“Hold on Kids! We’re Goin’ for a Ride!”

roller coaster 2

(Gives ‘Kumba-ya’ a whole new perspective, huh? Prayers on the rise?)

Life.

Full of the exhilarating, yet, teamed at times with the white knuckled, breath-stealing chills of a runaway roller-coaster.  Sometimes, the clank of the cogs build anticipation as the tick-tick warns you of something building, be it good or bad. Then, sometimes there is an astonishing twist, a turn, a corkscrew that materializes from nowhere to make the strongest heart quake.

For the almost exactly three years to the date, this blog has been eerily quiet. Life at that time was full of thrills and chills, but ones that tended to give the friendly delight of little butterflies fluttering about the stomach.  That grand baby boy to marvel at and with, a meant-to-be marriage proposal, to witness the relief from a long fought illness by a faithful believer graduating to glory in the most splendid departure, and a long-awaited writing passion finally beginning to taking shape.

And the list goes on.

But suddenly, the roller coaster seemed to take on a mind of its own. Lightning couldn’t compete with its speed, and on occasion, the crushing pressure on our lungs needed a whisper to be reminded to simply “breathe.”

That Whisperer urged us to not fight the ride, but relax and lean into those curves for the track was laid out by the Master Planner, who prepared this journey long before the foundations of the earth. Gently, an unexplainable confidence settled over us.

Our fingers one by one were pried off the bar, we tossed our heads back and threw our hands to the heavens.

And oh, what a ride it has been!!!

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 1 King 19:11-12

(Just love that ‘gentle whisper’ part, don’t you? To bring the regular subscribers up to speed-if you are still there-with the exception of a blog post at Christmas a couple of years ago Having a ‘Mary’ Christmas, God put up a ‘Closed’ sign for the season. I couldn’t explain how that worked if I tried. Just as mind-boggling, now it seems to be cracking open a bit. Only God knows how much of the past will surface, and what new adventures will pop up today. I guess we’ll see where the coaster takes us, huh?  So buckle that seat belt tight and enjoy the ride!)

Photo credit:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HDMexqDn5U

 

 

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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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrong!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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And this

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

etown 5

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

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

Christmas Gator pic

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

Grabbing the Manna While It’s There

“You are only given a little spark of madness. You must not lose it,”~Robin Williams.

Boy, how I wish I would have heeded his warning (minus the Mork suspenders) more often than I can recall.

You see, I’m trying to reconstruct scratchy rememberings from what was destined to be my most brilliant writings. How those pieces promised to a dazzle with amazing insight and revolutionary wisdom! Oh yes, they would have surely warranted being engraved on indestructible stone tablets or at least embroidered on pillow tops.

But alas, they are forever lost, simply because I failed to grasp the gifts with return addresses straight from heaven.

Whether it concerns writing, or life offering the chance to extend a kindness or a ministry opportunity, can you relate to not have not taken advantage of the moment because we’re frankly too busy? Most of the time I chose to check Facebook for ‘only a couple of minutes’ or vow to fight through the tenaciously curled throw-paper to search for something of worth. After 22+ years of it showing up in the yard every Wednesday, there has yet to reveal anything newsworthy. 

Or what about the times we’re just not in the mood’ to do whatever we’re being nudged towards? 

Or sometimes my bed is too warm and has me hugged in too tight to sprint with the glorious revelations that try to elbow through the thick veil between sleep and awake. They are so cutting-edge that how could I possibly forget these ‘ta-da’ moments in my clearer hours?

But regardless of our seemingly wonderful reasons, they are on a timer and vaporize into a ‘you snooze, you lose’ experience. The results being us wandering aimlessly in a desert without so much of a crumb of direction, and we sink up to our knees in drifts of frustration?  ‘Why won’t God talk to me?’ and ‘what am I supposed to do next? If He’ll just point me on the right trail,’ we lament.

But we aren’t alone. Isn’t it funny how when we focus on the children of Israel’s desert jaunt, we zone in on the greedy Guses, who snagged more manna than they could handle with the excess turning to worms. (At least, they could  rifle through the Fear Factor Cookbook for a hearty maggot stew, if needed.) But not one word is said about the ones that were too busy, or tired, or not in the mood to get their homers out the door before the sun evaporated it.  There is nothing to tell. 

When we don’t dash Indiana Jones style before the blessing door slams, we are just as guilty. To be obedient to those flickers, there is an attitude required.  It moves past the warm covers and the thought, “If I get up and lose sleep to do this, I will pay for this in the morning.”  Or ‘this will put me behind.  It’s not on my to-do list.’  Or  ‘I’m just not feelin’ it right now.’  Or any excuse we can conjure up.

You see, when we are obedient, either God works out the kinks for us or, at some point, gives us the grace to trust that it was worth the effort. Yes, we must grab the manna while we can.

So next to my bed, I have my lighted pen ready. I truly hope Cliff has to sleepily question by the blue glow of the computer screen, ‘why are you up?’, and that napkins and scraps of paper litter my pockets and purse with quickly jotted insight.  And that someone can say, ‘that Mrs. Long took the time and was kind today when I lost my Science homework,’ or ‘Kelly stopped and prayed for me.’ Oh Lord, let it be so!

“But Samuel replied, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?”

*Since we all struggle in this, help us out with what handy tips you can share on how to be obedient to His voice?

“Noah, Aren’t You Coming In Out of the Rain?”

Somewhere, between asleep and awake, a rumble of thunder caused me to smile and snuggle in the blankets further. Living in parched Kansas, the excitement of this moisture laden gift would not allow me to lazy it away.  Up and onto the porch is where my nightgown clad body bounded. 

Soaking in the freshness  no candle company can copy and feeling a heat-breaking promise breeze across my shoulders, I giggled with awe-filled joy.  How this experience has been missed!

My thoughts ran to Noah, and how the earth was before rain’s invention.  Scholars say it was watered with the first natural underground soaker system, seeping upward from the depths.  Very nice and very affluent, but how absolutely blah. 

Us post-flood folks have so much to be thankful for!  Let’s take a look:

  1. Those sounds.  Thunder booming, lightning crashes, and the downy soft drops pattering, what orchestra can truly replicate that?
  2. The smells. When a storm is brewing, the dust carries in a moisture rich preview on its back. The main attraction is coming.  Then, it descends, fresh and crisp, briskly clearing the stagnant senses.
  3. Quenching.  One can almost hear the giant slurp as the ground sucks it up like a giant sponge. Our souls do the same, the much waited end to a long, tired season.
  4. Our expressions would suffer without the sprinkles from ‘showers of blessings’, ‘the storms of life,’ and ‘a thundering crowd.”   Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise, we are blessed to paint a colorful word rainbows.
  5. Greening up.  The miracle of a little water to turn our crunchy yards brilliant and, our flowers smile again.  And it doesn’t cost a thing.
  6. A cleansing.  Even the earth gets to be the smelly kid after a bit.  Everything needs a bath on occasion.  An April fresh start.  Doesn’t everyone need on occasion?
  7. Comfort.  When scared of storms, my mom assured me that lightning was God using his flashlight to find the flowers, and the thunder was to wake them up for a drink.  A lesson in purpose behind the life’s tempests.

Although flood’s point was to wipe out a world of sin, as a sort of cleansing baptism, we reap the benefits of the consequence.  Just like the cross.  An agent of execution has become the central symbol of sacrifice and promise, confirmation of a down pouring of life-giving love. 

After the flood experience dried up, I wonder if Noah stood on his porch in his nightshirt and lifted his face to the blessing.

Who knows?  But for now, I’m going to jump in puddles with both feet, dance in the cloudburst, and celebrate God putting us here at this time. 

He no-ah’s what He’s been doing all along!

 

How Far Can a Blessing Go?

When I was 15, my mom came up with a grand idea, which I was sure would scar me for life.

One of Mom’s best friends was Dixie Hazen.  Dixie was the Spiritual Jedi Warrior Knight of our neighborhood.  She was in her bible constantly and had the biggest collection of Kenneth Copeland teaching tapes on the planet.  She would bring wonderful potato soup to our house when my mama was so depressed she would cover her head in bed for weeks at a time.  Dixie would come to sit and listen.  What a wonderful and trusted friend she was.

Dixie also had twins that were my younger brother’s age-6 years younger to be exact.  It had been laid on Dixie’s heart that everyday should start out with her 4th grade twins saying “I’m God’s Happy Child!”-heavy on the exclamation point.  Blessing her children was working with great results at her house. Although it is in the 10 Commandments not to steal, Mom chose to steal this idea and try implementing it.

I was not a fan from day one.

Mom and my Mexican stand-off would start the minute we walked out the door to head to school.   She would start priming the pump being so darn cheerful.  Thank goodness we only lived about 6 blocks  from the school.  She would pull the car to the crosswalk.   My brother, who had not one ounce of pride, would spout off the “I’m God’s Happy Child” phrase and smirk a smile at me as he slammed the car door.  He knew what was coming and relished my discomfort.  I would watch him run across the street and fly into the school.  Oh, no, I was not such an easy sell as Clay was.

I was not about to cave on this stupid mom-sense.  I was much too old and this was way beneath me.  I  would set my jaw, fume and pout.  Mom was like the Rock of Gibraltar.  As we could hear the bells going off in the school, I would force through gritted teeth, “I’m God’s Happy Child!”  Then I would bang that car door so hard, I can’t believe the windows in the Monte Carlo didn’t shatter.  Grrrrr!!!!

Not long after that my 16th birthday hit and I was surprised by a car.  Freedom! Sweet Freedom!  I was in the driver’s seat now.   No more parental oppression when it came to school mornings.  No more dorky “God’s Happy Child” sentiments was coming from this girl’s Buick.  I still had to transport the creepy little brother, but the sacrifice was worth being relieved of the unreasonable torture.

Through the years I have started to understand what Mom was doing and respect her for having faith even when blessing us looked like an epic fail.  I compare her resilience to Hebrews 11:8.  “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”  Mom, by faith, invested in Clay and I, even when we were not thrilled about the avenue she was taking.  She obeyed and trapped us in the car with our families being her inheritance eventhough she did not know it at the time.

While I never forced the “I’m God’s Happy Child!” phrase on my four, I would do things that caused them to be looking for the nearest hole to crawl in.  I did cheers in the front yard to send them off on big test days.  This tended to cause huge embarrassment at times, but they all survived and can thank me for the improvement in their circulatory system from their faces flushing.  I did open-eyed prayers over them as I took them to school, which weren’t as humiliating unless we were giving someone a ride.  The blessings continued to be only limited by my creativity.  Now the nest is empty, so I picked up texting them bible verses to bless them and encourage them.

The texting thing has turned into a ‘blessing ministry’ of sorts.  On my daily list is my 4 kids, my son-in-law, a staffer for a Kansas congressman, a young guy who has wormed his way into my heart, and 2 young moms who are being wow-ed by God.  I was floored when my husband requested to be added on the list, because “you’ll text everyone else…”   He is the first to remind when the day gets away and I have yet to do it.  Last night a friend asked me to put her two kids on the text list, because she doesn’t have a cell phone.  I sent them both a pre-scripture warning email this morning and assured them their mama kind of liked them.  That’s why she asked.  Mom’s investment keeps reproducing in ways she couldn’t have seen coming, as well as Dixie’s investment and the person Dixie stole the “God’s Happy Child” idea from.

Yes, I am proud to be one of many that can say I’m ‘God’s Happy Child!’