Courage Creek

Yesterday was the first day of Spring Break. And the last day of sunny weather for this Spring Break. So Ricky and I took the opportunity to let the kids have some fun on the swing Ricky made the day before. The swing that takes them, feet dangling, over Hess Creek, hovering the grass on the other side and then back to a slippery hillside where, with wide smiles, they hope to gain their balance once again. This day, in an effort to share the adventure, we invited the neighbor kids, T & E to join in. E went first with excitement in her eyes. She adjusted the rope-length and went for it – no issues. Then my two had their turns, while T stood by on the launching spot and watched. At first, he politely declined, but his sister E kept asking and encouraging him to try. I understand his hesitancy though. Although younger, he is on the bigger side. So the rest of us didn’t pressure him. He was just so unsure. But we all watched him as he gathered the courage to just go for it, and thought he’d get the idea after watching the rest of the kids give it a-go, that you need to run down the hill as fast as you can to build up the momentum needed to soar across. But something was missed there. He kept bending his knees and calculating the risks, and then before we knew it, he was walking nervously down the hillside, and pushed off.

He made it across, reached the other side, and started to come back, but hadn’t the momentum to get back to the launch hill and stay there. So he drifted back over the creek and just hung there. Ricky was close by (thank God!) and grabbed a rake to pull the rope above T closer to the bank…just close enough for for him to reach his legs and find his footing again. He was pretty worried as he hung vulnerably over that 12′ wide creek. Even though it was just waist deep water, it was muddy and cold. His hands gripped that pair of handle bars that Ricky had disassembled from his old bike, as he yelled out, “I’m gonna fall!” So when he made it back, we were all pretty relieved. Especially T. As the sun warmed us through hundreds of branches, Braylon, Angel and E had several more turns and then an unexpected “I want to go again!” came from T. We all looked to him to see if he was serious, but didn’t want to discourage his burst of risk-taking in action. He just wanted to have the same fun as everyone else. All we could do was stand there and watch. And of course cheer. And clap…until about 2 seconds later when he lost his grip…directly over the creek.

SPLASSHHH!

Our eyes all widened, I covered my mouth, then yelled out to him, “Are you ok?!” with near certainty that the only thing hurting was the sense of pride he had upon jumping. My heart was thankful and sinking at the same time as I watched him struggle to get his footing on the slippery mud that only added insult to emotional injury. Those couple minutes seemed to morph into an hour as my mind recalled when I was about his age, struggling with my own weight, and dreading all water activities for this very reason – for fear I would be left to flounder as I tried desperately to retain an ounce of grace as I found my way to solid ground. As I stood watching by the big tree, I was glad T was facing the opposite bank and didn’t see the inadvertent smirks that I saw. In an attempt to redirect those initial muffled outbursts of giggles, I solicited Bray’s help in going inside to get some towels. Once inside, I muttered a quick prayer for T as I ran upstairs to grab him a soft, dry shirt he could use our garage to change into. After he took me up on the offer, he came out sportin’ the clean shirt -backwards- and these few remarkable statements of gratitude,

“Thanks for the Tee shirt. Hey, at least I didn’t get my hair wet!”

…he said with the cutest half-smile ever. And that was the exclamation mark on our swing-time fun, the first day of Spring Break, 2014. I’m determined to get him a gift this week from all of us, to honor him for overcoming his fear. When he looks back at this day, I want it to be marked with a sense of pride and courage more than just an embarrassing moment. I want him to feel accepted, even celebrated.

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The Surrender to Spring – poem on anxiety, winter, spring, hope

The Surrender to Spring

frost

The chill demanded tightened fists, a tightened scarf around my cheeks. Its frost, like fear, deceit cashmere in shadows.

It seems as though anxiety makes home a cold society…and lies awake in shivering and shallow.

Yet as the morning breaks and with it sunlight gently takes away the tense, it seems this warmth is really, grace.

Grace with which to operate, to view, to love, invigorate. Grace with which to saturate this day.

I watch intently crystal hairs that weaken, melt and drip and bare, the blades beneath their outerwear so blithe.

They are still, as they await the transformation. They unveil the season coming, and a brighter shade of life.

Grace and the Will to Put it on Display

Motherhood and grace should go hand in hand.  It’s a tough job, and when things get crazy or you mess up, it can be so relieving to find grace in others’ view of you…in how they react. Grace received from your own children and husband goes a long way. But sometimes grace from a stranger can go even further.

Last weekend, I was having a good time with several of Braylon’s friends in our garage. We decided to do an art project around a table. Braylon finished pretty quickly and joined his friend from school, “J”, in the driveway. This was just the 2nd time he’d come over to play, and I’d recently had a bad miscommunication with his mother, but wrote her a loving note to try & work it out… and a few weeks later we seemed to be fine. So the other day,  Braylon & “J” were skateboarding for a while and then they started fake-sword-fighting (while I was painting, etc. with 3 other lil ones, about 15 ft away).

Then I hear “J’ complaining about his arm hurting. He wasn’t crying, but I got up to see why it hurt. I saw several dots of blood on it, from where Braylon got him with his “fake sword”. Thing is, Braylon wasn’t thinking and chose a dangerous tool to use as his “fake sword” – one he’d gotten from our grill – the kind with strong, wire bristles for cleaning a grill. I examined the tool and had Bray apologize, as it looked like it did hurt. But they weren’t fighting maliciously and Bray didn’t get him intentionally. Nonetheless, I was concerned so later that day, I text’d his mother, telling her briefly what happened, that it was an accident and was sorry, & asking how her son was doing. She replied “some brusing and a few drop of blood…”. Two days later (Monday, I believe) “J” came to my mind again and I was concerned, so I text’d her again to follow up on his arm’s condition. Although I didn’t actually see the short sword-fight, I couldn’t imagine his arm still hurting from how it looked shortly after. I expected her to say he’s much better….or it’s almost healed; thanks for asking.

I deleted her reply, but it was very similar to this: “its pretty messed up. i am very upset with your son. i will never let him play with my son again. frankly, i question your intelligence”.  This is the 2nd time this mother’s reacted to me in this way, so I don’t know why I was shocked. I guess I’m just not used to it. It’s so contrasting to how my friends would react.

Although I felt terrible, and wanted to reply, I didn’t. I felt anything I would say would not help.

Fast-Fwd to yesterday (Tuesday), at the Wal*Mart check-out:  I had bought my food and was waiting for carry-out help while I watched the lady behind me. Her daughter (2-3 yrs old) was sitting on the ground toward the middle of the isle. I watched as another lady headed through the isle with her cart half-full of groceries. I saw her look & notice the little girl, and continue on, but to her surprise, she’d misjudged where her cart’s wheels were heading and ran right over the little girl’s fingers. I saw it. And I heard the “bump-bump”. Then I heard nothing. There seemed to be a full minute that passed before that girl could catch her breath enough to let out the most horrendous, glass-shatterin’ cry. Her mommy swooped her up, and the lady rushed back and must’ve apologized 3 times as she intermittently self-checked her food, explaining that she honestly thought she had enough room to go by.

The little girl’s mom responded several times back with a smile, “Oh, it’s ok. She’ll be ok.”  or, “It’s her nap time & she’s tired. I think I’ll just give her some Tylenol & put her down for a nap when we get home.” Another time she said, “Things like this happen sometimes. Pleeaase, don’t feel bad. Her fingers were kind of out there too far, I think”. I watched the guilt-ridden woman listen to these words of honey, hoping they’d be received… hoping they’d resound louder than the cries of pain.

After the woman left, and the mom was still there, paying, I walked up to her & thanked her. She looked at me, confused. I explained briefly that earlier this week, I’d had a mom react to something my son did that accidentally hurt her son – & the reaction I got was, well, quite opposite. I said how it was so refreshing to witness one mom showing so much grace to another.

I guess I was hormonal and had teared up while talking, cause the next thing I know, I hear this big, kind stranger say, “awwwwwwe!” and was squeezed in her compassionate bear-hug! When she let go, I guess she thought I needed more affirmation and proceeded to tell me a little story about how she could relate, when a mom at a park “went off” on her. She then wished me a good day & went on her way.

It seemed to really work out that it took Wal*Mart employees 12 minutes to find someone for car carry-out that day. After a few minutes of waiting, I was going to just go. But I really wanted to see how everything played out.  Had they helped me immediately with all my groceries, like some grocery stores offer, I’d have missed this scene – this demonstration of grace and love to a stranger. It’s one thing to treat someone you love with such grace, but another to extend it to your neighbor … to a stranger in the store, a park, a post office. How ’bout someone who has crossed you – someone who you don’t like?  How are you different than anyone in this God-forsaken world if you show a hostile attitude or even indifference to those people? Nothing sets you apart.

Specifically, I think it’s so important for mothers to stick together and support each other. That’s part of why I’ve been involved in mom’s groups for many years. We need to hold each other up with reliable encouragement, honesty & prayer. Keep each other accountable. Live in an exemplary way for our children, almost going out of our way to brighten another mom’s week…WEEKLY.  I know I’m miles away from living this consistently, but dangitall if I’m not gonna make it my goal. Life is too short to not make your mark of grace on everyone you can, especially other moms.

That’s my 2¢.

The Women’s Conference with Sheri Silk and Kim Walker Smith

This is my attempt to basically journal about this weekend when I visited Church of the Hills in Austin. April 17, I was so excited ~ and arrived at the church with my friends, Athena and Debbie. We had a wonderful sweet worship time lead by Kim Walker Smith and her husband, Skyler. As the songs went on, a sound from overhead became louder and louder & I asked Athena, “is that the vent system?!” She repied, “no, I think it’s rain!” And it was. A storm was rolling by. About between song 3 & 4, the rain was so loud, especially in contrast to the quieting music as they transitioned. And then…a huge thunder roared and Continue reading

Nov. 24th ’09 ~ Movie-Scene Day of Mercy

Tuesday, Nov. 24th, I woke up, knowing I had a full day ahead, but really, had no idea. After sub-teaching a class of sweet lil toddlers, I headed home to change & doll up for an interview…in downtown Austin.

I Googled directions to this location, wrote them down right, and proceeded on my way, asking my hubby to pray for me. Interviews can be nerve-racking for me. I go I-35 (1st mistake) and after 30 min.s, my gas light comes on. After 45 min.s & hitting traffic, I realize I may be late & I call to ask about parking (& to let them know I was almost there).

The General Manager who was about to interview me, answered, &  told me there’d be plenty of parking & asked me where I was. When I replied, she compassionately told me Google gives the wrong directions & then she gave me the right ones…as I scrambled for a pen, paper & a spot I could squeeze between two vehicles at the on-ramp, while scribbling…yeah…on the phone. Wow, I could have so easily been in an accident at least twice.

18 minutes and a U-turn later, I pulled up on fumes and was greeted with a warm smile and a firm handshake, “…it was actually good timing! The other gal interviewing alongside you just finished observing a class! How about if you two fill out these applications, and we’ll just get started!”

The interview went really well (at least in my head!) considering how in my head, I kept freakin’ out about how the heck I was gonna get home with no gas, cash, debit card or clue where the nearest Chase Bank was.

So, after I was invited back for a 2nd interview (yeah!) I walked out & sought out any unsuspecting stranger (particularly a young male) so I could hit him up. And there he was, 20 ft. away, suckin’ on a Marlboro.  I gave him the most honest gut-wrenching story I could get out along with a head-tilt and smile, a price I paid for just a smile in return, “I’m so sorry. I’m broke.” But he continued to look around and think aloud for some type of solution for me. I thanked him graciously and went on my way – to sit in the Scio XB, swallow another helping of pride & call my hubby…and cry. He gave me a simple answer, “You’re all dolled up, right? Use your good looks!” Hmmm. Thanks?

Three minutes later, as I tried to keep back the tears, I heard a faint knock on my window. With Ricky on hold, I rolled the window down and saw that same man, holding out a $5 & a $1 bill, “Hey, this is all I got. I saw you had an “XB”, so hopefully the gas mileage on that’ll get you back to Hutto”.

Wiping away any possible mascara smears, I hopped out, grabbed the cash, & actually hugged this tall strange figure. I didn’t even want to know how the funds appeared. I jus’ thanked him profusely and drove off…barely making it to the nearest gas station.

AND NOW… Pt.2 (feel free to go pop some corn & grab a soda…)

After scoring a quarter tank, I had to remember how to get home a new way, which of course, included two U-turns, driving backwards on the highway at one point, but eventually landing on Mopac, which came to a near-stop within minutes. I called my girlfriend to tell her all, & while conversing, turned the wrong direction on the next toll road 45, turned around to go the right way, & then realized too late that I missed my exit for Hutto. Almost.

I mean, I could still see it, but I’d have to drive through this valley with sparse long grass and a few tire tracks from the one paved road to the next – the exit I was supposed to be taking. I had HAD it with U-turns. I was risking it. So I eyeballed someone else’s tracks, and gunned it. Until I got to the middle, where, beneath the deceiving grass there lie 5 inches of sticky mud, awaiting my demise. I was STUCK. Wheels-spinning-stuck. “Oh, nooooooooooOOooooOOOOOOOO! NO! NO!”, I yelled at my girlfriend. Then rang my husband, a-gain.

He had a good family friend, Ben, come to my rescue (as Ricky was @ home w/the kids & no car). But before Ben could find me, a Texas Dept. of Transportation man spotted me & stopped. He just stood there, bothered, & said I’d better figure out how to get out or he’d call for a tow.

Ben was able to locate me in spite of my lousy directions, & after I pushed my petal to the metal back & forth 6 times, designing a make-shift mud track, he literally pushed me out of that ditch, single-handedly… in spite of the fact that it was a front wheel drive and the front wheels were shellacked with a layer of mud just thin enough to render any traction useless.

Yes, Mr. TDOT just stood on the pavement with his hands on his sides & watched, first telling me to stop revving so much or I’d wreck my trans, then yelling at me that I needed to gun it for a while whenever Ben had me drive forward, or I wouldn’t get out at all.

Well, it wasn’t long before all 4 tires reached the other side, & can I just say, I was elated & exhausted & emotionally overwhelmed. I started sobbing as I gave Ben a big ‘ol embrace. I think he let a tear or two out as well. He then told me that a parole car had come, which I thought he meant TDOT. No, he meant a parole car – the police…had pulled up behind Mr. TDOT. Thank GOD we had Deathtrap Valley between us. I had had enough of this day & I needed to get on my way. So on my way I went…looking in the rear view every 30 seconds or so, to find no one behind me. Not even Ben.

I stopped by the closest Starbucks & told the lady, “you would not believe the kind of day I’ve had”, then just sat w/my Tall Americano w/cream, for a bit. Sometimes he’s the best kind of company. My phone rang & it was Ben asking me if I was ok. Then he told me that he saw that cop turn around, pass him up, & put his lights on. “Girl, he was after you!!” he said in his Spanish accent. My eyes got as big as two coffeecup lids. “WHAT?!” then at a lower volume,”am I like, a fugitive?” He laughed.  But seriously, even though I’d seen NO 5-0’s in pursuit of me, I thought, “what the heck have I done?”.

About then, the Starbucks lady came by offering me a free sample & saying she couldn’t help overhear how I might be in danger, “we would be glad to provide security to escort you to your car, if you need it”.

After the longest 8 minutes on the road EVER, I pulled up into my driveway to hug my loud & happy 7 & 3 yr old, & my quiet husband.  As I bathed Angel, I kept picturing a police raid at my house, being taken away just before Thanksgiving, getting a mug shot & pushed into a tiny cold cell…all with smeared make up on my tired face.

And as I lay in bed (with a truly thankful heart), Ricky & I talked and realized together, that for everything that went wrong from 3:30 til 8:30pm, God had provided me a greater redemption.

Happy Thanksgiving.

I May Not Have Much of a Following

…but that’s totally ok with me. Last year I wanted needed people to subscribe to this blog. I used to have a need for people to like me or my writing so much that they kept coming back for more…of me. I used to desire a following. But in the last 4 or 5 months, that desire has been slowly dying. Once in a while, it’ll take a random gasping breath (like in the movies when you think someone’s dead, but they’re not), but those are probably days I’m hungriest for attention, affirmation & assurance that people like me. Well, guess what;  it’s not about me. I guess (or really hope) that means I’m sort of dying to myself. 

I was never called to be liked. I was never whispered to by God to have a blog with a huge following or have tons of friends. I’m not much of a leader. I don’t even think I was whispered to by God to have a blog. I do know that what I’m called to do is follow Jesus, and if my living, singing, working, writing…  will help anyone else follow Him too, I’m doin’ what He wants of me.

I’ve been convicted this week of spending too much time & energy consumed with technology. Technology’s not a bad thing. I use it mostly to keep in contact with people I care about. But it dawned on me that I still must have this huge “need”, especially since moving 2k mi. away from family last yr., to KNOW and to BE KNOWN. Maybe it’s a girl thing. Maybe it’s a human thing. Yet I’m constantly thinking of how I’d love to get away by myself…well, with a good cup of joe & some quiet time with God.

I was thinking the other day, that I could seriously do some damage (in a good way) by using my time & energy to direct people to Jesus – with that same technology. Instead of feeding my own hunger for acceptance & contact, I will start redirecting…

…and maybe some who (by design) stumble on my sites in the future, may come into contact with and accept the God who created them – a God who is crazy about them.

Yeah, I may sound like Ms. Spiritual at first; my site rating might drop to like 4 million, but I don’t care. What people need (including me) is not another “friend” added to their contact list…or another shallow conversation.

what people need is grace. 

to hear the truth.

forgiveness.  

unconditional love.

a touch when you are hurting.

…all in the form of a Man & His Words.

a sad choice

earlier tonight i was telling braylon that we were gong to the YMCA, and he asked if he could change first. i said sure. but when he came back, i told him he’d have to change shirts again cuz the one he was wearing was too big. he really like it though. so without even talking about it or arguing, he briefly looked up and stormed out of the room with a frown. then before we knew it, he was at the front door, yelling, ‘then i’m gonna run away from my family!”.  i looked at rick like, “is he serious?” but then i heard a door slam, and i immediately got up and walked out of the house to follow him. he hadn’t quite reached a block on his scooter. he was in tears. as soon as he rounded the corner and i lost him from view, i yelled for him to come back…at first a little angry, but when i saw his face from a distance, i called him to me with a more gentle tone. when he still hesitated, i simply waved him over to me. and he slowly scooted his way back.

i urged him to come back in to just talk about the shirt and maybe the 3 of us could come up with a good game plan. he kept saying under his breath, “it was a sad choice”.  the tears came whenever he said those words, “the saddest choice ever”. we both just asked him, “what was a sad choice?”  “to run away … from my family” he said, chin quivering. ricky said, “you thought you’d be happy when you ran away…” and bray interjected, “from my family”  “yeah, but it actually made you really sad, huh?”  “uh-huh.” then he told him that he could wear the shirt, just tucked in loosley in the front. and then looked him in the eye and said something along the lines of, ” you know, buddy, i’m just happy you came back. we love you”.

something about that repsonse was different. a little unexpected, but not surprising. its focus was not on us as parents…our fear or worry that he was lost or hurt, but on braylon. it took my mind right to the parable Jesus told of the lost (or prodigal) son. grace and acceptance have been a thread woven through ricky’s life by his father, ricky sr… so i guess it was a chance to live out that grace in some small way, to his own son. and to put into action the very words of Christ. what an opportunity. 

 

A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.