Posted in Christian, family matters, Farm life, Minsitry, Motherhood, Parenting, Writing

If Chestnut Trees Could Talk Week 3

 

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Many times when you plant a young tree you stake and tie it, so it has a support system for growth, but a Chestnut Tree shouldn’t be staked and tied when it’s newly planted unless it has an immature root ball.  A Chestnut Tree needs the movement to grow. When a Chestnut Tree sways in the wind, it stimulates its roots to grow, and also allows the trunk to become thicker at the base. This movement creates a healthy tree.

This brings us to the third thing the Chestnut Tree wants to tell us:

 

III.  When planted if a Chestnut tree is tied and staked tight, it will never grow roots and a trunk that can weather the storm.

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My son Nick came home from FSU for Christmas break, not looking healthy. He’d lost weight, and his eyes sunk deep into his pale face. Each morning, he headed out the door and didn’t return until late. Everything in my Momma body screamed something was not right. One afternoon, I received a text from his roommate’s mother, who was hosting a brunch for all his high school friends.

“Nick brought me flowers but didn’t stay for the brunch. He didn’t look good. I hope everything is alright.”

That night, I texted him demanding he come home immediately. I met him outside and he followed me in.

“Sit” I pointed to a dining chair across from me. I leaned over. “What’s your GPA?” I said.

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His eyes teared up. “I don’t have a GPA, Momma. I received a call on the way to the brunch. I’m on academic suspension for a semester.” He spilled the whole story. He couldn’t handle the 16 hours I made him sign up for in his freshman year. He found himself buried after the hurricane when a week of makeup work was piled on top of his regular week, which started a cherry-picking of which class he’s doing well enough to skip, in order to catch up in another. He’d always been good at school, and now he sat across from me with his tail tucked between his legs. He was having an identity crisis.

“I stayed up all night studying and vomited on test days. I panicked and then I made stupid mistakes, like forgetting to email my speech to my professor, which earned me a 0 on the whole project.” He shrugged. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

I recalled a conversation with my husband Jay, during Nick’s senior year.

“I’m concerned life’s been too easy for Nick,” I said. “He’s never failed at anything. He’s always been a good student, good at computers and editing, he’s talented in art, he picked up a guitar and learned how to play. Everything he touches turns to gold. I’m scared when he does fail, he’s not going to know how to recover.”

“He’ll be fine,” Jay said.

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I’ve gone over and over in my mind the picture of my boy. I think of mothers who have heard worse news from their boys, like the parents who showed up for parent’s weekend only to find their son died the night before from alcohol poisoning. This could be so much worse.

He hung his head and promised to pay us back. “Maybe I’ll just quit college and work for Dad, I can learn the business.”

“No, you’re not. You’ll untuck your tail and try again. Look, I can handle bad grades. I’m not happy about it, and we did lose money, and I’ll admit I’m a bit embarrassed to tell family and friends, but that’s just my pride and money can be replaced.” I reached for his hand. “To be honest, I’m relieved it’s not something worse.”

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Life is messy. Sometimes, we have to flap in the wind to learn how to weather the storms.

My son is flapping in the wind like those Chestnut trees on the farm. He’s learning how to weather the storms of failure, criticisms, and a confidence beating, but the roots of humility, perseverance, and faith will spread. His trunk will strengthen. Too often as parents, we tether our children too tight to our aprons strings, and they never learn coping skills. The best lessons we can teach is how to turn to God when they’re in trouble, and how to learn from failure.

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Nick is reading Discerning God’s Will, by Richard Case and journaling. It is a crash course on hearing God’s voice. He is on academic suspension until summer, when he will start again with a clean slate.

“I’ve been praying about my degree. I pray a lot in the car. God will show me what to do, for now, I volunteered to work for a guy starting an oyster business,” he said.

He also has an interview with the city of Tallahassee to volunteer for several organizations this Friday and is re-thinking a business degree.

“Would you guys be okay, if I just pursued my passion in Marine Biology?” Something, Jay and I talked him out of. (Momma has had to take some responsibility. No judging. I’m a work in progress.)

Nick is spending a semester spreading roots and growing a thick trunk so he can bear fruit no matter what storms come along.

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What about you? Do you see failure as hopeless? Or do you see it as an opportunity for growth and change?  Next week the Chestnut tree wants to tell us what protects them until they are ready to nourish others. Have a great week!

 

Posted in Art, Christian, History, Minsitry, Parenting, Women

Feeding the Artist

Sometimes inspiration hits me in the shower. I will see a face on the glass door as the water droplets fall. I draw the face in with my finger. I’ll be “painting” as the water turns cold, and my hair unwashed. Here, I thought of an idea for a painting. I titled it “Hope in Christ”. It was one of my sister’s favorites. Today, I look back at it and think I’ve improved so much since then. When I told Jay where I got my inspiration, he replied, “I wouldn’t go around telling anyone that honey.” Oops… the cat’s out of the bag!
When you switch from writing to painting to interior design, your brain gets pretty fried. Throw in a baby, two teenagers, a 10 year old, and a husband who travels, and you’ve got yourself one big mess…me.
Last week, I exclaimed to my hubby, “I must feed the artist! I need a big feed soon…a feeding frenzy!” Jay promised a trip to The Art Institute of Chicago soon, and I am salivating.
There is a daily process beyond the shower for me. Since my creative juices have been low, I thought I would list what works for me, in the hopes of hearing what works for any of you creative types out there.
1. Spend Time with Your Creator.
If I don’t work on this relationship and spend time with God I get dry in spirit. Dry in spirit makes grumpy girl. I get short with the boys, frustrated with baby, and ugly with husband. Then, guilt rolls in, and there is nothing worse for the creative mind. My quiet time breaks down the walls of self-doubt and insecurities, because I know God is backing me. I feel empowered. He gives me the nudges to write that scene I was struggling with, or later as I’m painting He helps me with the stroke of the brush. He is the Supreme Artist. Why not spend time with him?

2. Dump the Bad Stuff.
We all carry around negative or distracting thoughts in our brains. My brain doesn’t work creatively when I carry this stuff around. In the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, she points out a practice of writing three pages before you begin any creative project. Three pages of sheer dumping. For example, “Why must I pick up the dirty socks and underwear of four men in this house!” or “Bella’s out of diapers.” That’s dumping. You never have to look at it again. To be honest, I don’t have time to write three pages, or do this all the time, but there are days I try.
3. Feed the Artist Through Sensory Stimulation.
Once a week, I feed the artist. Feeding the artist can be as simple as taking a walk, visiting a museum, catching a show, noticing the architecture downtown, or trying a new restaurant. It involves using the senses, seeing colors, shapes, hearing new music, listening to people speak, smelling good food, coffee, or candles. You absorb like a sponge. If I want to remember something I see, I take a picture of it, and post it on my bulletin board.
4. Alone Time
My family knows Momma needs alone time. I’m blessed to have a studio in my home. I have two desks. One an antique, accounting desk I found on Craig’s List for $25 (what a steal!), and another a trestle table from my days managing Pier-One. My studio is the only white-walled room in my house. One wall is a huge chalkboard, where a historical timeline is scribbled on. Above my desk is my inspiration boards, one for my writing and one for the farmhouse we are building. My easels and paints are here as well. This is a television-free zone, for t.v. is a time sucker and kills creativity. Even if you haven’t the space for a studio, a spare closet, corner in your kitchen, or even a comfy reading nook would do. Make it yours.
When that door is closed the boys know there better be a fire before they knock, for Momma’s having her alone time in her thinking factory.
I take myself out to lunch on occasion. Some are uncomfortable eating alone, but I enjoy it. I people watch, stare out the window, and just be. Today, I am at our local Barnes and Nobles with a coffee, and have to say lunch items are slim pickings for gluten-free people.
Another alone time is bike riding. Jay bought me a cellphone taser, for my alone rides to Disney, so I can shock that abductor, he knows will steal me away. I have imagined how this will play out…. “Wait Mr. Kidnapper Goofy, I need to make a quick call before you take me!” ZAP!
5. Work on Core Relationships
This means I regularly date my husband and children. Tonight, Jay and I are going out, albeit he doesn’t know this yet. Some Fridays I call him up and say “Hey baby, I had a minute to wash my hair… let’s go out and celebrate!”
We have family night every weekend. We go out as a family, or we rent a movie and get take-out.
Working on your core relationships is important. It keeps tabs on your children and your husband, if you worry about them, you will be unable to ponder much else.
6. Change of Environment.
There are times I have to get out of Orlando. It is a great place to live, but I have my days. When Orlando gets old, we head to the farm. In the summer, when most are heading to the beach, I long for the mountains. When I can, I try to tag along with Jay to the cities and absorb all it has to offer. Haven’t done this yet since Bella, but the promise of Chicago is looming in the near future.
7. Classical Music or Jazz Music
I can credit my Momma for this one, if it wasn’t 70’s playing through the stereo growing up, it was Classical. I can’t paint or write listening to music with words, and since I’m writing about the American Revolutionary War, classical music does well to get me there in my mind.
This has been a source of amusement for my siblings, each Christmas we have a sibling dinner, and exchange prank gifts. Due to Tricia’s passing, we didn’t exchange gifts last Christmas. The previous year, Tracey and Brandon gave me incense, and an Indian music CD to inspire me as I write about my Cherokee. You may wonder what my sister gave me? Those who watched the memorial service will get this…she gave me sticks…again!
8. Visit another era.
This one works for me because I’m writing historical fiction, but whatever you are creating, you can find inspiration by reading. Reading opens the imagination.
You can also visit another era by touring a historical city. This is easy for me because my family lives near Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.
“I think I was born in the wrong era.” One day, I told my husband. “I honestly see myself in the colonial period living in the big house on a plantation. My ancestors were plantation owners in Virginia, so it must be in my blood.”
He gave me the look, and said, “Where do you see me as your house boy making sure your fire is hot?”(We are a bi-racial couple, and he’s a naughty…naughty boy.)
Let’s be clear, slaves were not on my plantation.
So often I hear, I haven’t a creative bone in my body, but I argue everyone is creative. You are made by the Master Artist and in His image, so by default you are creative. I would love to hear anyone else’s process. If you’re brave enough to share, post in the comments.

Posted in Christian, family matters, Minsitry, Motherhood, Parenting, Women

The Man in the Stilettos

“We’ll call ourselves ‘Starfish Sisters’.” My friend Heather said over lunch. “You know after the Starfish story.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uytlJ8urv4I (Click the link for the starfish story.)
That was how it began, about thirty Momma’s and Grandmomma’s coming together to make a difference in the world, or at least, at a charity in Orlando, Florida. Heather sent us an assignment, we hired a babysitter, and went to work.
One of our first assignments was for a charity called Mending Hearts, owned by a powerhouse named Stephanie Richards. I was pumped and ready to go. The assignment? Clean a house and get it ready for a family. I could do that! I had three boys, I was over-qualified for this assignment.
When we arrived, sinister-looking men lurked in the shadows, one ducked behind a tree. I wanted to yell, “I see you!,” as if it were a game of hide and seek, instead my eyes darted warily at our spectators.
An older “sister” grabbed my arm, “Tammy, don’t be afraid of them. We have God with us.” I raised my chin a notch. I wanted to yell it. “Yo Yo You wantta mess with me. I got God with me! Come try and see what happens!”
Inside, we found Stephanie on her knees scrubbing the floor. She was dirty, her blonde hair hung down into her eyes, but she smiled, for the calvary arrived.
Let’s just say here, crack houses are disgusting. There was feces among other unmentionables on the floor, windows, and walls.
By that afternoon, the walls had a fresh coat of paint, and the house was almost ready for a single mother and her children, once the fumes from the bleach cleared out. We were packing up to leave when Stephanie received word another house of hers, was set on fire by it’s former occupants. She laughed and said, “This is what I deal with all the time.”
“Why would you chose to do this?” I asked. It seemed not only exhausting but deflating as well. She explained, lower-income families slipped through the cracks of our society. They feel defeated even though they work just as hard. By providing a fixed rent, furnishings, utilities, and childcare, Mending Hearts sealed those fissures and provided a solid foundation where children grew up with stability. Stephanie required her renters to work, which helped parents maintain their self-worth, and their children grew up understanding a work ethic.
I admired Stephanie. She was the old man throwing the starfish back into the sea, while I was the boy asking what’s the point?
Another assignment for the Starfish Sisters was to collect personal products, organize them in bins, and hand them out at the homeless shelter downtown. The big day came, and I was manning the toothpaste distribution, when a man with green eyes and eyeliner, stumbled in his stilettos past my table, for a fourth trip. I was indignant. He was breaking the rules!
“Excuse me sir! Excuse me! You have gone through my line three times already, and the rule is you are only allowed once.” I motioned to an employee, “He keeps coming through the line. This is his fourth time!” I was the toothpaste police, and would not allow anyone to have more than their share.
He didn’t deny it, and nodded as the employee took him aside as I felt good about the job I was doing.
When we were cleaning up a deaf couple ran up with their two children, one in a stroller and the other around four years old. They signed frantically that they were there to get personal products, and I grabbed a bag and ran through each station dumping all that was left in their bag. My heart went out to these people and their situation.
Later, I had lunch with them, and in my best sign language asked them if their son could hear. They nodded ‘yes’ he could. I looked across the table at this little boy who grunted and pounded the table for more cake, but his parents couldn’t hear him. I slid a piece towards him, and his smile stretched from ear to ear.
That night, as I lay in bed the little boy’s grunt still rang in my ears. What kind of future would that child have if he never heard language?
The next month, I couldn’t work with the Starfish Sisters, for Momma was coming to visit. Daddy was flying to Orlando while Mom was taking the train. (She’s petrified of flying.)
I arrived at the train station early to pick her up. I double checked to ensure my SUV was locked before walking into the open air station. Sitting on a bench, I took in my surroundings. Piles of trash and leaves were on the floor. The dank odors of trash hung in the air.
Alone, I was in a vulnerable position. The train station was not located in a nice part of town, anyone could walk up behind me and put a gun to my skull. I clutched my designer purse tight against my chest and kept an eye on both doors.
It was then, someone started snoring. I jumped off the bench, ready to run for it, but stopped…
I recognized those shoes.
His stilettos were cast aside on the floor beside him. It wasn’t just Louis and I in the train station that day.
I sat and studied him.
His mascara was smeared under his eyes. He was lanky and long, with fingernails painted bright red. His lips were still stained from the lipstick he wore the night before.
I listened to the rhythm of his breathing. A maternal love filled me for this bi-racial man, for I was raising bi-racial men of my own. I wondered what his mother was like, or if he even had one. I longed to wake him and ask “What happened to you? Tell me your story!” But I lacked the courage. I hadn’t the courage to tell this beautiful twenty-something boy ‘Somebody loves you’.
For thirty minutes, I watched him sleep. He was peculiar, and although I knew he was far from innocent, he appeared to be curled up on a bench too small for his frame. He tugged his filthy blanket up around him, and switched sides.
Ashamed,I glanced away. Was toothpaste really all that important? I questioned why was I willing to dump tons of supplies in a deaf couple’s bag, yet I embarrassed this boy for going through the line as many times as he could.
I repented and prayed God would intervene in his life, and someone with more courage than I would come along and tell him Jesus loved him.
The train rolled in interrupting my reverie, and I stood to greet my mother. Once we collected her baggage, and re-entered the waiting area, I looked around for him, but he and his stilettos were gone. My chance to help save a starfish disappeared.
Later, I realized if he awakened he would have seen the toothpaste police clutching her purse to her chest. Who am I to think he’s peculiar? I am just as peculiar as he for what I held tight…what I valued enough to protect.
Before my sister Tricia died she said, “We worry about so many things that don’t really matter in the end.” Wisdom comes to those who taste death. Name brands, getting into that smaller size (loosing those baby pounds ugh!), our titles at work, impressing others with our cars, houses, bodies, and selfies, take our focus away from God and others, and places it on ourselves. People are mourning, feeling inadequate, rejected, scared, unattractive,and unloved.
Life is too short. Those things we hold so tight don’t really matter, so let them go, for how else will you be able to get your hands dirty picking up something (or someone) that does?

Please note: Mending Hearts needs your help. Stephanie Richards has been fighting Orange County for her tax exempt status. If you can give anything at all please click the link below to read about her situation further. Thank you.
http://www.gofundme.com/n4s2kk

Posted in Christian, family matters, Parenting

The Gene Pool

Since Tricia passed away, and my days are consumed with caring for Isabella, memories of our childhood, seem to find their way into my thoughts. A time when Brandon, Tricia, and I, thought we were invincible, and live at least until 100. As children, Tricia and I promised each other when our husbands died, we’d live out our days together. We weren’t planning on murdering them, it just never occurred they may outlive us.
I am convinced our family had more guardian angels than most. This is not a prideful statement, for we just required more to stay alive. Trouble came natural to us. In order to prove this, I must point to the providers of our genes.
Daddy liked to ride storms as a boy, just as he saw the storm clouds rolling in, he picked the tallest tree he could find and climbed to the top. He rode that thing until the storm passed. He said tropical storms provided the wildest ride.
“I climbed a cedar tree on Chestnut Street and landed on North.” He once told me, which should be the first line of his memoirs.
Momma slept with her Sally. She grabbed Sally when the neighbor’s chickens started eating her azalea bushes. Screaming, I wrapped my legs and arms around her thigh, begging her not to shoot those precious chickens. She stretched out her leg like a tripod, aimed, and shot. Those chickens were perfectly aligned and one bullet swiped the heads off both. This is no fabrication, it was a blood bath. Those chickens were bumping into each other with no heads, and blood was spurting everywhere.
“Well, that serves em right.” she said as she brushed past me.
I never looked cross at Momma again.
We loved to climb trees. Tricia climbed a tree once and got stuck at the top, and Brandon climbed up to get her unstuck. We each claimed a tree in our yard. Tricia’s was a small dogwood (the lame one because she didn’t’ want to get stuck again) Once, I climbed my tall tree. I told Brandon, “Go get Momma” for I was proud and wanted a reaction from that lady. The top of the tree swayed in the wind and I wrapped my legs and arms around it. Mom came out of the house and looked up.
“Tammy you are high! You be careful coming down now!” She said, before going back into the house.
I realized then, she was a woman of great faith.
One dog day of summer, my cousin Linda and I decided to bleach our hair and ride the Sows at the same time. We poured on the peroxide, and climbed over the hog fence.
Linda stood in the middle of those huge beasts, and clapped her hands and screamed.
“Suey… Suey… Suey!”
They ran straight towards me, and as the stampede approached I crouched and lunged for them. I didn’t gain many feet, but did gain a peculiar odor to go with my beautiful platinum highlights.
While we’re on hogs, Brandon showed hogs for the 4-H Club. When he stepped up to show his hog, a runaway ran out squealing and landed between his legs. (ouch) He rode that hog backwards holding onto to it’s rump around the ring.
The crowd went wild. Mom and Dad were so proud. They stood and clapped for him as if it deserved an encore. The judges gave him a little extra money in his envelop for the entertainment.
We loved animals. In the seventh grade, Coach Polk my Science teacher announced, “Tomorrow is small pet day, you can bring your small pets to class.”
Brandon, Tricia, and I looked for that snake for hours. Popped him in an old aquarium and gave him a name. Albert was a hit! I held him intertwined in my fingers, and each time I turned towards Coach Polk he jumped back. When he asked me how long he’d been my pet, I didn’t lie.
“About 18 hours, we found him around seven last night. He was in the wood pile under a log.”
“Weren’t your parents scared you’d find a poisonous one?”
I laughed for everyone knew what poisonous snakes looked like. Truth be told, it didn’t occur to us.
Speaking of pets, we had many. Momma brought home everything and made it a pet. She tried to catch a mouse in the churchyard one Sunday. She slipped off her sandals and ran through the grass chasing the thing, while the congregation cheered her on. She caught it. A minute later she screamed.
“The darn thing bit me!” she said. She decided that wouldn’t be a good pet.
Another time, she brought this unusual caterpillar into the house, and put it in a jar on her dresser. She wanted to look it up in the encyclopedia because she’d never seen this lime green variety. The caterpillar wanted to educate her himself. Let’s just say, her arm swelled terribly. She said that wasn’t a good pet either.
Trouble followed Tricia too. One day that trouble was a twister, it toppled a grain storage container (silo), before heading straight for Linda and Tricia, who decided it was a good idea to walk home in a storm. Tricia held onto her umbrella, and Linda held onto Tricia’s foot. Thank goodness Linda won that battle or Tricia could have landed in Oz.
I think we all enjoyed a good adrenaline rush, but Brandon became addicted in his twenties. He lived on a sail boat, flew planes, parachuted, scuba dived, etc, anything he could do to keep Momma on her knees, he did.
One Friday, he decided he was going to sail to Tangier Island and eat some crabs. He didn’t check the weather.
A North Eastern blew through.
There was still no word by Sunday morning, and Momma marched up during the altar call, and told the pastor what her son did .
That evening he came home. The waves were so high he had to tie himself to the boat, and vomited for two days. Needless to say, he didn’t eat any crabs.
On Brandon’s last parachute jump, he talked Thomas (Tricia’s husband) into going with him. A Navy Seal was on the plane and asked to go up another 1,000 feet. By the time they reached that height, it was getting dark. They jumped anyway. Brandon radioed down for the airport to turn on the landing lights, and the airport radioed back they wouldn’t work. Brandon and Thomas steered their parachutes as they were instructed from the ground to miss the electrical wires.
Later Thomas said, “Brandon’s crazy. He’s going to kill me.”
I say to Thomas there’s still time for that.
Another jump Brandon took without a parachute this time, was from the 58 Bypass bridge. This is the bridge in Suffolk to end all, if you know what I mean. The bottom of his feet turned black, he couldn’t walk for a week.
Under that bridge we had a rope swing. At night,we tied up the boats, climbed to the top, and swung from the bridge, as our bodies hit the surface of the Nandsemond, the water glowed with Phytoplankton.
We forgot about the glow of the Phytoplankton the same night we forgot our swim suits. Tricia, our friend Kim Standridge, and I decided to swim in our underwear. Thomas and our “brothers” (guys like brothers) stayed up on the boat, to give us our privacy. Thomas and Tricia were married soon after that.(wink)
My boyfriend at the time had a metal boat with a huge Johnson motor on the back, when you started it up, the bow rose up out of the water. We loaded that boat up with friends and water bombs, we’d slip into the swampy reeds and surprise attack the other boats.
Once my Dad came down to the wharf, I put him in that boat and told him to hold on.
“Okay girl, show me what you got.” he challenged.
I put that boat on it’s side left and right trying to dump Dad into the Nandsemond. I was disappointed he still had a good grip.
We grew up around boats. Dad always had one. One hot Sunday after church we went out towards the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. A lightning storm came through, I had my hand hanging over the side of the boat and there was a huge flash and a hot pain seared through my arm. My scream scared Daddy gray. He scooped me up and put me in the bedroom below. It wasn’t a direct hit, but the lightning bounced off a crab pot next to us and grounded itself in my arm. That didn’t feel too good.
I was scared of lightning for years after that. That’s why I chose to move to the lightning capital of the world. I faced my fears.
My husband would tell you before children, I often faced those fears in the closet. You see, I no longer thought I was invincible. I miss those carefree years, simply because my sister was in them. Isabella will never know her Aunt Tricia except through the stories.
I know my niece, nephews, and children believe they are indestructible too. I can see it by their trouble. We parents call each other to brag about what they’ve done. It starts with, “You won’t believe what (niece or nephews) did.” Of course, I pretend I can’t believe it, but I can…I’m not a bit surprised, just look at their gene pool.

Posted in Christian, family matters, Minsitry, Motherhood, Parenting, Women, Writing

Sometimes God sends a Pig

In the hall, she laid heavy and limp on the tile floor, illuminated only by the light spilling from the bathroom. That is where the children found her. I was unloading bags from the car, when blood curdling screams made me drop everything and run.

“Don’t let my Mommy die Tammy!” Peyton said.  I will never forget the look on my niece’s face, as she looked at me for reassurance. Her little hands patting her mother’s still face.

I leaned her head back in Peyton’s lap and gave her mouth to mouth. She gasped, while her eyes rolled up into the back of her head. She was not coherent, but she would not die today.

As with all stories, they never begin at the climax, for this story started with a pig. I have come to realize through our fight with Breast cancer, when life gets so heavy and sad, sometimes God sends you a pig.

The night before her mishap, my son Christian was studying for a test on China. Tricia and I were cleaning up the dishes, while everyone lingered around the table. In his research, he discovered the Chinese Zodiac and asked what our birthdays were.

“Momma, you are a rooster. You are talkative, outgoing and entertaining. You like a neat house. You like to dress up and go out, but you can be blunt and vain.”

“I can’t get why people believe this stuff!” I said.

Tricia laughed at my denials. “What am I?” she said.

He scanned the page for her birthday. “You’re a pig!” Christian burst out laughing. “You are content and loyal. You face troubles calmly, but you like to wallow in your own mess.”

We laughed as Tricia tried denying she is a pig, but finally shrugged her shoulders and let out a snort.

The following afternoon after a meeting with Dr. Shah,  Tricia and I sat in an Italian bistro, over a spicy plate of pasta.

I leaned across the table. “The doctor’s not God.” I reminded her. “She doesn’t know the cancer will spread into your organs and bones. We must stay positive… stay the course.”

She nodded, while trying not to get emotional.

“Let’s just pretend we didn’t hear it…like it didn’t even happen,” I continued. “We’ll juice more, to boost your immune system. Vitamins…that’s what we’ll do. If she takes you off the chemo…oh well..” I shrugged, “we look at alternative treatments. I will find another doctor….Europe! Let’s go to Europe. I’m telling you, we will get this done. I feel good about it.”

She quietly listened to my ranting, as she cut up her pasta.

I used a spoon to swirl my pasta neatly onto my fork, while Tricia chopped hers, until the occasional piece she missed, which she slurped sloppily into her mouth. I giggled and she snorted.

After lunch, I dropped her off at home, and told her to have a good cry. I would not return with the children until after basketball, so she had time to get herself together before Peyton came home.

While at school, I paced the sidewalk praying.

“Tell me what to do now. What do I do?” I pleaded for answers. “How do I save her?”

I passed under the shade of a giant oak tree, over and over as I prayed. I took a breather and looked up to study the tree. It’s trunk was split down the middle from a lightening strike, and it’s root system was popped up over the ground, spreading several feet. It wasn’t a beautiful tree, but it produced many bright green leaves. The gnarly roots sprawled strong and vast, to help it weather a storm of significant magnitude.

It struck me, man did nothing to save this tree. God ordained it.

I had painted a tree like this before. The theme of the painting was a beautiful life can come out of disaster.

God also knows He needs to hit a rooster on the head for me to shut up… in Jesus name, and listen. It was then my phone buzzed, I checked my messages and found a post from my girlfriend Yvonne. It was a poster created at our school and it read, “My child, you worry too much. I’ve got this remember? Love God.”

I breathed. “Okay, you’ve got it.” I said out loud.

Just as I surrendered, I saw a pig. There was a pig face in that tree. I felt the stored up tension release, as I laughed. I took a picture of the pig to show Tricia when I returned home.

But…she was lying on the floor heavy and limp.

I rode in the ambulance with her. I watched through the mirror as my husband’s black car veered into a U-turn, and sped up with us. He texted me.

“I can see her through the window. She’s talking.”

When we arrived, I ran to the back as they unloaded her gurney.

“I’m here.” I said. “See me Tricia! I won’t leave you!”

By the time they allowed me to see her in the emergency room. I couldn’t breathe from crying. I saw her lying on the bed. Her head was swollen so high in the back, and she couldn’t remember a thing.

“Did I fall?” She repeated over and over. “I feel like I fell.”

But then…

“Hey Tammy! SNORT!

She did remember the pig.

There are times in life God knows, we need a pig.

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Posted in Christian, family matters, Minsitry, Motherhood, Parenting, Women, Writing

A Story from India



A few nights ago, I played old hymns on the piano as my boys nestled into bed.  As I played, each song brought a memory to mind. Some of them, my family would sing around the piano, while my mother pelted the keys, Brandon banged his drum set, Tricia shook her maracas, and I… well, for those of you who know this story, I had my sticks. (My mother gave me the sticks, while my siblings got the cool instruments at Christmas time.) My dad would proclaim proudly, “We are the Carters!” (meaning the Christian Griswolds) The windows were open for we had no air conditioning at the time. Begrudgingly, I hit my sticks, thankul we lived in the country, so no neighbors could hear us.

 

That night, I started playing a song I loved growing up, it was a Griswold favorite.

“Peanut, do you know this song?”

“No, Momma what’s it called?”

“I Have Decided to Follow Jesus,” I said.

“No, but I like it,” he answered back.

While Jay was working, I took a minute to look up the stories behind those old hymns. I was shocked to find “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”, was a song written in India, by an Indian family who decided to follow Christ.

I have a fondness and a curiosity for India. God has brought many Indian people into my life. For one, my sister- in -law Prem, who is a princess to me. She has this gentle feminine air about her, which makes me want to throw down my cloak over mud puddles, so her toes don’t get dirty. She wears flowers in her black hair at the beach, and drifts around in her pink tubby, while I am in complete snorkel gear rising up out of the deep, my hair coated with the green slime, I collected on my swim. We are complete opposites, my blood contains the savage sort, while her’s the exotic type. Somehow, though different Indian blood, we still fit, as sisters do.

I have several close Indian girlfriends as well, whom have opened their hearts to me. I don’t understand what they see in me, but they are a giving, gentle lot. They love to feed you their food and laden you with gifts at Christmas time. My friend Sanjita explains it is her culture, to feed those you care about. I’d be loving some Indian culture. Pass me a fork!

There is a little girl in India who has won my heart. Her name is Abilisha. We write each other regularly. She constantly pours the grace of God on me in her letters. What a cutie! The night I was playing this on the piano, I found a letter from her in my mailbox, along with a picture of her new rusty bicycle. Her smile could have lit up Disney World.

So, as I was reading the story of “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”. I thought all the while as a young girl singing this song with the Christian Griswolds, I didn’t know one single person from India, nor did I know the horrific story behind the song. Here it is….

 

One night, around 150 years ago, in a North East area of India called Assam, an ordinary man opened his door to an angry mob of villagers. He and his family were dragged into the town square. The tribe pointed their spears into their chests. Their anger was ignited by a change in their village. A change caused by a group of missionaries from Wales, who took a dangerous journey to bring the message of Christ to a corner of the world, where no one wanted to go, and only one family decided to follow Jesus.

I imagine the missionaries thought their efforts were in vain, yet one family started a movement throughout the tribe, that the elders did not like. They decided to make an example of this family, in the town square.

“Denounce your belief in Jesus and you will live,” the chief shouted. The man and his family began to sing.

“I have decided to follow Jesus.  I have decided to follow Jesus.  I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back….No turning back.”

They snatched his two boys from his arms and speared them through the heart.

As they fell writhing on the ground, the chief yelled. “Denounce Jesus or your wife will die.”

He and his wife sang.

“Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back. No turning back.”

They grabbed his wife and speared her. She fell alongside her boys.

“Denounce Jesus and you will live.”

The man sang.

“The world behind me. The cross before me. The world behind me. The cross before me. The world behind me. The cross before me. No turning back….No turning back.”

The man fell on top of the heap.

Although, tragic, the story did not end tragically.  The chief walked away, and began to think of the words of this Indian folk song. He thought about the sacrifice an entire family made for their belief. He and his elders began discussing this man called Jesus, soon all agreed to become followers of Christ. The story of Jesus spread throughout the entire village, and many fell to their knees before God. For one ordinary Indian man and his ordinary Indian family, made an unordinary decision to follow Jesus to death.

 

If you would like to hear the song, “I have Decided to Follow Jesus” Click the link below. I also found some special Indian ladies to sing it for you.

http://www.youtube.com/sajideepa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Christian, family matters, Minsitry, Parenting, Women, Writing

The Ladder of Hope

Jesus carrying cross
Image via Wikipedia

“Am I going to die?” His eyes filled with fear, as he searched those of the first responder.

“Yes, you are,” the firefighter said. “So, you better take this time to get everything right with Jesus.”

“They were supposed to find me in time,” he said between sobs. “ I was only trying to get my parent’s attention.”

The firefighter looked up from the blood pressure cuff he placed on the teen’s arm. “You succeeded. Without a doubt, you earned their complete attention now.” The firefighter loaded the boy onto a rolling gurney.

“I didn’t think Tylenol could kill a person…not really.” He broke down in tears as he he was loaded into the waiting ambulance. The man in uniform rubbed his eyes, watching the ambulance drive away.

Recently, that seventeen year old died in a hospital bed, in agonizing pain. All the hospital staff could do was administer morphine, and watch as he slipped away, behind a curtained partition. I am sure he had his parent’s complete attention.

I was sitting at dinner, when I heard the firefighter’s story, I shot him a look across the table, as if to say, how cruel to say that to a dying boy!  Shouldn’t you have calmed his fears, made him feel better about the situation he was in?

Yet, the more I considered this story, I realized the true story was not hidden in a Tylenol overdose, it lay not alongside a dying boy, it was not buried in the hearts of broken parents, but shined brightly through God’s grace.

It was no accident the first responder was a firefighter, for he fought a spiritual fire that night, and it was no accident this straight shooting Christian in uniform told the boy truth. Due to his political incorrectness or his not being ‘nice’, he was able to place God’s ladder of grace in front of a sad, dying boy, who just wanted some attention.

I don’t know how the boy used those remaining hours. My hopes are he grabbed hold of that blood stained ladder, and climbed up. If that be the case, how thankful he must be for a simple firefighter who responded first…first with truth.

“Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. For I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes unto the Father but by Me. If you had known Me, you would have known my Father also.”  John 14: 1-7a