GPS collars to track them.

(For the record, Long Sibling Gypsies don’t get any ideas…you’re grounded!)


“Chief Rain-In-The-Face, What Are You Doing?”

This is actually Chief To-ma-To, who watches over our garden.  Rain in the Face must have done a dance because we got a downpour this afternoon and would have been too muddy to get to the 'site.'

This is actually Chief To-ma-To, who watches over our garden. Rain in the Face must have done a dance because we got a downpour this afternoon and would have been too muddy to get to the ‘site.’

Here’s the scene: A wildflower covered mound, surrounded by knee-high prairie grass.  A barbed wire fence row stands on one side, while dried skeletons of yucca blooms stand as sentries to protect the site.

“It’s right there,’ Fred, the cowboy/jack-of-all-trades whispered, “Chief Rain-in-the-Face’s grave.”

My mind shuffled through the vibrant family history of our homestead, that had been drummed in my head for all of my pre-teen years. The place had been homesteaded 100+ years prior by Aunt Lizzie, who was only thirteen at the time.  Around that time she eluded cattle rustlers along this very creek, riding horseback 60 miles to Woodward, OK in the dark with a significant bank deposit.  Up the road, my great grandpa is hailed as being the first white baby born in Kiowa County, Kansas.  Winding through the buffalo wallow dotted  pastures, I could almost picture regiments of US Calvary soldiers following the lonesome trail they laid out.  Not to be forgotten, legend tells of a headless black man buried in a long-lost grave on the property.  The man was on the lam, hired on with a cattle drive.  But when the boss rode on to Dodge City to arrange for the arrival of the herd, he came back with a Wanted: Dead or Alive poster.  He chose the dead option.  The crook’s head journeyed on to the Cowboy Capitol and his body left on the Parkin Ranch.  But I sure didn’t remember anything about an indian chief. 

Fred continued, “Go stand on the Chief’s grave and say very loudly–it has to be loud–Chief Rain-in-the-Face, what are you doing?  Listen and he will say nothing at all.”

I weighed and watched as my dad kept a straight face, while Fred’s eyes twinkled.  If I did this, would I really hear a voice answering, ‘Nothing at all?” How cool would that be! As tempted as I was with the possibility of experiencing the amazing, I leaned to common sense.  No, I didn’t fall for it, but Fred sure made me think.

The next victims to step to the grave were my younger brother and step-brother.  And as the years have gone by, there was a whole string of targets.  At his place, I hear there is a sign pointing folks to a Chief-Rain-In-the-Face gravesite. Maybe we were dealing with twins?

When Cliff and I were first married, Fred was a constant fixture at our house a lunch time.  Of course, I had a long history with him always being around, and it didn’t take Cliff long to fall in love with his humor, storytelling, and his joyful countenance, no matter what health woe had befallen him.   

 Everyday Fred shared mini-Snickers bars and Jesus.  The Snickers I could handle, but I wasn’t really on speaking terms with God at that time. Oh I knew him, but he’d let me down and I didn’t need him–unless I was about to run out of gas in the car or was stranded in a wicked ice storm with our daughter running a 104 degree temp.  Then I’d rattle his door, but kept him at arms length like the loud and bossy old aunt that smells like Vicks and Roses, Rose perfume, but always is good for some significant cash at Christmas.

Cliff and I would sheepishly look at the floor, when Fred wove the goodness of his Lord into the conversations.  I didn’t much like that he was attempting to jump-start my thinking or my soul. However he was such a great guy, we were ever-so polite, but rolled our eyes behind his back.  When we got a gift subscription to Guideposts from him and his lovely wife, Marlene, I quickly pitched all the issues in a magazine rack.  I couldn’t throw them away.  What if he asked about them?

Many months later, I can’t remember why Fred had been rerouted from our daily lunch date, but I was in the clear to clean out the magazines.  I started leafing through the booklets and reading hit-and-miss.  They backed everything Fred talked about and convicted me to get my girls in Sunday School.  (Notice: not me, but my kids.  I was just fine, thank  you very much!) 

That is when something started that I can’t stop.  Soon after, our worlds crashed with the loss of our two very special grandpas and Cliff’s live-life-to-the-fullest brother, Mike.  That is when I had no choice to cry out and grab on to the Jesus Fred had talked about. 

And for over a quarter of a century that Jesus has held me together through many valleys  of the shadow of death, fears, worries, etc, etc, etc.   I don’t have to think about it anymore, I know.  

A few years back, one of my brother’s kids called me.  Bursting with skepticism, a little voice said, “Aunt Kel, do you know who Chief Rain-in-the-Face is? Will he really talk to you and say nothing at all?”

And my response will always be, “What do you think?….. And once you are think it through, how about we share a Snickers, because I know someone even more amazing than Chief Rain-In-the-Face.”

Whatever you do, work at it with all of your hears, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward, It is the Lord you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 

(Side note~For some reason, Fred and I always had a special bond, even before the Freb Webb Preaching Series.  Last week when I heard that he had gained his prize to be with Jesus, tears rolled like a fountain.  Some because I’m so glad for him and some because I owe him more than I can ever express.  While he was still with us, we visited, emailed, and even facebooked a little bit.  I will never regret letting him know how important he was in my faith walk. 

My question to you is this:  Have you told that person(s) the impact they’ve made in your faith walk? 

Photo credit-my own

Who’s Your Hero? A Quest for the Super-est

Our Bat Bren is our favorite earthly super hero!

Our Bat Bren is our favorite earthly super hero!

A one liner, discharged forward through a word web, intending to capture a laugh. Instead, it wrapped my thoughts in a cocoon of pondering.

All week we had saturated our TV viewing with topics this season is famous for: NCAA basketball and all things biblical. Mix in my arch-enemy, Seasonal Allergies, and my energy was reduced to a couch littered with piles of soggy tissues and eyeballs begging to be plucked out and floated in a sea of ice water. Sigh. My aggressive plans had been rendered helpless against the powers of pollen.

Cliff, Cole and I caught up on DVRed episodes of the History Channel’s The Bible. We reveled in the highlighted parts that are rarely addressed and sparred with each other over discrepancies, flexing our biblical knowledge and interpretive muscles on a truth’s intriguing quest. We forged through the gauntlet of the challenge of actually living the Ten Commandments and watched lasers penetrate the Shroud of Turin in a pursuit for authenticity. This was like a magnetic force that only allowed for bathroom breaks and another dose of Allegra.

At the appointed time, we switched to grasp the electrifying phenomenon that is the Wichita State Shockers. Fear the Wheat, Baby! (said in my best Dick Vitale voice). Oh how these underdogs have flown past formidable foes on a golden bolt to victory!

And our beloved heroes, the Kansas Jayhawks, fought their last game as strong as Hercules and as accurate as Apollo’s arrows, until some kryptonite must have filtered in through the arena’s vents. Those last five minutes their flaming chariot wheels fell off one by one. Our Invincibles morphed back into their original forms of 19-20 something mere mortals, students in the college of Maturity 101.

Then on Easter afternoon, while I was cleaning up for feasting, my guys went off the grid and turned to fighting the forces of evil with the movie The Avengers. Bedazzled in the most spectacular costumes—evidently a prerequisite for super-hero and Greek god status—each have muscle–ripped specialized gifts they activate against-all-odds sinister evil. (Insert deep chest rumbling ba-ha-ha-ha diabolical laugh here) Spandex must be the ultimate power source and shield.

That’s when I heard it.

The clang of iron clashed as the champions fought valiantly against just was spectacularly dressed villains. Captain America, with his star-spangled chest, announces, “There is only one God, and he doesn’t dress like that!” (Since Captain America would know how we were founded, I went with the big G ‘God.’ here)

When Jesus walked the earth, flashy dressing was about as far from his mind as a glittered cape is from cut-offs. If his time had been this current day, I imagine he’d been in faded jeans, a wash softened t-shirt and well-worn boots. In fact Isaiah predicted that “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (53:5)

So what was his spectacular WOW factor?

Ask the woman at the well, and she’d tell you that his gaze seared right through her defenses, rivaling any high- tech lasers. A touch that healed countless needy souls of whatever infirmity attacked, and a voice that cast away many a demon hurled at him, honestly, who could combat those powers? And wouldn’t you like to know what magic was in the words he scrawled in the sand that made the stone-wielding accusers of the adulterous woman fade into the woodwork? A cape of grace was thrown over her AND the jerks ready to hang her out to dry to advance their own agenda. Who could have true peace if not for blood, so love-charged it made our damning sin vanish like a phantom?

Makes all the webs, wings, lasers, spandex, flowing locks, magic ropes, super-charged thigh high boots seem kind of pathetic, huh?

But wait there is more! Jesus had held back his styling for his future Grand Finale! Revelation 19 lavishes on us about his eyes like blazing fire and on his head will be many crowns. Sporting the latest in fashion, his robe will be ombre dipped in blood and he will be riding in on a magnificent white stallion. His army will follow and trumpets will be fan faring to be the band! After explaining this in more detail than I just did, I find it interesting that when the clash with ‘the beast’ and his ya-hoos, it only says ‘together they make war. But the beast is captured…..’

Zip! Bang! Boom! Bif! He wins! Jesus brushes his hands and calmly goes about the business of ruling his glory-lit Kingdom.

Holy Savior! What more of a Superhero does anyone need?

(Photo of our favorite earthly grand-super guy, Bat Bren!)