Mr. Ward Came a Courtin’….

So happy we about couldn't stand them...

So happy we about couldn’t stand them…

Mr. Ward came a’courtin’ and he did ride. Mhmmm, mhmmm.
Mr. Ward came a’courtin’ and he did ride. Mhmmm, mhmmm.
Mr. Ward came a’courtin’ and he did ride,
Hoping Papa Long didn’t have a pistol by his side.

When I opened a private Facebook message (due to being awake at 2:30 Thursday morning for some unearthly reason) from Cameron, Daughter #2’s boyfriend, and that he wanted to ‘swing by’ on Saturday–would we be home–it was obvious. Manhattan, KS is a four-hour drive from Medicine Lodge. One does not just ‘swing by.” Also, those two had obviously been silly over each other ever since last summer’s Craig’s list parking lot meeting. Casey was looking for a jeep, and Cameron had one for sale. No, she didn’t buy it, and immediately was tempted to break her 3 week old vow that she was giving up on guys forever! She’d had a string trailing after her for years, but this fellow keeps her on her toes the way no one has been able to.

At 6:30 am, Cliff groggily growled out a “Good Morning.”
“Good morning to you, too. Guess what? We are about to get a lot broker.”
He stumbled to his dresser, “Why?”
“Cameron wants to come see us Saturday–alone.”

It’s amazing how fast a daddy pings alive.

Since this wasn’t our first rodeo, we plotted and planned for two days on how to mess with the poor kid, along with the critical questions and expectations from the heart. Most hadn’t occurred to us when Daughter #1’s boyfriend showed up with a ring box and shaking like a leaf. We were giddy wrecks right along with him.

But this time was different.

Our son, Cole, called. “Dad, Cameron just stopped by my apartment and knows you know why he’s coming. He’s really tense. I was like, ‘you’ve got this man,” but he’s still on edge. Be gentle.”

“If Cameron asks for her hand, I’m going to tell him that he has to take all of her, not just one body part,” Cliff chuckled. While tempted to be cleaning his guns when Cam crossed the threshold, he decided to refrain.

Instead, of whipping the house into shape, I got a wild hair that had been pestering me for a while and could stand it not one second longer. We played Beat the Clock to rip up our living room carpet, along with the grunge and mystery of not knowing what lies beneath the high-traffic worn carpet. Cameron was forced to forge a path around the mountainous carpet and foam cone on the porch to find our door. Still, he came. Hmmm….must really like her.

So, we sat and talked about faith, life, and love.

And why on earth he thought she was the one for him.

Little did he know, we have a settled peace that he is the one for her. After praying for 27 years for the Jesus-lovin’ gentleman who would be captivated by the bedazzled rainbow that is Casey, Cameron has been as obvious as an Elvis impersonator facilitating Vegas nuptials.

Cameron shared that moments after he met Casey, he announced to his friends, “I’ve met the gal I’m going to marry!” They said, “You’ve said that six times.” But in his heart, he knew this time.

“I really want to be a part of Casey’s life and of this family,” sincerity reached from his eyes and grabbed our hearts.

“Well, membership does have its privileges,” I told him. I’m sure as I listed bullet points of the Platinum Long Package, it sealed the deal even more. “Once you say ‘I do,’ you become a member of the Long Shenanigans Private Family Facebook page,” and continued down a just as impressive list, ending with how when you marry sisters, you don’t only get one, you get all three.” (That should have sent him screaming and running, but miraculously, it did not)

What should send her running hasn’t yet, either. He is a Kansas State Wildcat fan on steroids. The saying ‘love is blind,’ is true, when it comes to purple Powercats, anyway. For the record, he swore he’d never date a KU fan, either. Got to love God’s sense of humor.

Last weekend, in that same parking lot where they met, a photographer in the bushes caught Casey replying with a very jubilant ‘YES!!!’

And so begins the journey of our new power couple, Camsey. (Like Branjolena–get it??)

Cameron and Casey, may God bless you abundantly as you grow together in Christ through this sacred covenant. Don’t forget to savor the experience on the path to the altar. It only comes once. ūüôā

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children–with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. Psalm 103:17-18

Photo credit: Robin Burns

Advertisements

The Gift

tomatoWhat is your motive for giving gifts? Most of the time, aren’t they as pure as glossy white gift bag with crispest of tissue? Celebrations, Christmas, appreciation, sympathy, need, or even the running across a tailor-made gift that is I-can-t-stand-it perfect for someone.

All are given through some kind of sacrifice–finances, time, and dare I say, pride.

Yes, pride. One of the hardest gifts I ever gave was……a tomato plant. A scrawny, green stem with droopy leaves. Stamped on it was a guarantee that the receiver would think I was stark-raving loco.

As I planted my garden, a weird itch began my spirit. The more I pushed the pesky thought away, strong God jabs strongly impressed on me to give Matilda a tomato plant. (I don’t even know a Matilda, but haven’t cleared the story with the gal. But who hasn’t wanted a friend named Matilda?) On any ordinary day, I was sure she thought I hung off the cliff of half-crazy. This would vacuum seal it up in Ball canning jar for sure.

But that’s not all. Not only was I to give it to her, but I was to tell her to watch how it produced fruit.

Excuse me, but that absolutely pegged my nutty meter plum past the zany intro of a Veggie Tales movie. I dug deeper and faster, ignoring the jabs, stabs, almost booming voice in my head.

“Okay, enough! Fine! I will do it!” I threw down my shovel, grabbed the best looking Early Girl I had, and stomped to the house. If I was going to do this, I would use a beautiful planter with a BIG bow slapped on the side. Maybe the beauty of the arrangement would distract from the insanity of the present??? I drove the length of town and circled her house like an FBI agent on a stake out.

Whew! No car! I rummaged for a pen and hastily wrote a note of God-given instruction on the back of a deposit slip, reluctantly signing my name. Next, I did a Carl Lewis sprint to her front door, set it on the step, and skinnied down the street faster than Peter Rabbit at the McGregor Farm.

I waited, but hoped Matilda had secretly skipped town forever, or that a gardening bandit was roaming her neighborhood, snitching bedding plants. Neither of us would be forced to speak of the Great Tomato Incident ever, ever again.

But God had a different plan.

Not often do you get to see the result of a ‘crazy gift,’ but God allowed it this time. The call I got bowled me over. Matilda had been going through a funk and thought no one realized she existed. This surprise had made her day. It hadn’t matter in the least what it was, just that God and someone had teamed up to remember her.

Whew! Mission accomplished, and no looney-bin was in my future. (Because at this point, it was still all about my watermelon-sized ego. ‘Crazy’ had been replaced with ‘Hero of the Day!’)

As the summer progressed and Matilda and I shared many a ball diamond bleacher together, I asked about the plant often. “Oh, it’s doing great! I’ve been fertilizing and watering it everyday.” Then, “it’s sure big and bushy. Lots of flowers, but no fruit. My neighbor told me to beat it, so I did.” Next, “It is not looking so great. I’ve pruned it back some, but it is faltering.” And the list continued of her back flips to get that plant to do its thing through the season.

“Oh great,” I prayed, “She’s going to kill it! All this has been a waste and is only going to discourage her more. It will be all my fault. The plant should be full and overflowing by now. Mine are. How could you set us up like this? ”

As the summer went by, it didn’t die, but no fruit either. On one of our visits, I started to apologize for my part in this charade. She stopped me. “You have no idea how precious the lessons I am learning are. To start, I watched it like a hawk. It wasn’t growing as fast as I thought it should, so I fertilized abundantly. When it did take off, I beat it. When it looked peaked, I replanted it. Then I pruned it, sprayed it with bug killer, and fertilized it again. The more I messed with it and tried to control it, the more it suffered.”

She continued, “God showed me that many of the troubles in my life are due to me not being able to back off. I think I have to finagle and supervise every thing around me. None of my family are bearing fruit because I keep micro-managing everyone. I thank God that he sent this tomato plant.”

She went on to say that coincidentally, the same day of my speedy delivery, her husband brought home her a picture of vines twirling around plump clusters of grapes. It read, “I am the Vine; you are the branches, If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5 We both stood amazed.

Oh, Giver of every good and precious gifts, let us be faithful to team up with you in a not-so crazy capers that only feel ridiculous at the time. May we be forever thankful for prunings that produces a harvest of humility.

Photo credit~mine!

He’s Got ‘The Shine’–Weathering Life With Brooks Barber

Brooks in Kindergarten and now

Brooks in Kindergarten and now

When is the last time you have seen¬†someone with¬†‘ the shine?’ ¬†You know, the little sumpin’-sumpin’ that makes a soul stand out from the normal pack of everybodies?

We all have our unique sparkles of greatness. But most times, those talents are buried, undiscovered, precious diamonds to yet be unearthed from the darkness. But in rare instances, a light shaft radiates through the cloud cover, almost blinding and causes one to rummage for sunglasses.

For example, our daughter Misty on her fourth birthday wanted a Craft-matic adjustable bed for her birthday. It was all the rage on the Weather Channel, which she watched religiously. We summed up that she was (a) a weird little child and (b) was fascinated with weather.

We were wrong. (On the weather part, anyway.) Now at 25, we understand that she was drawn to the communication role of the forecasters, filling in the gaps between the 8’s of the Hour. She had to dig around in the dirt for a while before her jewel set in radio broadcasting.

On the other hand, my husband and I stand agog as we watch from afar a rising predictor of storms that threaten western/central Kansas. Brooks Barber is only a freshman in high school, but from the way this pressure system has hit scene, you can tell his head is far from being in the clouds.

Since we started following Lead Forecaster Brooks last summer, we have grown to depend on his forecasts and the fun youthful element he puts into his reporting. “The snow system will be moving¬†across western Kansas¬†tonight and BOOM! it will hit with 12-16 inches.” Then he added a day-to-day bar graph of the¬†probability that school¬†would declare much¬†coveted¬†snow days in Hays, America.

“So what¬†is Lead Forecaster Brooks reporting for us?” Cliff asks when he crosses our threshold and empties the pockets work clothes every evening. Somehow the kid, whose a couple years from completely¬†filling out his official looking suit and tie, has become a sage¬†presence we depend on.¬†¬† If a tornado is brewing, and he says to hit the dirt, we’ll¬†scramble to¬†our hidey-hole without a thought.

Although we have had a very calm tornado season for Kansas so far this year, I have no doubt that when rumbles interrupt the evening, his mom, Annette, has been torn between encouraging his passion of keeping an eye-on-the-skies and making sure he gets to bed decently for the big English test before dawn through yonder window breaks.

Annette confessed that she¬†has a time keeping up with her whirlwind. Checks started appearing in the mail, due to his freelancing weather graphics for news stations across the country this winter. Are these places aware that her son is ‘just’ a freshman in high school? Who could tell and if they do, I bet their jaws are dropping like a renegade thunder shower. Brooks’s talent is that good.

And¬†this proud mama¬†had¬†best keep the car gassed up; she never knows when they will be buzzing to Wichita for a job-shadowing gig with Mark Larson at KWCH. “He does this all on his own,” she insists. The basement has been commandeered for a weather lab, not to mention he has another weather fanatic for a buddy with an actual green screen for them to do official reports!

Make no mistake, he has captured a lot of people’s attention. Just ask the over 4,100 Facebook fans, who watch the Cirrus Weather site he co-owns and operates. (And has racked up over a million views to boot!)

His gift baffles adult reasoning.

After three days they found him (Jesus) in the courts, sitting around the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard was amazed at his understanding and answers. Luke 2:46-47

Like I said, once in awhile¬†a kid bursts forth with the indescribable ‘shine,’ a mojo far beyond their years, one that carries a responsibility that can carry the reality of life or death.

My prayer for our favorite forecaster is this: Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (2 Timothy 4:11) (Now, back to watching the thunderstorm warning you¬†reported that¬†we’re in, young man!)

If you search him on Facebook, you are in for a treat. And be sure to tell him his #1 fan sent you–wink!

https://www.facebook.com/cirruswxbrooksb?ref=ts&fref=ts#!/cirruswxbrooksb?fref=ts
Lead Forecaster Brooks

Photo credit: Annette Barber

Taming a Decorating Wild Hair

floor

Cliff laying a cuss-free laminate floor.

Martin Luther King Jr. inspired the world by sa√Ņing, ‘I have a dream.’

All it takes to strike fear in my beloved’s heart is for me to wave my hand across the landscape of our home and the words ‘I have an idea’ cross the threshold of my lips.

His eyes bug, and he vows for the 50 zillionth time to block HGTV.

He knows what’s coming. Or maybe that’s the rub–he has no idea what to expect. Of course, when it comes home improvement we make decisions together, but sometimes a wild hair sneaks up…

Like that first coat of my dream color ‘Red Hot’ for the kitchen. It looked Pepto Bismol pink.  Cliff’s eyebrow raised questionably. “Trust me.”I spouted confidently, ‘it takes a few coats to deepen it.”  He cringed, closed his eyes and retreated to the family room.

I release a ragged sigh. Would it really?  I had crazily laid a bet on a heavily moustached Walmart paint barista and spun a blood-colored dab bubbled on the can’s lid.  After three coats, I hit red and won.

The crown jewel of a scavenging trip found its way into our kitchen. Cliff eyed the wooden pig feeder and reminded me that it was ‘haul-off week instead of haul-in week.’

“But check out the cool ad on the side,” I campaigned.  He groaned. Maybe I had ventured too far into the land of tacky, but it worked so brilliantly as quirky plant stand.

Stripping paint from goreous oak built-in cabinets gave Cliff the she’s-gonna-blow-up-the-house ulcers. Oh, What a  long-suffering job! Convinced that it was almost as big a task as the Hurricane Katrina clean up, I mused as to why in the world I attempted it. The hidden glow of golden wood kept us both from halting in mid-strip.

Cliff wasn’t home when Daughter #3 melted down from Daughter #1 and #2 having the audacity to abandon her as they embarked on college together. Mom mode thrust into full-gear. “We’ll show them! Your new room is getting a make-over!” Cliff walked into the buzz of a saw and a massacred headboard, amongst yet another paint extravaganza. (Years later he moved the bed, and was not impressed that it was held together with knotted ropes. We’d sawed the headboard’s function right in half.)

He shrugged off the artistic bright green vines with vibrant blooms that snake down the stairway to our creepy basement. And, the day I drove up with our car’s trunk about to drag the ground, loaded to the max with ceramic floor tile, he straddled the line between impressed and terrified. But I had warned him of my grand intentions. “If this works, my next masterpiece will be a mosaic of the Last Supper on our bathroom floor,” I bluffed. Every hair on his head paled as white a DaVinci’s beard.

For years, I have been so fixated on what I think is wonderful and exciting, that I thought nothing of thrusting a paint scraper in the air and yelling, “Charge!” without realizing that Cliff might really like to be a part of the next decorating adventure. I needed to embrace his interest, so that we could become the next decorating cute couple to putty up the scene.

Then came the first of the year. The simple act of excavating the unrevealed treasures in my mom’s cedar chest morphed into converting it into a file cabinet. That project nudged me to purge the office, in turn leading to freshening the walls with a coat of my signature muted bluey-greeny-gray that I personally mixed in my basement paint lab. Before I even realized it, a make-over project had sprung to life. When Cliff ventured in from work, I froze like a shoplifter in Lowe’s.

Cliff took one gander and said, “That’s kind of wild, isn’t it?”

“The room used to be orange!” I exclaimed. “Since when is blue wild?” Did Mr. My-Favorite-Color-is-Tan really hate it? His reaction befuddled me. Even my muted ideas, he felt left out of.

This weekend we are off to buy supplies to begin revamping a bathroom. I took note that the first thing he asked wasn’t what kind of vanity or shower stall we should purchase, but “what color do you think we should go with?”

Honoring husbands in the seemingly minor things is easy to blow past, but is truly as monumental as Ty Pennington’s enthusiasm in the most meticulous of extreme make-overs.  “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”  Then,”17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” Colossians 3:14-15, 17-18.  Oh, the irony of where this last verse falls!

The temptation will constantly lurk, luring me to do my own thing in the spur of the moment. Despite the big bathroom project simmering, I currently fight niggles of desire to rip up the worn-to-shreds living room carpet the instant I discovered oak flooring peeking from under a vent cover. An invitation lays on the counter for when Cliff gets home–big bow tied around a shiny crowbar, destined to rip into an adventure of redemption together.