A Mis-step to Make an Eyelash Throb

We have all mis-stepped before. You know, the unintentional slip-up, that have us scrambling to right the wrong before the ‘oh-no’ grows the unmanageable tentacles of an ‘oops’-topus.

My mis-step was less than a quarter inch long, but boy, did it create a situation I am still trying to get my legs under.

Last Friday I awoke at my Daughter #1’s house in Emporia, KS, to the task of getting a garage sale around for that afternoon/evening. Robin is currently in California and in a couple of weeks will be back to officially move. This sales venture was an attempt to help her family not have as much to deal with on a short time. (I’m watching out my window for the the Mother of the Year folks to show up at any moment.) To kill a flock of birds with one bazooka, Saturday, Misty and I would travel an hour and a half to Manhattan to see Daughter #2’s wedding venue and camp in every bride-to-be’s life saver of a store, Hobby Lobby, until some scattery ideas were herded together.

I worked solo at sorting and pricing most of the day. Due to a forecast of Kansas winds committed to keep their blustery reputation, Daughter #3 (Misty) and I decided to forego the evening plan in lieu of calmer breezes Saturday morning. Yes, bright and early, we’d be up to open our emporium of bargains, bargains, bargains.

4:30 a.m. I awoke like I never have before. My head was swirling like that octopus had grabbed me and was twirling me over his head. If I kept my eyes closed and breathed steady surely the bed would settle down.

I could hear Misty rattling around in the bathroom, followed by my stomach roiling.

The flu! No way! We have too much to do!

I staggered to stand, but every attempt to walk straight had me veer to the opposite corner of the room, much like the sailors on Deadliest Catch during a Catagory 4 storm. My legs jellied until I could grab a drink of water from the night stand. Somehow, I calmly got my bearings and inched my way to a chair in the living room.

Misty was simply awake for no reason. No flu.

A throb began to reverberate through my parts of my body. When I felt my eyelashes pulse, I knew.

Guess who had forgotten her blood pressure medicine? That little, itty-bitty white pill smaller than a Tic-Tac.

Friday morning I had been out of my routine, and the thought never entered my task-driven noggin.

But not to fear, I was prepared. I staggered like a drunk after a fifth of Jack Daniels to my medicine case in my purse. After having a myriad of middle of the night ‘you have to come now!’ phone calls, I made sure I was prepared for long durations away from home.

Empty! How can it be empty? A recent trip to Tulsa came to mind. I had raided the stash one too many times.

I was in a pressure pickle of pathetic pill proportions.

Of course, my thoughts raced erratically. What if I throw a clot and stroke out? You should be in an emergency room somewhere to You have really messed things up! Misty is doing this sale all by herself. Way to blow the only chance you will have to help Casey get this wedding figured out. You are so dumb!to You are being a big weenie. This too shall pass, you are fine! Suck it up!

Well, I wasn’t fine. My prayer life went into power-boost Lord-have-mercy mode.

When the alarm went off to start dragging out tables and our fabulous merchandise, I had to confess to Misty that I was a useless blob. Thankfully, some ladies from her church happened to drop by a little early and helped her haul out all the goodies to open shop. When the pharmacies opened, my hometown druggist assured me that I was not the only one to do this and instructed my foggy self on how to get much needed relief. Just one pill, and slowly, I started getting back right with the world–enough so that we were still able to make the Manhattan adventure, despite my droopy stagger.

Honestly, maybe I should have gone to the ER. Those things are so hard to call, especially when your brain is under attack and not processing correctly. If my best friend was on the fence on something like this, of course, I would get bossy and say “What are you waiting for! GO!”

Isn’t it funny how we downplay our alarm bells vs sounding the siren loud and strong for our loved ones?

Thankfully, my blood pressure has simmered back down to great, and everyday is better. But is has taken time to get me back to feeling right with the world again. Be assured, never do I intend for this to happen again.

Our transgressions do this to us as well, huh? Why, it’s not even a conscious decision. It’s a little lost focus, a bit of slacking at being intentional, a distraction from our normal routine, a little loss of connection with Who keeps us on kilter, and suddenly our walk turns to stumbling into fuzzy but critical territory. Oh Lord, have mercy!!!

8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:8-12

For the record, now my purse is equipped with enough Lisinipril to calm a hurricane and my Kindle, downloaded with holy scripts from the Great Physician Himself.

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GPS or Map–Navigating the Trail to Confusion Flats

Palo Duro TXI knew trip was going to be an adventure when the man on the other end of the line said, “You’ll cross the Canadian River, then turn after you cross Chicken Creek.”

Chicken Creek. Love it.

Our quest was a 220 mile journey from Medicine Lodge, KS to Pampa, TX, to help with a Kicking Bear Youth Camp. It’s this ministry that we have kind of fallen into, and being empty nesters, have the freedom to take part in. And we get to act like ten year-olds again with no mom or dad there to make us behave. For more info go to kickingbear.org or like Kicking Bear Base Camp on Facebook to check out the fun shenanigans.

So west we headed. In our area, my husband is an old hand when it comes to knowing every dirt road, creek crossing, and cow path in south central Kansas and north central Oklahoma. West Texas is new uncharted land for him and has been 32 years since my foot had fallen there.

He fired up his trusty GPS, the ‘Babe-In-A-Box.’

“How about we call her an actual name, like Agnes Jones?” I suggested. “Don’t you like that better?”

He peered over the top of his sunglasses and kept driving.

I chirped on, “Did we bring a map? I actually like a map better. No offense Agnes.”

One of my children informed me that maps are ‘stone age’, but I’m visual and like to lay map out across my lap. I want to see what is in proximity to where. Like how far Pampa is from Amarillo, and if I truly remember where Palo Duro Canyon is for after the trip. I need the big picture. Not necessarily the whole detailed plan, but only enough for me to be confident in where I’m headed.

Also, I am a compass rose gal. I’m friends with north, south, east, and west. Right and left does not come natural. At a moments notice I panic, have to clench which hand feels stronger, confirm that my wedding ring is located on my left hand and stick out my pointers and thumbs on both hands to see which forms the letter ‘L.’ by then a semi has eaten my lunch, and I need a defibrillator to jumpstart my ticket.

No, Agnes does not speak my lingo, and I have to scramble for readers to see her little blurry screen.

Agnes said not a word, but some odd reason, she directed us to drive around a block in Alva, OK and galavant through a roadside park in Buffalo, which we knew better.

As we boogied on down the road into the land where they pretty much grow only sand and rocks, my phone alerted me that since I am now traveling outside of the United States, sending messages could result in significant charges added to my bill. Interesting.

“Well, Cliff, I know they say that Texas is a whole other country, but I didn’t realize we needed visas to travel over the Kansas state line.

“It’s sure getting flat the farther we go and drier. These folks need rain in the worst way. When we get set up out tent, be sure and keep the flap zipped shut. I may have chased off a bear with a spatula last summer, but if a snake crawls in our tent, I be GONE!” No worries about us ever moving to the desert.

After a stretch of lonesome highway a sign appeared, pointing to The Mountain View Cemetery. This puzzles us, as well as the still silent Agnes. There is no sign of any kind of mountain, hill, or gopher mound for at least 100 miles.

I point to a sign in the ditch, “Now I can understand the thought behind South Flat Church of Christ .

Agnes pipes us and encourages us to head south.

“Wait! She left me,” Cliff exclaimed more bamboozled than a jilted husband who has come home to an empty house and a Dear John note, “I’ve just lost the signal.”

“Are you sure we don’t have a map?” Finally, at a post office stop in Booker, TX, Cliff retrieved an atlas from behind the back seat. (For the record, if you keep an eye out for a post office by looking for an American flag, well, it works real well–except on Flag Day. Yep, flags were flapping everywhere, just like they should be!)

Now we were set. Cliff had Agnes, I had Atlas. and the road stretched south out of Perryington.

But of course, not the highway number Agnes had directed.

“She can’t find me,’ Cliff sighed.

“Well, in a few miles it turns into Highway 70, and we are good to Chicken Creek.”

Sure enough we cross the Canadian River, which was about as wide as its line on the map, and ta-da, Chicken Creek and the Kicking Bear sign! We made it!

After a fabulous time at camp, we spent the next evening in Amarillo and proceeded to find our way to Palo Duro Canyon. At one stop Agnes, still pouting from being outed by something from the Santa Fe Trail Era, sent us to an intersection in semi-heavy traffic and said, “Turn right now.” Right was papered with a zillion ‘Do Not Enter! Wrong Way!” signs. The International sign for “NO” had been invented right at this very spot, I am sure. It was obvious Agnes needed updated. Cliff got us up and over and around an overpass and finally we journeyed south.

Now, I was on familiar land, but after being deceived by Agnes, guess who had a hard time believing me? “Is this the right road?’ ‘How much farther do we go east?’ and ‘As flat as this is, are you sure there is a canyon around here?’

As we dropped into the crevice, second only to the Grand Canyon, we took in the rich beauty of the area that we were blinded to, because we had been so doggoned worried about being lost. It was a totally different majesty.

While I’m not anti-GPS, this reminded me of how many times I listen to voices that sound legit, instead of going to the map of truth for myself. The danger of listening to the voices without the biblical filter, who wants to be led in circles again, and how do you know who to trust?

God gave us that Bible so we could have the whole picture laid out, to make following Him possible. The last place He wants for us to be lost in a land of despair. Not seeing it detailed to the inth degree builds our faith, with the Holy Spirit as our decoder of sorts.

Lord, please guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Turn my heart towards your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. Psalm 119:36-37

Photo credit-www.tpwd.state.tx.us

Sick Dogs, Golf, Husbands, and an Old Fashioned Humbling.

When was the last time you were humbled? I mean take-you-to-your-knees-where-the-scuffed-caps-are-so-full-of-gravel- you-have-to-pick-it-out-with-tweeezers humbled. No matter how together it seems like we are, we all have to bend our knee some time, huh?

Before we begin the drama, there are some things you need to know.

1.) I love my husband deeply and would never, ever, ever do anything to disrespect him.

2.) In our marriage we have had more ahem disagreements over dogs than we have had raising our four children.

3.) I love dogs. I see them as having their place in our lives and love loving on them, but Jiggy is definitely Cliff’s.

4.) Never on the planet has a golf tournament only lasted 4 hours. Ever. Ever. Ever.

5.) Seemingly unrelated, I was feeling worthily equipped by God Himself to lead a Bible Study entitled “Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions” by Lysa Terkurst. During the last few years I have had to walk through some extreme emotional fires where flames licked at my soul. Although a few gray hairs at the temples are proof of some singeing, I’ve survived and learned getting wound up is frankly not worth it. Even the death of my mom a few months back was such an amazing passing that yes, I have my moments, but how could we not be even more secure in what is to come? Truly, everything is in God’s hands, and I am blessed to help him out.

Now that I look back, the day I opened the study book and viewed the DVD, I innocently opened a spiritual Pandora’s box, which I should have known. Everytime, a target is drawn right on my sternum, and God enthusiastically accepts the invitation to mess in my business.

The next day, my husband came in and was very concerned. Our German Shorthair hunting dog was droopy and had shed a significant amount of weight in just a couple of days. Could I take his baby to the vet the next day? The dog was bad enough that he feard Jiggy would be put down.

If one isn’t familiar with German Shorthairs, they are extremely lean, athletic dogs with the sweetest personalities. They have two traits that are a blessing and a curse. They are amazing problem solvers and can figure out latches, locks, cabinets, you name it. The Houdini’s of the canine world. Hence our outdoor pen has no gate. It is wired shut at a corner.

The other trait is high energy. Like in a nuclear bomb. Jiggy has spiderwebbed a windshield because he was so excited to go for a ride, he rocketed through the air, bonked his head on the glass, and was in the backseat without even a shudder. When we would go for a walk, he would pull so hard that he would go into an upright position. Yes, the Long’s had a circus dog and our arms are 2″ longer than our other ones. Unless on point, he continually danced a ‘jig’ and tried to get me to dance so heartily, I ended up with a black eye.

When I went to the pen, poor Jiggy didn’t come out of his house nor raise his head. I wrestled him through the unwired corner, sporting a plethora of scratches in the process. The vet was bamboozled at this skeleton of a dog and tests were taken. The Insure of dogfood and recipes of how to cook for the sick fellow were sent home, and I made a bed in the house. The day was spent boiling hamburger and rice to no avail, nor anything offered to him. Since the dog refused to drink out of a bowl, one of the toilets became his. I poured Pedialite or grape Gatorade in it. Eventually, he started drinking. Whew!

And drink he did. All night long, every hour on the hour, we were up letting him out.

The next morning Cliff had taken the day off and jetted out to golf in a fundraising tournament right outside of town. “This tournament is only supposed to go to noon, then we’ll load up the dog and off to Robin’s we will go. Will be there before normal, so we can eat supper with her. Keep me posted on the hound.” And off he went. So began Day 2 of big, brown, sad eyes looking up at me and following me absolutely everywhere like a puny preschooler.

As the day went on, the dog seemed worse. He didn’t want to be alone, so I sat with his head in my lap. His breathing was labored, and his heart was fluttering in his chest 90 to nothing.

Just like Mom. I unpeeled myself from the pooch.

Unwelcome feelings of grief tried to arise, but I stuffed them by going into a flurry of activity that really didn’t accomplish anything. Maybe if I kept going, they wouldn’t catch me.

“Stupid dog! And not even my dog! Cliff is out with friends and doesn’t even act like he cares about his dying dog.”

Or me!

I paced and messaged Mr. Text, Cliff, several times. No response. “Yoo-hoo!” I mimicked his texts that always come right when I’m in the middle of leading a study or something equally as important. “Once I had a wife….” When I stop the world to find out what is wrong, I usually learn that he is just missing me and bored. That tends to run up my spine and makes my eye tick while mixed with a mere pinch of sweet.

No answer.

About 1:30 pm, a good case of mad started to steam up my insides.

Robin made the mistake of calling just then. “What’s wrong?”

My plight vomited itself in her ear.

“Mom, I’m sure Dad has good intentions. You know he’s on a team of other guys and can’t up and leave.”

“Well, he doesn’t have good intentions when it comes to his dog!”

Silence “Um, I think Bren just woke up.” Click.

Then Casey calls. The stress two weeks of almost slipping about the surprise engagement her boyfriend had up his sleeve for the next day still hung like a developing funnel cloud. Plus I had worked myself into feeling like going 14 rounds with Rocky over Jiggy. “Whatever you do, don’t get married and have to deal with a sick dog!” I spat.

“Okay….” Casey stammered and simply listened to the pitbulls of marriage and how the vet was supposed to call, but hadn’t yet.

On the couch, our version of Skeletor continued to labor. “I can’t do this again. At least with Mom I knew what was happening. I can take feeling so helpless.”

Then about 3 p.m. Cole called. “Mom, aren’t you guys about to McPherson to pick me up? I thought the tournament was supposed to be over.”

I dry-heaved my tale with tears only a sniff away.

Finally about 4pm a text from Cliffy Gilmore–“I’m really trying to get away from here. Be home soon.”

“And just how long is soon? Hours from now. So much for taking off work so we can be gone earlier.” My tone dripped with corrosive acid as I watched Jiggy stagger in the grass to do his business.

Suddenly, the critter haphazardly jogged up to me. His carmel swirled eyes spoke of only love appreciation through misery.

And I totally lost it.

I sobbed. So much had happened in a short time. Mom’s long battle had finally been transformed into a homegoing, one branch of our family tree was being grafted 1352.51 miles away in California, and the dynamics of Daughter #2’s whole life was changing the very next day. Even with the good of it all, wouldn’t the world stop long enough for me to breath? My belt of responsibility, keeping our family’s positive pants up, was falling down around my ankles. And I was so exhausted by it all that I wasn’t sure I had on clean underwear.

My mom would have had such words of wisdom or humor to fix things. My head would have nuzzled perfectly in that special curve between her shoulder and neck. And there would be no more comforting perfume than was my mama’s scent.

Now was not the time for missing my mom to surface.

But it was beyond my power to stuff it down again. Just like doing everything in my ability to keep a fading dog alive was beyond my power. Or the vet’s schedule lining up with mine. Or the hands racing by bold numbers on a clock.

(Or the husband, who, when the story came out, was tied up with a feat of honor that endeared him to my heart even more, but too private to share.)

On my porch steps I prayed, wept, and released the Cracken of emotions that I had bottled up for way and had embarrassingly little do with Cliff.

“Lord, please can I ask a favor? If Jiggy dies, I’ll handle it, but it would do my heart so good if he lives.”

And God nuzzled me in that little place between his shoulder and neck with a perfume that smells only of him. He reminded me that I have never lost my mama, but I’m the one that is on layaway until He and I get some stuff like my reactions busted up with a hammer of grace.

Where sin increased and abounded, grace (God’s unmerited favor) has surpassed it and increased the more and superabounded. Romans 5:20b

For the record, we made our destination on Friday night. I did not strangle my husband, but in fact I had my happy pants on with a lovely ironed crease down the leg. The dog turned a slight corner after that prayer. It is three weeks later, and only God knows if he is going to make it through a weird liver condition. My ‘stupid dog” attitude has turned into Florence Dogingale and am not complaining about dog slobber trails anymore or being a short-order cook for the doggie buffet.

And just like God, He gave me a lay-it-on-the-table Unglued story to start the study with. Ah yes, how thankful I am for His lavish grace and his patience as he tweeks this masterpiece in the works.

Our challenge for today: Can I trust God and believe that He is working out something good even from things that seem no good?

*I know there is a lot more serious situations in the world, but would ask you to shoot up one for ol’ Jiggy. Thank you.