Hand in Hand

Hand in hand, mother and daughter walked down the stairs. Shawna and I, both nervous about what was to come, were on an adventure visiting the preschool she would soon be attending.

The room was alive with color! Shapes, numbers, and letters decorated the walls.  Child-size places were just waiting to be explored, and little chairs sat empty at little tables awaiting the arrival of this year’s students. There were musical instruments to be played, a loft to climb into, and a reading area underneath with just the right books to entice little ones! This little play place was lovingly nestled in the basement of the teacher’s home. Jan’s love for children was unmatched, and her reputation had garnered a long waiting list to be one of her students, with many names added to the list before they were born, Shawna’s included!

We talked with Jan, and met her daughter, Sheila, who would be a classmate.  The girls exchanged shy glances, as we adults visited. In just a few days, my daughter would be playing and learning alongside Sheila and other little ones.

The first day was August 26th – just a month after Shawna’s third birthday. She’d be one of the youngest in her class all the way through school! Hand in hand, mother and daughter walked down those stairs – again! At the bottom, she was greeted by Jan, and entered that magical wonderland for children. Several others were already there and the play had begun in earnest! It was evident the first day would be a good one as excitement filled the room, and the sound was so sweet!

I waited a minute or two, just to see that Shawna was okay, then quietly slipped up the stairs. My little girl was playing with other kids, and somewhat oblivious to my departure. I knew she was in good hands, and hadn’t wanted any of the expected tears as I left, but halfway up the stairs, I heard her! “Mommy,” she hollered from the bottom of the stairs! I stopped in my tracks.  Busted! When I turned around, though, I saw our sweet little girl with a smile from ear to ear! “Bye, Mommy,” she said, then she ran off to play with her new friends.

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I continued up the stairs and out the door with a lump in my throat as big as Alaska, and tear-filled eyes which tell the story many other moms can echo. It was the beginning of a letting-go process all parents know well!

A few months later, Jan hosted an open house for the students and their families. Shawna was so proud of what she’d been doing at school and couldn’t wait to give a grand tour.  Her grandparents and young uncle accompanied us.  Many little hands were holding bigger hands, leading them from corner to corner excitedly sharing about their school.  Jan visited with adults, but especially connected with ‘her kids.’  Jan had met my husband and I, but as we approached, I intended to introduce her to Shawna’s other guests. But that didn’t happen!  “Jan,” Shawna said excitedly,” this is my grandma, my grandpa, and my Uncle Jon!” Oh my goodness, when had this little girl grown up? Look out, world – here she comes!

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It was thirty-two years ago I started letting go of this articulate, polite, growing-up-way-too-fast, three-year old! Today, she’s the one who greets ‘her kids’ on those all-important first days, and she’s the one who offers a quick all-knowing wink to the parents as they turn and walk away with lumps in their throats as big as Alaska! She’s also the one who holds a special spot in the hearts of former students, and their parents, as they do, in hers!

First Things First!

When preparing for our ‘first’ Bible study of this new series, I was reading – both in my Bible, and in a plethora of research books and commentaries I have.  Having led studies for several years, this is not a new thing to me, but this particular study is without a study guide, per se!  No ‘fill-in-the-blank’ book for participants to complete and discuss. No leader’s guide for me to ask probing questions of those in attendance. Just the Word of God!  And, that’s perfectly alright by me, but it DOES lead the leader to be a bit more aggressive in preparing to lead!

About six months ago, I was asked to consider leading a chronological study of the Bible.  I said yes, but then started trying to find a plan – one of those ‘fill-in-the-blank’ books I was just describing!  Ha!  Nothing found!  So…Plan B was….”Yes, I’ll do it, but I suggest we start with the New Testament.”  Somehow I thought that might be easier.  And, it was.  It went well.  We all learned a lot – myself included!  But, now, we’re on to the Old Testament, and just beginning it.

If you’re one who grew up in church, or even – if not – you are probably well aware of the first things written in the Bible.  “In the beginning…”  The first few chapters are FILLED with FIRSTS!  We all know that!

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There was the first creation, which just by itself brings a LOT of firsts!  EVERYTHING created was a first!  First day. First night. First sun. First moon. First plant. First animals. First land. First water. First fish. First bird. And, I could go on and on.  Genesis is full of firsts!  We’ve learned about all of them in Sunday school, had stories read to us about them, sang songs about them, colored pictures about them…

But, my thoughts went a bit deeper.  Because the creation story and Noah’s escapades are so familiar to many of us, and because – when studying such a familiar passage – we sometimes just skim and think, I’ve heard all this before, I decided to challenge the ladies in my group to tell me one thing they discovered that they hadn’t known before. It was great – they came up with several!  (Give it a try…I challenge you to do the same!)

Our plan that first session was to cover Genesis chapters 1-8.  So, with my brain on overdrive, I challenged myself while I was preparing for that first session.  I started noticing all the obscure firsts!  And, there are many!

I shared my lengthy list with the ladies!  And, after we wrapped up the study that night, there were even a few more we had added to it.  Just for grins and giggles, I’ll share my list with you.

The ‘less-than-obvious’ Firsts in Genesis 1-8:

The first creation (with all that entails)!

The first sin, the first lie, and the first disobedience!

The first shame, and the first guilt!

The first narcissist (and the second, too!), and the first ‘blame-game’ ever played!

The first disappointment, and the first broken heart  (NLT says God’s heart was broken in Genesis 6:6)!

The first punishment!

The first earthly family – the first birth, the first child/ren!

The first sacrifice given to God!

The first attitude, the first pride, and the first ‘second chance’ (God kind of gave a second chance to Cain to rethink his sacrifice, but he chose not to do so)!

The first person to obey God (Abel sacrificed his BEST)!

The first anger, the first retaliation, and the first murder (which actually resulted in another first – the first death)!

The first mention of someone having a close relationship with God (5:22-24; 6:9) — that’s what I want to be said of me, one day – that I had a close relationship with God!

The first roundup – as a rancher’s daughter, I’ll admit, I’m thinking outside the box here, but…head ’em up, move ’em out!  Or, move ’em IN the ARK, Noah!

The first construction project, the first blueprint (!), and the first boat!

The first polygamist (Lamech — and he went from A to Z in his wives)!

The first rain, and the first rainbow (after the first flood)!

The first harvest!

And finally, the first mention of seasons!

Whew!!!  I love that the scriptures are fresh, and new, and full of more than a superficial glance would render! That’s quite a list of firsts but I’m sure there are more! Here’s your challenge for the day – read Genesis 1-8 and look for more ‘less-than-obvious’ firsts to add to my list!  Share your finds by replying in the comments!  And….GO!

Contagious Wellness

There’s more to life than eating!

I think I just learned that!

Eating and entertainment used to be synonymous.  Our social life – such as it was – involved food!  My husband and I would meet friends for dinner.  We’d invite the kids and grandkids over, and we’d eat.  We’d call and meet at our favorite pizza place.  We’d stop by some local spot for supper on the way home from work because we had a busy evening planned. Life, it seemed, revolved around food!

But, we have changed our focus!  And, we have dropped, between the two of us, nearly 80 pounds on a journey to wellness!  More importantly than the 80 pounds we’ve lost is the mindset we’ve gained!

Life is NOT all about food!  In fact, oftentimes, food gets in the WAY of life.  It can be debilitating! Seriously! How many times have you found it difficult to paint your toenails, or tie your shoes – especially after a much-too-big meal?  Don’t tell me that’s never happened to you!

If your metabolism is your friend, and your genes are your friend (which means your jeans are your friend, too), then count your blessings and humor me as I write for those of us for whom genetics or habits (or the combination) cause a lifetime struggle with weight!

Look around yourself when you’re at the store next time – you’ll see that more and more of us who fit in that category, and struggle to fit into clothes!  Judging by some I’ve seen, many DON’T fit into them well enough to be seen in public, but they’re there, anyway! Unashamed, no less! LOL & SMH here!

Then, there are others of us who ARE ashamed, and hide from cameras, don’t look in mirrors as we pass, and do our best to camouflage by wearing layers, or bulky sweatshirts, hoping no one sees that every seam UNDER all the layers is bulging! Strike a chord with any of you???

I’m thankful to be on a journey toward wellness!  And, lookout – it’s contagious!  Contagious wellness – I love that phrase!  I’m thankful to have encouraged others to begin the same journey toward wellness – just as I’m thankful for those who have encouraged my husband and I!

It’s been said it takes a village to raise a child, well sometimes, it would seem, it takes a village to change well-ingrained habits!  Thankful for our village! Thankful for our journey toward wellness! Thankful for new habits! Thankful for success! Thankful to know – after all these years – that life does NOT need to revolve around food!

I’ve GOT THIS!  We’ve GOT THIS!

A Frozen Fiasco

Spring thaws and heavy rains would often cause the winding creek to overflow its banks, making it necessary for the county to pour a concrete high water bridge on this rarely traveled road. The concrete allowed local traffic to ford the creek and continue on their way – unless, of course, the mud made the road impassable!  No one lived on that road, and very few vehicles were on it, but the creek provided a great place for trail rides! Our neighbors would often  see deer nestled down in the underbrush, or squirrels scampering from tree to tree overhead while riding their horses through this area. Today was no different!

It was a chilly day in early March, as the sunshine was trying to bring some welcome warmth to the earth.  It had been a long winter, and at the first hint of Spring, our neighbors decided to saddle up some of their horses for a trail ride.  They enjoyed sharing their horses and invited my guys to join them on today’s ride.

Though we lived in the country, we didn’t have horses – until recently! Our 16-year old son, Travis,  worked out a deal to buy our neighbors’ adopted Mustang, Cherokee.  Travis had learned a lot about horses from Bruce and Bev, and seemed to be a natural.  He had a keen understanding for horses, and a natural ability to work with and train horses.  He’d been working with Cherokee a lot at home, and spent almost as much time on horseback as anywhere else!

My husband was riding one of our neighbors’ horses – Lad – their much-loved, older horse which was often the one they picked for a novice rider like Jim.  He was their biggest horse, and was both trustworthy and mild-mannered. With horses saddled, they headed out for a trail ride along the creek. It was a trail they took many times with their horses.  The horses were familiar with this  trail.

It hadn’t been a very wet winter, but the creek was almost up to the top of the concrete, and part of the road had washed out near the concrete’s edge.  As Lad followed the other three, he got too close and his back leg slipped off into the creek!…followed quickly by the rest of him!  Jim quickly scrambled off, and hollered at the others for help.  Lad’s front feet, and belly were on the concrete, but his back legs were dangling off the bridge, into the water.  Not a good position for a horse.

The scene was intense.  Lad was in distress, and the longer he was stuck, the worse it got.  He was in real danger of not surviving, with his breathing becoming shallow and labored, and his eyes becoming glassy.  They couldn’t push his front end off the concrete, because a t-post was in the way – his rump was up against the creek bank.  They had no time to get help.

All the coaxing in the world didn’t help.  Lad was stuck!  With his rump against the creek bank, a t-post prevented them from pushing his front end off the concrete.  Bruce, an amputee with an electronic prosthetic leg, couldn’t get in the water.  If Lad didn’t get free soon, he wouldn’t survive, so Travis jumped in the thigh-high frigid water and worked to free Lad.  After many attempts, he was finally able to pull one of Lad’s legs up, and put it on the concrete, but one leg remained.  Travis squatted down again in the now murky, and increasingly cold, water to pull on his other hoof. It was an exhausting, and dangerous task.  Lad was a big horse, and an old horse. Finally, though, Lad lay on his side on the concrete bridge.  Wet.  Cold.  And, nearing exhaustion.  Travis was in much the same condition.  For a few minutes, the thankful riders just sat, realizing just how close to disaster they had been.

With Bruce leading the way on his horse, the other three followed behind, leading their horses back to the barn where Lad would surely get some extra pampering! Travis, was thoroughly soaked and with every step, his wet socks squished inside his wet boots.  Finally, his cold feet would no longer let him walk, so he climbed on Cherokee for the rest of the way.

Somehow, the trail ride hadn’t been all they had anticipated.  But, they were all thankful for the outcome! Travis was exhausted, but grateful he was able to save his four-legged friend. This day could have ended much differently had it not been for the cool head, quick thinking, and persistence of one young man. He, too, got some extra pampering once he was home, by his thankful and proud mom – me!

Riding the Wind

cropped-bike-and-trike.jpgHe’s on two and I’m on three,

Just as happy as we can be,

Sun on our back and wind in our face,

Riding together all over the place!

No more time sheets – no alarms!

Praying God keeps us from harm.

He’s on two and I’m on three,

Doin’ life together – it’s how it should be!

I wrote this little ditty (above) while riding my Kawasaki trike down the highways across this great land.  I choose not to listen to the radio while riding; instead I use it as “think time!”  (Sometimes, though, I wish I had the ability to record my thoughts – can’t always remember after I get to a pen and paper!)

It was about ten years ago when my husband really got into riding a cycle – again! It’d been something he enjoyed earlier in life, but he didn’t have the money for a ‘nice’ bike, so didn’t go far from home.

Then came kids, and school, and sports, and homework, and life itself! Not much time as a young dad to do what he so enjoyed. But, as we have grown older, there’s more expendable income to buy more boy toys, and he’s thoroughly enjoyed the wind in his face as he rides – thoroughly relaxing as he goes!

After he bought his first ‘touring’ bike, he kept inviting me to go along. “No!” I told him! I was older now (than when we used to ride together) and – if we wrecked, I’d likely break easier! Jokingly, I added, “You buy me a trike and I’ll go along with you!” So….he did! And I didn’t even have a license to ride a motorcycle! Had to get a permit, then learn how to maneuver a bike. Had to pass a written and an ‘obstacle course’ on my trike (which doesn’t maneuver quite as easily as a bike does!). But, I did it – and I was well into my 50s! Who’da thunk it??? Not me!

Just six weeks after getting my first trike – we rode all over the Ozarks — that beautiful area of NE Oklahoma and NW Arkansas. What fun!

Back home, we rode every chance we got.  I’m a bit more of a weather wimp than he is – he’s ridden at least once every month since he got his bike. But me? Well, I have to have mild weather – not too hot, not too cold! The coldest temp I’ve ever ridden in was a sunny, bright 45 degrees one December day a few years ago. It was beautiful, in comparison to the single digits and snowy days of the past few weeks, but I quickly found out that 45 degrees is NOT warm enough to enjoy the ride! Thought my chin would freeze solid and fall off!

We traveled to the Blue Ridge Parkway that next June and enjoyed a week-long adventure riding up and down that beautiful highway. Oh, the sights we saw! Memorable, for sure. We loved having two of my uncles and an aunt along with us for the ride, too. The five of us had a great time together and made lots of great memories.

The next summer, Jim and I took off for an adventure in the Black Hills and the Badlands. We saw wildlife, and both God-made and man-made wonders! Mt. Rushmore is breath-taking! I’d seen it as a young girl, but it was even more impressive now. And, Crazy Horse – wow!  We saw the unique Devil’s Tower. Majestic, standing alone, in the open grassland! One of the great creative touches of God!

After leaving the Tower that day, we rode north into the corner of Montana – just to say we’d been there. We rode hard in the overbearing sun, just to find out when we reached Spearfish SD that it was 108 degrees. That was definitely the high end of my weather wimp range! And, our trip home from there (we stayed in Custer SD) ended up being a one-day trip due to my mom’s failing health back home! THAT, was a LONG day! I don’t think I climbed back on my trike for several weeks after that day!trike

I’ve traded trikes a couple times – now have a new one, built to our specs. Our most recent LONG ride was to Cimarron NM, Taos NM, Salida CO, and many other places in that region. Oh my goodness! Beauty abounds there, too.

It’s been a wild ride – lots of wild rides, actually. But, it’s been a new adventure and one I have enjoyed! Doin’ life together!

“When do I ‘arrive’?”

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“When do I arrive?”

It was a question I struggled with. I was a young wife and mother – well, not real young – but just not feeling like I was where I wanted to be in my Christian walk. Nothing was wrong with it, I just wanted more. I wondered, when do I get to the point of being the woman God wants me to be?  When do I arrive?

So, I asked that question of a woman I’d grown to love, admire, and respect. In my youthful mind, I looked at this special friend as if she had already ‘arrived!’

She was so giving and hospitable, such an encouragement to others, and so affirming to younger Christian women. That’s what led me to ask her the question.  If anyone would know, she would.  I was eager to grow, but how would I know when I got there?

Her answer was short and sweet – much like she was! “You don’t EVER arrive,” she responded.

In the years since, her words have proven to be true.  “Christianity is a continuous growth process,” she had said. How true that has been.  I’ve seen it in myself, and in others. And, oh, what a blessing!  I’m glad Christianity isn’t a stagnant, boring, life.  I’m glad I won’t ‘arrive’ this side of eternity with Him!

Many years after that conversation, I continue to be thankful for the influence of this Godly woman, and many others who have walked alongside me.  May their jewels be many, as they walk with their Father on streets of gold.

Launching with Faith

What if the alarm doesn’t go off, and we don’t make it to the church in time to drop off our daughter for the mission trip?  It was an early morning departure time, and we had an hour drive to even get there, so our alarm was set much earlier than usual.  We would have to leave our house at 4:30am.

God heard my unspoken request, and awakened me two minutes before the alarm went off!  How’s that for a heavenly wake up call?  Thank you, Lord.

It was hard to let our teenager leave for another country!  Even harder than watching her ride away on the school bus ten short years ago. But I know God’s got plans for her, and He’ll use this trip to strengthen her spiritually.

I trust Him, but that still doesn’t make it easy – especially when five minutes before her departure, surrounded by other parents dropping off their sons and daughters, she looks up at me with tears filling her eyes and a quivering chin.  “Mom, I really don’t want to go!”  Oooooh!   How hard it was to hold back my own tears.  “It’ll be okay, Hon,” I say, as I’m praying silently that it really will!

The last minute jitters were getting her.  I wonder if the same thing will happen when she goes off to college?  Or when her dad’s ready to walk her down the aisle?  I guarantee this, her parents will react the same!  Tears welling, words of encouragement offered, and silent prayers that it’ll really be okay! Trusting our daughter to God!

Later that day, my nap was over, and I’d estimated where the kids would be by now on their way to the border. The phone rings – it’s our pastor, just checking to see if I’d been crying! He knows me too well!

My first tears had come when we headed home, just knowing she was heading the opposite direction, with kids she didn’t know, and even leaders she didn’t know very well.  And, hoping she wasn’t crying, too.  But, as I plotted their course, I was reminded that wherever they were, God was with them and was protecting them.

Then, after talking with our pastor, our ‘special needs’ cat came up to me.  Seriously,  she IS a special needs kitty — born with crippled legs, blinded eyes, and many other infirmities.  She rubbed against my leg, and looked up at me with her watery eyes, and let out her pathetic meow as if to say “I miss her, too!”

Please Lord, stay close to our daughter.  Refresh her and let her really grow close to you and strong in her faith.  Protect her and give her a wonderful week of memories. And, bring her back safely! Amen.

Prologue:  He did!