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

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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.

GPS or Map–Navigating the Trail to Confusion Flats

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

Chicken Creek. Love it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agnes pipes us and encourages us to head south.

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

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

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

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

“She can’t find me,’ Cliff sighed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just like Mom. I unpeeled myself from the pooch.

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

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

Or me!

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

No answer.

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

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

My plight vomited itself in her ear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I totally lost it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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