The Plunge: Swimming Through Lessons in Humilty

cartoon swim

Swimming lessons with a 3 year old splashed humility all over this grandma.  Allow me to throw you a life preserver in order for you to avoid getting drenched as well.

Lesson #1-Don’t let your plan or pride keep you from the task at hand. Due to my daughter’s work schedule, I was the one to take Gracie for two weeks to a private backyard pool. In with her sunscreen and towel, I packed my book with visions of looking up from my riveting tale to shout inspiring encouragement as our little fish found her inner-mermaid. Wrong. The pool was just deep enough that Gracie couldn’t touch, and several of the tadpoles were there alone, so the instructor had her hands full. In a flash, I found myself, street clothes and all, with 20-30 something bikini clad moms, gliding the future Esther Williams on her tummy through the waves.  From then on, the book stayed home and over my swimsuit came my “Wendy Peppercorn is a Royals Fan” tank top.

Lesson #2-Pushing through pain is worth the effort, but the voices have to be ignored. While physically I could be way more fit, I’m not too shabby. However, due to the shallower depth of the pool, in order to help Gracie, my knees did not appreciate the constant strain put on them in this awkward position.They screamed and tried to convince me that I was dooming me to a future of unending meniscus surgeries and an ibuprofen drip. Honestly, I was on the verge of saying “Sweet Uncle of Marco Polo”, but Gracie would be left high and dry. However, in time, whatever ligaments were being stressed finally stretched out and now feel better than ever. While we dog paddle between the line of common sense and sucking it up, we need not be controlled by the negative or we will never discover what God has up his sleeve for us.

Lesson #3-Patience, patience, patience. Everyone has a different pace. Some of the kids there will obliviously be competing in the  2028 Olympics. They hit the water like a golden retriever after a duck.  On the other side of the buoy, others were clinging to their moms in terror and trying to scramble to higher ground on the top of Mom’s head. Gracie was kind of middle ground. At three, this venture proved to be on her own terms. In fact, one day, she was not having it, so we had to throw in the beach towel and simply pack it in. Then on most days, whenever the instructor came our direction with her perky positive countenance, Gracie would plaster on a fake smile and turn her back on her like, “If I act like I don’t see her, she’ll go away, because I see her plan to ask me to do something I’m not cool with.” Back in the day, I would have had my kids in the corner and frustrated that “we paid good money for this, so get in there and do what she tells you!” (How I appreciate the blessing of being down the road a bit farther now and the wisdom that goes with it.)

The instructor, however, is a master with this age. She would flounce off, give Little Miss Thing space, and then circle back around, not giving up, but allowing her breathing room and time to process getting more comfortable with this new adventure. After several days, Gracie discovered she wanted Tina’s attention and was hollering, “Look at me!”, eventually going with Tina to try some new stuff.

Lesson #4-Don’t expect someone to be courageous if you aren’t willing to be as well.  The big treat at the end of a session was to go down the slide—well, for most of them it was a treat. One mom was trying to encourage her little guy to go down.  He was at clinching the top rails and screaming like a gut-shot panther.  Gracie was soaking it in as I held her in the pool. She yelled in her most excellent, positive, motivational speaker voice, “Be brave, Cameron!” This gave me great hope as she was yet to show a lick of interest in this activity. “So, do you want to go down the slide?”  She matter-of-factly looked at me and stated firmly, “No.”   Another reality arrow with ‘guilty’ written on it pierced my heart.  How many times do we encourage others like we have it all figured out when we would be shaking in our floaties in the same situation?  Oh, how we need to pray for wisdom in the act of encouraging so that it doesn’t sound like it came from the shallow end.

Lesson #5-It seems hopeless right before the breakthrough. Toward the end of my tour of duty, I told my daughter I was afraid I had taken Gracie as far as I could. True, I could have been more firmer in attempting to cajole her into success, but here is where I was laying down the grandma card. You gigis know what I mean. Grandmas can lavish a bit more grace than parents once in awhile-sometimes out of love and sometimes out of sheer survival.  So far she was content for me to coast her Cleopatra style along the Nile. Bubble blowing was rare, not to mention the super courageous plunge under. Don’t even hint at the s-l-i-d-e. In addition, the day before had been the mondo melt-down session when I pulled the plug and dragged the soggy, sobby, little muskrat home. Beached is how I felt with my role in the swimming lesson gig.

But the next day dawned.

GO (her nickname since she’s named Gracie Olive) was nothing but GO!  She wanted to swim with the instructor–well glide like Cleopatra, but got to love baby steps! She could have powered a MasterCraft X26 with the bubbles she blew and her ‘princess kick’ action. Her eyes lit up when it came slide time, and she climbed that ladder ‘by myself!” like she was Greg Louganis’s twin sister. When she let loose to fly down the shoot, the light in her eyes gleamed of the start of an irresistible aquatic romance.

Not a bit of what went on hinged on me or my performance. Simply being present and willing to get wet was all that was asked.

Which proves again, in the everyday, God shows himself in the silly or the serious.  His words are true. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

How has God shown you that His grace is sufficient?  I’d love to know.

Photo credit: http://swimsafer.webs.com/photos/High_resolution_boy.jpg

 

 

 

 

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

The Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But God had a different plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit~mine!

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

Brooks in Kindergarten and now

Brooks in Kindergarten and now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His gift baffles adult reasoning.

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Annette Barber

Taming a Decorating Wild Hair

floor

Cliff laying a cuss-free laminate floor.

Martin Luther King Jr. inspired the world by 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!)