Witnessing a ‘Mary’ Christmas

What is everyone standing around for?  Pick up the baby!!!

What is everyone standing around for? Pick up the baby!!!

The young mama-to-be found herself in a precarious situation. Only God knew she carried the child. The circumstance was too much for even family and friends to understand. She could only imagine the glances, the whispering, the opinions, and way too much advice. This baby had to be protected at all costs. The human side of her wallowed in a bed of sleepless nights, for how could this possibly turn out well? Yet, she knew in her heart she was honored to be carrying this precious gift. To think the future of the child was unknown—well, she couldn’t afford to think about it now. All she knew was she had committed to follow this through.

When the labor pains began, she cried to the Lord. And He was faithful.

The wiggly bundle looked at her with moments fresh eyes, ones filled with wonder and uncanny wisdom. She tucked the moment into her heart and said, “Oh, what a wonderful gift you will be to someone.”

As days ticked by, God’s will revealed that this precious baby would not only affect the lives of many, but would be the redemption for the mama as well.

A story straight out of Bethlehem…

And Emporia, KS.

Every year I intentionally pray that God would show me something new from the age old story of Him in baby-bound form coming to earth. Little did we know that He’d start revealing our advent revelation on the quite early date of July 3rd. In a ballet of unmerited favor and unbelievable provision on so many levels, God showed himself faithful through the birth of a unforeseen girl grandbaby. Her name is the testament of God smiling on each and every person her life touches–Gracie Olive. (A ‘wow’ moment in research just hit–Olive means ‘anointed for the good of love and charity.’ Perfect!)

Make no mistake, this child is certainly not divine. She can throw a ring-tailed fit like no other. However, her arrival was swaddled in the warmth of God’s love.

And while making different choices to scoot them down life’s road, I’m convinced our daughter Misty and Mary still would have heart-connected at the local MOPs meeting. Oh, the things they have in common. Ordinary people thrown in extraordinary circumstances. Come take a look.

Let’s start with every branch and leaf of family being nothing but supportive. Nary a stone was as much as tripped over, much less picked up. Perhaps, this was Mary’s family’s reaction as well, since she stayed in her hometown, except of visiting cousin Elizabeth, until that uncomfortable trip to Bethlehem popped up. Whether the decision would be adoption or to keep this little one, everyone respected Misty’s judgment and had her back.

Once our dear friends Megan and Michaela heard the tidings of great joy, they dropped everything and made the three hour journey faster than hyped up shepherds on the hunt for a newborn King. And Cheryl…well, she hovered over the story from afar, being the angelic ear and prayer warrior to the heavenlies we needed at critical times. Pat’s chicken and noodles were truly a Godsend after eight days of eating drive-thru meals.

While Mary was visited by Magi, bearing exotic gifts, Galen and Richelle from Argonia in the East came barreling through the door with a new baby bed and pink bedding with zebras dancing on it.

While angels winged across star-dazzled skies, singing ‘Glory to God in the Highest,” our pastor strummed his guitar, lifting up heart-felt praises from our couch.

Two communities of faith in the fashion of the true redeeming love of Christ were generous past the point of ridiculous. And while in the hospital, once it became apparent that baby was coming home with her mama, the nurses blew us away with gifts and encouragement fit for royalty as well.

Instead of Anna’s tears touching Baby Jesus’s cheek, Pam of the Co-op’s eyes glistened as she knelt in front of Gracie snoozing in the rock-in-play, unspeakable joy running in streams down her face. Our threshold became a well-worn path of those pouring love, encouragement, and offering babysitting services. Every single one of them itched to get their hands on her.

Ordinary people kissed by God, lavishly serving Him in extraordinary ways.

Tonight I gaze upon my Grandma Olive’s handed down nativity scene. I appreciate and understand the distant reverence and awe the brightly-colored characters hold for the Christ child in the manger.

However, from what we experienced, how can anyone keep their hands off of a baby? Don’t we all crave to drink in the scent of purity, snuggle the softness of love, and drink in the whispered coos that are the healing salve of the deepest wounds? The world cannot compete with this phenomenon. Even the most regal Wise Man would have cracked open a chuckle at a bit of baby slobber as it ran down lush robes. Who can resist those powers?

For almost six months we have seen that mojo every day. Like I said, Gracie Olive is not divine, but she gave joy to a lonely old woman in Wal-Mart, flirted a smile out of a car technician, and made Santa laugh when she ate his beard. Every stop takes ten times longer with her around. She’s kind of become everybody’s baby, and her dimpled smile sprinkles joy like glitter on heaven’s breath.

This little glimpse we have been blessed with has opened the earthly blind a little wider to see how hands-on our Savior is. Whether it was the bleeding woman that simply needed a touch of his garment, or the children he insisted hanging out with, or the multitudes that were drawn to him, there is comfort in knowing that no way would He be confined to a manger for one second longer than necessary.

Oh yes, He is everybody’s Savior.

10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

‘Mary’ Christmas from The Long Family!

photo credit: http://blog.christmasnightinc.com/tag/outdoor-nativity-scenes/

Three Months of Riding Crazy Waves Grace

5224454-cartoon-surfer-girl--vector-illustrationFor a little over three months, our lives have been turned into a whirlpool. Not only by one event, but by an unusually brisk revisting current.

I have witnessed several friends who have gone through seasons of extreme long-suffering calamity. How they have survived is not beyond me. They clinched on desperately by fingernail faith. When that sliver gave way, God caught them with compassionate faithfulness.

We’ve all had our if-it-ain’t-the-hogs-it’s-the-chickens-and-if-it-ain’t-the-chickens-it’s-the-windmill seasons as well. Ones that left us staggering and not able to remember ALL that we went through.

Has ‘come on, Lord! Give us a break!’ become your constant prayer? Has God mercifully allowed you to keep one foot in front of the other, even if your hair hadn’t seen a brush in you don’t know how long? Are you to the place that you know He is the only way you still stand? Perhaps, down the road you will recognize how you’ve been molded and shaped in priceless ways, but at this moment, you are hunkered down at the faucet, waiting for that lazy drip of a life-giving blessing drop to splash a tiny bit of coolness on your parched tongue?

But, is it possible for things to swing the other way? Does God do that?

Make no mistake about it. He can, and He does!
Our fumbly-bumbly, non-suspecting family rafted along His swirling whitewaters of unmerited favor this summer. When the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills and the One that even the wind and waves obey chooses to cut loose, you’d best have your floaties inflated. Humility and awe soaks one to the core.

Ordinary days transformed by the millisecond into pivotal events worthy of entry in the Long Family Bible log. Seriously. Seemingly insignificant happenings from years prior became rudders to steer crucial life-changing events into being. So much goodness, faithfulness, and provision streamed in on a need-to-need basis. In the midst of these renegade waves cresting, I vowed to take a sledgehammer to my inner crystal ball and shatter that defective sucker. Who could say what was going to sweep into our lives next, for how long, or in what way? If cameras were rolling, we would be stars of a hit reality show or destined for a segment of Focus on the Family at least. By all rights some of the circumstances shouted extreme chaos, but a presence over took that stilled our hearts and allowed God to navigate the surges for us and vaporize our blind spots to appreciate how truly blessed we are.

Today, the whirlpool seems to be calming a bit. Our exhausted bodies thankfully seem to be given the gift of a breath, but who knows. Heaven knows I am not at all complaining, quite the opposite. We crave a sort of balance and stability, enough that even an ordinary vanilla yogurt day can be viewed as a blessing as well.

So what are these stories? This blog is about to light up with them. They demand and rush to be shared. However, some may stay curled, and who knows if they will ever give permission to unfurl publicly. What’s important is we can tuck the memory of His mercies in our back pockets when we are tossed once again over stormy and uncharted seas of life.

What I hope to pass on is that whatever one goes through is not fluff, but that every single bit is a key element to a bigger plan. May you let His hope guide you through the day and the darkest night–God is perfectly faithful and loves you so.

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matt 6:28-31<

graphic credit: http://www.123rf.com/photo_5224454_cartoon-surfer-girl–vector-illustration.html

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.

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.

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

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.