Spur of the moment, we hosted a birthday party for our two cats, Miney and Booey (Hermione and Blue). They turned 3 years old, reminding us of the day we found them abandoned on our Texas county road. Three years ago was a very good day for us, because these 2 are the sweetest and have brought us so much joy.
We really aren’t the type of people to have a party for our animals, but our girls’ good friends were coming over, and we thought it would be funny.
Our girls’ friends were such good sports. We laughed so much. But the cats didn’t think it so fun or funny. Six people, sitting at the table, with laughter and chatter.
Two cats jumped down from laps and ran off.
Fear certainly isn’t a fun or funny thing. And today, I’m talking on WMU’s website about a time when I was terrified and what got me through that moment.
My girl reclines in the dental chair. Her x-rays hang enlightened on the wall behind her.
“You need to wear this retainer,” the man says.
Hard to believe two years had already passed, wearing braces. I didn’t really want to get braces for this daughter because her teeth were straight, her bite was just off a bit. She had the cutest crooked smile. But the doctor insisted that her teeth wouldn’t wear correctly, and she’d have trouble in her later years. But she had a gap in her front teeth for years, and I was told she needed this simple surgery to cut the gums between her teeth to allow her teeth to grow together. I didn’t buy it. And sure enough, her two front teeth grew together over time without surgery. Why did she really need braces? We don’t need perfection. My other daughter’s braces came off months ago, and she constantly jokes that it looks like she’s wearing dentures because her teeth are just too perfect. Too straight.
The dental assistant jumps up and runs toward me. “Did you hear there’s been a mountain lion spotted in your area?” She shows me a picture on her phone. “The dog at Tiger Mart got killed” (this is where we refuel our vehicles, and the sad irony …?).
I want to buckle over with grief. I figured there had been a mountain lion, bobcat, but I had no idea it still prowled around. My mind flashes back to nearly two years ago when our lamb had been killed and eaten. The guilt stabs me time after time. We didn’t protect Bindy like we should have. We didn’t protect our property. I can still envision seeing her, going to my knees our on Texas land, crying, my husband dragging her sweet remains.
The same happened to my neighbor’s baby goat. They’d been searching for her, neither hide nor hair surfaced. That had been my warning, but I didn’t heed it. We didn’t realize the danger that lurked, that could so easily cross over into our property.
My heart still breaks at what Sandy witnessed. How long she stood nearby the scene, waiting for us to come out and help her. And from that moment on, she wouldn’t leave my side. She’d jump the entire fence to be with me.
Apparently, there’s been a mountain lion in our area for some time. No one’s stopped it. No one’s caught it. It leaves trails of death, sandy-powdery tracks. We hear about it from time to time.
Some are helpless to do anything about it, helpless to protect their large herds of livestock. How can they?
Some make light of it. Do they have nothing to protect? Have they not been injured? Do they not understand? Do they not live in the danger zone?
We don’t make light of it anymore.
We basically live in a slim shade of fear. But that’s how the world is … carnivorous. I know that mountain lion needs to eat. And I adore mountain lions. Beautiful. But I don’t want my babies killed. Sheep meat might be purchased at the grocery store, but not my sheep meat. And I don’t want to be hurt or my girls hurt. I’ve heard of mountain lions tearing off people’s faces in broad daylight.
We walk our property line daily.
One must protect their own.
I think of the wall of fencing where we’ve enclosed our sheep. Blankets hang over the wiring to keep out the cold wind, to keep them warm and protected. We’ve done just about all we can do. We can’t keep them totally protected, there’s no way, so I pray the perpetrator isn’t that smart. Maybe it’s just enough to deter.
But a few weeks ago, my husband found a powdery print outside the pen in the sandy soil. Right outside the gate. I found the blanket that drapes against the wall of fencing half torn down. Like something had sought to devour.
Some mornings, the babies just seem spooked.
We put the sheep up every evening. By morning, if I think we’ve forgotten, I go into sheer panic mode, unable to recognize myself, until I see their sweet faces, see they’re safe. See that I really did protect them.
My gaze returns to my daughter’s x-rays. The old x-rays versus the new ones. What? Look at those huge gaps in her back teeth. Goodness, that bite was really off. I look at my baby girl smiling. Perfect, straight teeth now.
Was it that bad before? Really? I didn’t realize they were so bad.Sometimes it takes comparing where we are now to where we were to see that we really needed change.Desperately needed change. The danger had just crept in so slowly. Year after childhood year.
“If you wear this retainer every day for six months and every night after that, your teeth will stay in place. They’ll be protected. Everything that you’ve worked all these years for will remain intact. It’s so important,” the dentist says, trying his best to enlighten her.
I inch open the door. Two teeners are playing. I’m so happy to see them playing, taking life by the reins. Like they used to. When did life get so serious? One’s perched on the other’s back, having turned into some type of cowgirl. The other’s on all fours, and somehow I’m waiting for a “neigh” to bellow out of her mouth. Instead, all contagious laughs, giggles, smiles.
“What?” I nearly fall over laughing. They jump up, place sweet hands in mine. It’s bedtime. “Do y’all want to start reading together through the New-Testament-in-a-year?” I ask the girls, switching gears and interrupting their Lone Ranger and Silver moment. But it’s been weighing heavily on my heart. Both nod so eagerly. Whew! Because I’m going on fumes right now.
And I need to get at least one weight off my heart. Taking something off my shoulders would be nice, too. We always did pretty good at family devotions when the girls were small. But things shifted somehow. I tried to get them started on Bible Gateway, helping them establish their own routine. No more “we” but God in thee. That went good for a while, but like with all things, discipline tiptoes out the door, and we’re left crumpled on the floor. And that’s a complete disservice to my girls. I need jumper cables. Um, okay … spurs kicking into my sides. Because when serious sickness enters your home, even teens can only go on fumes for so long. Anxiety hugs the heart, pinching in the night, demanding conversation. And one daughter wraps her arms around me. My teetertotter emotions …. “I understand, Mama. Shh. It’s okay.” I adore her motherly way. What gave it away? Hands that I used to hold everywhere—once so tiny with tiny nails that I used to clip with the baby clippers—soothed over my face, wiping away the moisture. Tight hugs. My other daughter gifts me with one, too. Life has been so busy. Where has my time with them gone?
Is it okay for a mama to admit she’s scared? She’s scared of the present, the past, the future. She’s scared of every day she tried to make it on her own and failed miserably. She’s terrified of the scars etched into her heart from days without holding her Savior’s hand. She’s scared of every reminder, every memory. She wishes for white-out, do-overs, the delete key for her heart. What does she yearn for more than anything for her girls? A clean piece of paper, a clean heart. One prepped and ready to type God’s beautiful future, beautiful present on their hearts, to accompany their beautiful pasts. But we can’t pour out our heart’s desire on that blank page what we aren’t pouring in. The page will be written on, but it won’t be desirous, the Godly way. It’ll never sell. And when I’m too tired, I’m reminded I’m too tired not to. I’m loading dirty dishes in the dishwaser, and I don’t think I have the stamina to finish, but I will. That’s my disciplined, determined self talking. And I’ll collapse into that bed. And a brush of wind swirls past me, sweet arms envelope me. “You ready to read our devotion?” “We better do it now, while I can.” Anxiety only falls away when we fall into the arms of God. We plop down onto the floor, circle around, maybe hit the couch, maybe climb into my bed …. She takes my phone, hits the Bible Gateway App.
“The verse of the day,” she says, “is Ephesians 4:2—‘Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.'” She clicks on “Begin A Reading Plan” and continues right where we left off. “Matthew 20:1-16,” she says. Verse 16 ends with, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” We all chuckle. “I used to say that to you when you were small all the time,” I say. “I wanted you to be giving. It feels good to give.” And I didn’t want them to fight. But my version usually came out like—“If you want to be first, you have to be last.” And that’s where I might blow a raspberry, if I were that kind of mama.
fishing in the swimming pool … caught a plastic fish each and every time
floaties in the shallow end
They laugh. Then nod. “I remember, Mama. I say that to all my Sunday school kids,” one daughter admits. Yes. They haven’t forgotten. Full circle. God is writing on their hearts. The giving has been received. Because when we give, we always receive. An honest servant is always rewarded in time. It might seem like a rough draft, but it’s the real, published deal, where purchases are final. It’s sitting on the heart-shelf, waiting to be taken, to be given to their friends, anyone blessed enough to receive from their hands, maybe their future kids. We take the limited time in this life together by the reins. A return to family devotion.
Do you have a family devotion? Have you had to take life by the reins recently?
“I wish he would quiet down,” said someone … I can’t remember who. “Boy, that’s annoying.” Ever since we let Azzie, our cat, out of the house for a few moments while we hung up the Christmas lights, he’s been completely discontent. We never let the cats out much because … this right here. The cat balks louder and louder, over and over. And not to mention the summer fleas, the many critters excluding the fleas that would eat him alive. And boy, what if he ran under the deck? And right now, it’s cold. It’s snowing. It’s actually snowing (it snowed one day, a week ago … you get the idea). A novelty in these parts of Texas. And the wind is whipping around something fierce.
My snow-girl. Her New Year’s resolutions are to become well-rounded and to get in shape.
My daughter goes to her room and places on her winter gear. She puts the collar and leash on Azzie. He’s really balking now. My daughter. I’m not surprised. She’ll go the extra mile for anyone, especially those she loves. Every Sunday, during “shake-a-hand” moment, she walks all the way across the church to hug and talk to our realtor, the first person we met when we moved here and the very one to invite us to her church, our church. Yes, she ventures all the way there because she loves Ms. Frances. I love her, too, but I’m not so great at going the extra mile. I wave across the way. But that’s my daughter. She’ll walk the extra mile. She’ll brave the new ice cream flavor, while I stick to the safe mint chocolate chip. But she lets me try the new. She’d give her last dime. Her last bite. Her coat. She loves the lovely and unlovely. She doesn’t meet a stranger these days. My shy, quiet daughter is coming into her own God-given gifts. A friend to all. A giver. The wind rattles the house, along with the windows. My daughter picks up the cat, opens the front door, steps her new boots out into the snow. I throw on my winter gear, grab my camera because when it’s all said and done, I guess I’d follow her anywhere. And I want to love like she loves. And I want to capture her love on camera.
She sets Azzie down into the snow. He leaves a trail of paw prints. And in no time, we’re all outside.
And almost lying prostrate for a good photo, I think about the prints I’m leaving on this world, on my girls, on my friends … I want to leave the kind of heart-prints my daughter has left on me. I want to throw open the door, brave the wind and cold, the unknown, and step out in love … to love. And I know if I ever step out, I’ll never be content to stay inside.
What moves you to action? Others’ words or actions?
From my heart to yours this Thanksgiving— My daughter’s normal morning 3-day-a-week school routine begins. “You awake?” I text to her from downstairs, under the covers, snug as a bug in a rug. “Yup,” she texts back. One foot slips out from under the covers, then the other. Un-snug as a bug out of a rug. Leaning over the bathroom counter, I get partially ready for the day, make-up and hair, then I’m off to scan the living room and kitchen to see if my daughter has left any school work there that she might need for the day. I grab a bottled water out of the garage fridge and a granola bar from the pantry for her. My heart yearns for her success. The door to her stairs/bedroom billows open and the rush begins. I open the garage door, hug and kiss her goodbye, shoving the water and granola bar into her backpack. She backs the car out, careful not to hit a tree. I wave goodbye and blow kisses to her … she stalls the car to wave and return my kisses. We realize it’s our last gaze at each other. That little black car zooms off down our driveway, kicking up leaves, beginning that 35-minute commute by busy, 18-wheeler interstate.
And I pray, like every day—Lord, watch over her, protect her, get her home to me. My heart yearns for her safety. But this particular day, after some 5 minutes have passed, my phone buzzes with a call. It’s her. “Hey.” “Hey, Mom.” Her tone is urgent. “I left my driver’s license in your car. I’ll be home in two minutes. Will you get it for me?” I run out to the car. There it is. I open the garage again. My mind starts going wild. Will she be late for school now? Will she drive too fast to get there on time? She’s almost home … she said 2 minutes. I’ll save her time. My heart yearns for every good and perfect thing for her. With barely a moment’s thought, I take off down my long, wet driveway, barefoot, in my pajamas. I’ll meet here there at the end of the road. Lord, please don’t let me step on a stick or an acorn. As I near the end, I see her car between trees.
She pulls into the driveway. She sees me running. Her expression? Priceless. My heart yearns to make her smile. “I can’t back out, Mom.” “Yes, you can. I’ll help you.” I walk out into the middle of our county road in my pajamas, guiding her, motioning to her which way to turn her wheels. She does it. I knew she could do it. My heart yearns for her to be confident. She zooms off again. My prayer goes up once again. At the end of the day, she barrels through the door, crying. Wrapping her arms around me, she spills her precious heart. She barely missed being in an auto accident. I sink in despair over the details her precious eyes witnessed. My fractured heart looks heavenward, and my prayer shoots up—thank you, Lord, for bringing her home to me. My heart yearns for peace. For her. For me. Every week, I hear her near misses or what she’s witnessed on the road. My heart can barely take it. My right eyelid’s been flickering like a fluorescent light for days now. It’s all worry, y’all. My daughter’s first semester of college has been the hardest change for me. If there is one downside to homeschooling that I’ve discovered, it’s that a mama’s heart is too sheltered. It’s the mama’s heart that’s cause for concern. And the heart stays invested regardless of your child’s age. But she loves it. She loves every single thing about it—the school, her classes, the commute, time in her car, lunch out with friends—which is all that matters. And I’m so thankful. But this mama thought she knew how to lean on God. This mama’s heart is learning to lean, lean on my Savior, more and more. After Thanksgiving, my daughter will only have about two weeks left of school, before she has a month break. I’m so grateful because— My broken heart yearns for a break.
What has you concerned lately? And can you imagine our Father’s love over us? ~~~~
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. And many thanks to all who entered the magazine subscription giveaway from the last post. Thank you for playing. I’m blowing kisses your way. I cherish you. And the winners are … Cindy Hasko and Norma Brumbaugh Wieland Woohoo! I pray you are blessed by the magazine all year long.
God, what are you doing with my life? “Do you want to go?” “Yes, of course.” My curiosity soars. My novel, work-in-continual-progress, has a scene in this very location. I’d love to go. I need to go. I need to get inside my characters’ heads more, know their hearts. Plant my feet where they planted theirs. We pass Greenville, Texas, heading into Commerce—my novel’s setting and the city I have grown to love. “There’s Karalee’s school,” I say. Wonder where she’s at? What’s she doing? Hard to believe my oldest daughter is there and I’m here. This thing called change is interesting. Our hearts are so intertwined that I feel present with her all the time. Rejoice when she rejoices. Cry when she cries. We proceed out toward the state park, passing farm after farm. Beautiful Texas, always beautiful to this Texan. I gasp. A city limit sign announces “Posey” … Posey, Texas. My heart claps. That’s part of my itty-bitty character’s nickname. I missed that detail on Google Earth. Wow. Unbelievable.
Believable. God, you’ve got this thing covered. I know you do. And you’re showing me the signs. Thank you. We park the vehicle. My youngest steps out, branches out, and begins exploring. The one who’s seen devastating hardship. My cancer survivor. She’s discovering shells along the water’s edge. She’s found her niche. Have I found my niche? I think so. My feet hit the ground. I pivot, absorbing the surrounding beauty, standing right where my characters stood. Building their imaginary lives has been sweet. They’ve so obediently taken each action I’ve required of them. Walked when I needed them to walk, erased what I needed them to erase, built what I needed them to build. God, you stood right where I’m standing. You made all things, and you came here—living, serving, loving, building, accomplishing, finishing—to know me inside out. To know your creation, your people. “I could stay here all day,” my daughter says, beaming.
Stay here all day. That’s it. I made the connection. God, sometimes I’m slow, but I made the connection. Walk out on the water. Go exploring. Discover the growth. Through the difficult, the scary, the times of ease, the times of beauty, times of uncertainty, times of seasonal change …
When you don’t know what God is doing, do what you love. He’s given you love. O Soul Within, find what you love. Do what you love. Continue doing what you love. He gave you a heart, to please, to love, to obey, to build, to follow, to lead, to accomplish, to do the thing He’s called you to. Step in character with whom God made you to be, into the very shoes He designed for you. Change is never easy … but proceed. So ask the hard questions. Get inside God’s head. Yearn to know His heart. You are His and He is yours, intertwined. He’s where you are. He rejoices when you rejoice; He surely cries when you cry. Find that place—with Him—where you could stay all day. The place to do the living and dying. The place to type—The Beginning and The End. Do you want to go?
Daughters, I’m so impressed with you. I want to be just like you when I grow up. Standing at the glass back door, I overlook the shimmering water in my swimming pool. Perfection. I can’t believe I have that in my backyard. I’m so pulled to open that door, step outside. Oh, how I’ve longed to take one of those pictures of my feet propped up at the pool on a hot summer day. But one has to be outside, in the sun, by the pool, to do that. One day, Daughters, one day.
One has to slip on the bathing suit, the horrid reminder. Of all those years of pain, of fear, of embarrassment. The reminder of imperfection. Of being different. What happens when you wish your self away? The very skin you’re in.
Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution;<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30167BK" data-link="(BK)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30167BL" data-link="(BL)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>You suffered along with those in prison<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30168BM" data-link="(BM)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30168BN" data-link="(BN)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>So do not throw away your confidence;<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30169BO" data-link="(BO)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; color: #783f04; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> it will be richly rewarded.
You need to persevere<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30170BP" data-link="(BP)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30170BQ" data-link="(BQ)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>For,
“In just a little while, he who is coming<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30171BR" data-link="(BR)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> will come and will not delay.”<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30171BS" data-link="(BS)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>
“But my righteous one will live by faith.<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30172BT" data-link="(BT)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”> And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”<span class="crossreference" data-cr="#cen-NIV-30172BU" data-link="(BU)” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;”>
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. –Hebrews 10: 33-39
Do you hear that, Daughters?
Years spent wishing away acne-prone skin, especially on my back, can cripple a person. My confidence, confiscated. The lack of confidence still follows me around today, like a shadow. Go away, shadow. Years thrown away. I’ve shunned the outdoors for years, only able to bear it with joy alone. We have the most amazing swimming pool, with a hot tub and even a fireplace. The view is incredibly beautiful and serene. We’re so blessed. Who wouldn’t long for that?
Who wouldn’t long for freedom? I slip into my memories of yesterday. But some reminders are not longed for in the heart. Starting in high school, for years, I didn’t want my bare back revealed. Being in the drill team made that extremely difficult. Going to my changing area, I’d try to hide, hurry to change, cover myself. Cover my shame. Keep your back turned from everyone. Don’t let them see. A visit to the dermatologist for slight facial breakouts led me to the threshold of help, but I was too embarrassed to tell them about my back. “Do you have any other problem areas?” “No, I don’t.”
Fear and embarrassment, even youthful foolishness, lingered. I’ll never be free. In my very own prison. The prison that moves when you do. Secret miseries running deep through your pores into your very soul. I hated to wear bathing suits, tank tops, bridesmaid gowns. No, don’t make me put my hair up. Torture. The beautiful topknot with ringlets hanging down only reveals my ugliness. Let my hair hang long, covering my back. Covering my embarrassment. Covering my shame. Don’t see. Don’t look at me. Shrinking back. Destroyed. And who knows the pain of acne? Like needles sticking into my back. The slightest touch brings pain, to my back, to my heart.
Years of on and off antibiotics, only to have it come back once off the medication. Persistence could define me. Ushering out my appendix, along with an ovary, ushered away acne. Praise be. After all these years, praise be. After 30 years, I finally love the skin I’m in. My daughter fights the same thing. How amazing that even though she’s adopted, God made her just like me. She comes to me. Her dress is gorgeous. Zipping up her dress, I notice the speckles of acne on her back, her shoulders. Acne that persists once off antibiotics. “Daughter, do you want to wear a light jacket? To cover the bumps?” My handicap trying desperately to cripple her. Generational bondage. Bondage that yearns to imprison others. I think I’m trying to help.
“Mama, I don’t care about it. All kids have it.” She smiles. She even beams. She doesn’t care. Well, okay then. Her confidence is like the dawn of a new day. Daughter drags little sister to me. “Mama, look. She has her first bump on her face. Isn’t it the cutest thing?” Both girls are giggling, unencumbered, unembarrassed, unafraid. Beaming. I’m amazed. Fearless. Flawless. Free. Go therefore, beautiful girls. Love the skin you’re in. Don’t take 30 years to go out in the sunshine. Throw open wide that door, release your hands, and embrace life. Do not throw away your confidence, sweet girls. Remember the One you belong to, Beloved of the Living God. Go out into this world. Persevere, Daughters. Prop up your feet. Live and love. Bring pleasure to your King.