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. ūüôā

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 sa√Ņing, ‘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!)

“Chief Rain-In-The-Face, What Are You Doing?”

This is actually Chief To-ma-To, who watches over our garden.  Rain in the Face must have done a dance because we got a downpour this afternoon and would have been too muddy to get to the 'site.'

This is actually Chief To-ma-To, who watches over our garden. Rain in the Face must have done a dance because we got a downpour this afternoon and would have been too muddy to get to the ‘site.’

Here’s the scene: A wildflower covered mound, surrounded by knee-high prairie grass.  A barbed wire fence row stands on one side, while dried skeletons of yucca blooms stand as sentries to protect the site.

“It’s right there,’ Fred, the cowboy/jack-of-all-trades whispered, “Chief Rain-in-the-Face’s grave.”

My mind shuffled through the vibrant family history of our homestead, that had been drummed in my head for all of my pre-teen years. The place had been homesteaded 100+ years prior by Aunt Lizzie, who was only thirteen at the time.  Around that time she eluded cattle rustlers along this very creek, riding horseback 60 miles to Woodward, OK in the dark with a significant bank deposit.  Up the road, my great grandpa is hailed as being the first white baby born in Kiowa County, Kansas.  Winding through the buffalo wallow dotted  pastures, I could almost picture regiments of US Calvary soldiers following the lonesome trail they laid out.  Not to be forgotten, legend tells of a headless black man buried in a long-lost grave on the property.  The man was on the lam, hired on with a cattle drive.  But when the boss rode on to Dodge City to arrange for the arrival of the herd, he came back with a Wanted: Dead or Alive poster.  He chose the dead option.  The crook’s head journeyed on to the Cowboy Capitol and his body left on the Parkin Ranch.  But I sure didn’t remember anything about an indian chief. 

Fred continued, “Go stand on the Chief’s grave and say very loudly–it has to be loud–Chief Rain-in-the-Face, what are you doing?  Listen and he will say nothing at all.”

I weighed and watched as my dad kept a straight face, while Fred’s eyes twinkled.  If I did this, would I really hear a voice answering, ‘Nothing at all?” How cool would that be! As tempted as I was with the possibility of experiencing the amazing, I leaned to common sense.  No, I didn’t fall for it, but Fred sure made me think.

The next victims to step to the grave were my younger brother and step-brother.  And as the years have gone by, there was a whole string of targets.  At his place, I hear there is a sign pointing folks to a Chief-Rain-In-the-Face gravesite. Maybe we were dealing with twins?

When Cliff and I were first married, Fred was a constant fixture at our house a lunch time.  Of course, I had a long history with him always being around, and it didn’t take Cliff long to fall in love with his humor, storytelling, and his joyful countenance, no matter what health woe had befallen him.   

 Everyday Fred shared mini-Snickers bars and Jesus.  The Snickers I could handle, but I wasn’t really on speaking terms with God at that time. Oh I knew him, but he’d let me down and I didn’t need him–unless I was about to run out of gas in the car or was stranded in a wicked ice storm with our daughter running a 104 degree temp.  Then I’d rattle his door, but kept him at arms length like the loud and bossy old aunt that smells like Vicks and Roses, Rose perfume, but always is good for some significant cash at Christmas.

Cliff and I would sheepishly look at the floor, when Fred wove the goodness of his Lord into the conversations.  I didn’t much like that he was attempting to jump-start my thinking or my soul. However he was such a great guy, we were ever-so polite, but rolled our eyes behind his back.  When we got a gift subscription to Guideposts from him and his lovely wife, Marlene, I quickly pitched all the issues in a magazine rack.  I couldn’t throw them away.  What if he asked about them?

Many months later, I can’t remember why Fred had been rerouted from our daily lunch date, but I was in the clear to clean out the magazines.  I started leafing through the booklets and reading hit-and-miss.  They backed everything Fred talked about and convicted me to get my girls in Sunday School.  (Notice: not me, but my kids.  I was just fine, thank  you very much!) 

That is when something started that I can’t stop.  Soon after, our worlds crashed with the loss of our two very special grandpas and Cliff’s live-life-to-the-fullest brother, Mike.  That is when I had no choice to cry out and grab on to the Jesus Fred had talked about. 

And for over a quarter of a century that Jesus has held me together through many valleys  of the shadow of death, fears, worries, etc, etc, etc.   I don’t have to think about it anymore, I know.  

A few years back, one of my brother’s kids called me.  Bursting with skepticism, a little voice said, “Aunt Kel, do you know who Chief Rain-in-the-Face is? Will he really talk to you and say nothing at all?”

And my response will always be, “What do you think?….. And once you are think it through, how about we share a Snickers, because I know someone even more amazing than Chief Rain-In-the-Face.”

Whatever you do, work at it with all of your hears, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward, It is the Lord you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24 

(Side note~For some reason, Fred and I always had a special bond, even before the Freb Webb Preaching Series.  Last week when I heard that he had gained his prize to be with Jesus, tears rolled like a fountain.  Some because I’m so glad for him and some because I owe him more than I can ever express.  While he was still with us, we visited, emailed, and even facebooked a little bit.  I will never regret letting him know how important he was in my faith walk. 

My question to you is this:  Have you told that person(s) the impact they’ve made in your faith walk? 

Photo credit-my own