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

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. 🙂

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

Taming a Decorating Wild Hair

floor

Cliff laying a cuss-free laminate floor.

Martin Luther King Jr. inspired the world by saÿing, ‘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.

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!)

“Oh Great, I’m Pregnant Again…” The Deliciousness of Not Seeing the Future.

 Have those words come tumbling out over the rim of your quivering and frightened lips? Of maybe they are about to, you don’t see how this could possibly be good. If so, let Cliff and I encourage you. We’ve quivered to our liver, down to our toenails, and back to the ends of our hair on more than one occasion. 

Those words tended to project of my mouth just every little whip-stitch.  Not because we didn’t want to have kids and not because we were trying. Oh my land, no! Out of six pregnancies, only one time were God and us on the same schedule.

Our original plan was two children–a girl and a boy through adoption. What we got were three girls, one boy, and two we know nothing about, but anxious to meet at the gates of heaven someday.

Back in Cliff’s high school baseball career, due to a freak baseball accident, a verdict came in that we would never be blessed with babies.

Wrong!

For the first one, we weren’t married. EEEKKK!! Talk about the most obvious consequences of sin. Didn’t get away with pushing God on that one, huh?

Then, after queasy mornings of turmoil, strung in a row like laundry in a turbulent windstorm, I would break the news to my husband. It’s not that we didn’t want children. But they came along so fast and past any barrier we faithfully put in place. (Trust me we were so seriously faithful. We did not make the task easy for God. My mom’s theory was the baseball knocked something loose instead.)

But God was faithful to see us through diapers, bleacher butt, laughter, tears, and a plethora of scares and joys. What Happens When Your Son Climbs on a Casket, Cat+Dishwasher=So Not Good, The Long Nesting Season and many more posts.)

Now it is roughly 30 years since the first time I uttered those words. Little did our internal crystal balls share was what that would mean to us now. Who would have dreamed that while those little interuptions came screaming into our our family as wonderful blessings, they would be hard proof that God knows what he exactly what he’s doing.

While it’s happened gradually–the shift from molding-and-shaping of our four life-wired responsibilities to mentor-best friends–lately we have been soaked from the the torrents of being blessed by our children.

During those shaky hours and days after Mom’s passing, they swept us up in a cloud of ‘what do you need us to do?’ Cole muscled boxes from cleaning out Mom’s room at the care center and handled an awkard incident with Mom’s ashes with the finese of a funeral home pro. (Shouldn’t there be at least one iffy ash adventure with every cremation package?) Misty was a white tornado and kept the house and us spiffed and organized. Casey listened to Ting-Tang-Walla-Walla-Bing-Bang so many times, she was about to hunt the witch doctor down to club him with the stubborn slide show she created for the service. Robin accompanied me to florist, the funeral room, and the church for arrangements. Newcomers to the family, son-in-law Karsten stood in the wings as my understudy,just in case I blubbered through the eulogy, and grandson Bren provided a joyful message that life continues through belly-laughs, snuggles and his four month old rendition of How Great Thou Art. Back when, no way could morning sickness and lack of health insurance ever seen through the fog to these crowning gifts.

Then, if that wasn’t enough, last weekend we were spoiled rotten to commemorate our anniversay. A slide show of our 30 years and a coffee table book of friends and family sharing memories and congratulations brought hilariaty and surprise emotions. Since our blood dribbles to the beat of a basketball bouncing, our supper was sprung for, complete with two imported K-State fans to antagonize during a Kansas Jayhawk victory. Our pick-up mysteriously disappeared and was returned, gassed clear to the top of the tank instead of the usual empty one when it gets ‘borrowed.’

Along with the Long Offspring Anniversary Package came a photo shoot. For some reason our kids thought we needed something a little more classy than this.

DSCF5104

So for fun, here is what we ended up with~

etown 2

And this

etown 10

And we must have a make-out pic for the kids to say ‘Ewwwww!!!”

etown 5

“Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame. Psalm 127:3-5

Our most excellent warriors are these flaming arrows, an unexpected legacy, who blesses more than we could have ever imagined.

Christmas Gator pic

Be encouraged! God has you in this pair of shoes for a reason…or many reasons…and it is for good. Good enough that, he will ripple joyful quivers right down to your tip-toes, to the ends of your hair, and right back to your heart.

Proclaming 2013 ‘The Year of the Mental Pause’

Twelve years ago today, after a death defying hysterectomy, my surgeon told me, “I left an ovary. It looks healthy and should have a good 10-15 years left on it.” After having my insides rotated and my oil changed with 2 pints added, I have been zooming down life’s road without a care. (see The Day That Almost Did Me In)

Well, the test of time has proven the good doctor correct. Of course, I knew he would be. I put my confidence in a guy who could not only wrangle a renegade artery rupturing, but could diagnose which was the best cow to cut from a herd of pesky bovines. But, I guess I figured the clock wouldn’t gallop faster than a runaway steer.

While I have only heard rumors of the joy of hot flashes, here is what has started popping up somewhere between becoming a grandma and the half-century birthday.

1. My rememberory delights in going on vacation. I can’t remember the stupidest little things, like the person’s name I just met. Or wait, did I actually meet someone new, or was that someone already I knew, but can’t place how I knew them? And did I put them in the refrigerator, where I left my keys last night?

2. Weird stuff is going on with my hair. I can handle the really , really ‘blonde’ hair coming in at my temples, and look forward to that promised ‘crown of splendor’ that the Bible promises of a life well lived. Besides I like the idea of matching my prematurely gray husband, and I figure I’ve earned every single one of them. But what is with the texture? It’s doing a bristly curl thing I don’t know how to deal with.

3. Which brings up the attack of blotches and Sahara Desert skin. The ghost of wonderful Kansas sunburns past are coming back to haunt me and leaving me a connect-the-dot motif no concealer is prepared to cover.

4. Panicking and over-thinking the littlest insignificant things. Yes, Miss Go-With-The Flow has turned into Battan-Down-Every-Hatch-and-Some-That-Have-Yet-To-Be-Built Crazy Woman. ‘Quit wringing your hands! Just make a decision already and move!’ is the pep talk I use to bust up the Anxiety Party. (I swore I’d never be that prancing in place gal.)

Most of these things have been taken care of with vitamins I’m sure were touched by the hand of God just for me—except for the beauty issues and I have a whole cabinet of stuff for that.

But there is one symptom that makes me just want to bawl and bawl and not stop bawling.–the flood of tears. My stars I have to up my fluid intake to keep from dehydrating,, and rumor has it that the Dollar General in town had to increase their shipments of Little Travelers tissue packets.

I’ve always been a soggy one and a sucker for those old Folgers Coffee Christmas commercials. The brother coming home to surprise his family for Christmas got me every time. From being banned from watching Lassie when I was young to getting misty as an adult watching Bambi and Beauty and the Beast, no one in my family is shocked that Mom is sniffing in the dark. When I went into bellowing sobs during the grown-up Peter Pan movie, Hook, because I was convinced I had lost my imagination along with Peter, ok, my family did want to lock me up on that one.

But now it is worse than the holiday special of Call the Midwife. I have no control whatsoever of when the rainclouds will descend. That’s what makes me mad. There are times I feel it crucial that I have to have it together. Like in front of a crowd or a few times on radio when my throat got thick and warned me not to push the weak spot in the dam. And in my stubbornness, I convince myself I could shove it away. Wrong.

Or when I am so mad and want to get my point across. Gusher time. Or life’s big events like graduations and weddings. I know I’ll get teary, but will I go into rafter shaking sobs? Or sometimes for no clear reason at all, but usually it is in front of half the world and everyone want to know ‘what’s wrong.’. Which makes me as mad as when my kids snicker and say ‘Mom’s doing the menopause thing again.’ And if you see me with my hair smoking and looking charred with a nervous tick, it’s because I can’t write for long on the computer without risking electrocution. Not handy when trying to polish up a novel for submission.

A friend told me that when she was going through this a guy reminded her of a bible verse. “You know, Jesus wept. But it does not say ‘he wept and wept and wept.” Fortunately, she thought it was funny. I did, too, but now, I would have hit him. Hard.

To me, tears carry the definition of weakness. And whose life has had a lot of room for that luxury? Maybe you are like me and is the one who takes the dog to be put to sleep? Or have you had to go where angels feared to tread with family or a dear friend? Have you had to be the protector, provider, or parent to those you never dreamed of being in that role for? Or have you had great loss? Or times you don’t know what is wrong, but it feels like something is trying to crawl out of you? I’m sure you can add volumes to this severely incomplete list.

It’s okay. You are not alone, and every tear shed is of value to the Lord. Psalm 56:8 says “You have kept count of my tossings. Put my tears in a bottle. Are they not in your book?’ Oh, they are of great value for those humble tears glorify the Lord, and he records each one. Can you imagine the bottle of the woman who wet Jesus’s feet with the offering from her tear ducts? Yes, God gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

Enough grace to get us through the moment, the day, and 2013.

Hmmm…..As weepy as I’ve been lately, I have to wonder how big of bottle does God have handy?