Posted in Christian, Farm life, Women, Writing

I’m Full of Bull!

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At the farm, there’s a gentle bull in the pasture behind our house. Some mornings he’s standing there by the fence looking through the french doors at me. I step out onto the porch and sweet talk him. If we’re by the fence, he’ll trot over and without warning give you a lick across the face and neck with his enormous tongue.  It’s gross, but you can’t help but walk away feeling loved and a bit sticky. He’s a new Brahman bull the farm has acquired from a ranch in Texas.

While the other bulls buck each other over territory and food, he meanders away, not wanting to participate in the conflict. He not only stands out from the herd in behavior but in his appearance as well. He is pale in color and has an enormous hump on his back that looks burdensome and painful to carry.

            I’ve nicknamed him Ferdinand after the once controversial classic children’s story, The Story of Ferdinand the Bull, by Munro Leaf.  Ferdinand is a bull who’d rather smell flowers in the paddock than fight with the others. It’s a Bella fav.

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I find it intriguing how much we can learn from a bull. His breed is named after the Brahmins who were Hindu priests. It’s ironic considering the Brahman is looked upon as sacred in India, the Brahman breed is the largest source of meat for carnivores today. Due to their thick skin, they are resistant to extreme heat and pestilence. They also do well in extremely cold temperatures.

Traditionally, the Brahman bull is used in a sport called Bull-butting. It is a ferocious game between two bulls until one falls to the ground disabled or gives up and retreats. To prepare for their sport, their bodies are strengthened on a diet of milk and honey. It is beyond my comprehension how so many people enjoy watching sports involving hurting animals. If there’s one thing I would change about this world, it is purposely hurting the defenseless for pleasure, power, or convenience.

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Yet, we have become a world of bullies haven’t we? One can scroll through Facebook and find political rantings written in a way that shames those who have a different viewpoint on the matter.  It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything political or responded to anyone’s comments. God impressed upon me it’s not my place, for I’m His. He doesn’t want me to lose my clout by being a lout (sort of speak. I tried here.)  I’ve been obedient, but I admit, some days it’s not easy. I pursued a Political Science degree in college, and I was raised in a very political family that loves a good debate, but then there’s Jesus. He didn’t waste breath or influence on politics. Although He had the power to overthrow the Roman government, He used his energy and His influence on Kingdom work alone. I love that about Him!

 

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There is also body-shaming going on throughout social media. It’s another kind of bullying it’s just hidden under self-promotion. I was blessed to see what that does to a woman whose breast was chopped off, whose hair and eyelashes had fallen out, and who felt she lost everything that made her a woman. My sister Tricia died of breast cancer in 2014. One night, I found her sitting on the bed staring at a friend’s sexy pictures with tears in her eyes.

“She’s supposed to be a Christian,” she said. “Does she even know how this feels to someone like me?”

I snatched her phone away. “That’s it!” I said. “We’re having a friend deleting party!” I deleted all the women from her friend file who made her feel inadequate. You see, the enemy tried to use those pictures to steal her light, but he didn’t win.

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I say I am blessed to have witnessed this because it gave me a love for women and their struggles. I know the women who reveal their bikini-ready bodies, are not thinking about how this affects women who are hurting, women who can’t lose weight, women who are sick, women whose husbands find them unattractive, but I plead on their behalf that you remember to love them by considering their feelings. We need to be more outward- focused in a world focused inward.

On the flip side, we Christians have to stop being so easily offended. We tend to live with our hearts outside our chest, which causes them to get bruised and banged up. In defense, we want to stand up for ourselves or our Lord, while God is saying “it’d be better for you to get out of My way.” There have been times I’ve wanted to stand up for myself because I felt attacked or accused unfairly, but you know what? God’s got my back.

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We as Christians should carry our cross of self-denial like Ferdinand carries that large hump on his back. We should learn from a gentle bull not to bothered by the heat of politics or the pestilence of a self-obsessed culture. Just as he gives kisses to a carnivore like me, we should be willing to love those undeserving as well. When we see some bucking going on, it’s best to get out of the way and mind your own Kingdom-building business. The cold don’t bother Ferdinand, so don’t let the times people are cold bother you. Allow God to thicken up your skin and see yourself through His eyes.

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Momma often rolled her eyes and said “Bull!” when she felt we fed her a tall tale, or she used the cliche’ “He’s full of bull,” meaning he’s full of you know what (wink). I no longer subscribe to those cliches. Don’t go offending my bull now, Momma! In the case of Ferdinand, I hope someone thinks I’m full of bull, for he’s a bull with a lot of heart. See you soon Ferdinand.

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A Memoir from India

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I’m never one to read romance. There’s nothing wrong with romance, but if I’m going to take the time to read, it’s going to be something that will stay with me. I love the movie “You’ve Got Mail.” When Meg Ryan said, “You are what you read.” It was an aha moment for me, for I believe there’s some truth to that. So, if you get a book recommendation from me, it will be something I couldn’t put down, but will most likely fall into historical fiction, non-fiction, and memoir. They are my go to’s. This is a memoir.

I think too often we grow complacent here in the United States with our faith. I love to read soul stirring missionary stories, that remind us we serve a living God who performs miracles. This book is one of those stories. It is a book you will find hard to put down and reveals how God used this young woman’s childhood to prepare her to serve in the darkest places of India, and the miracles she witnessed by being obedient to the call. Check it out!

Posted in Christian, Christmas, Farm life, Minsitry, Women

The Two G’s: Grief and Gratefulness

Dear Sisters,
My sister Tricia Baines passed December 19, and the cows on the farm began dying by New Years. When the Baines family heard, they packed up and headed south to the farm to help out. By the time we arrived, over 100 cows were put down, and Thomas ( my brother-in-law), Caleb, and Peyton (their children) had been vaccinating, tagging, and hand-feeding the calves left without a mother. How ironic!
Peyton was feeding the last sick Momma cow by hand. When I heard the news, I prayed all the way to the farm God would heal that cow for Peyton’s sake. Although, one morning Peyton stated matter of fact, the cow was suffering and needed to be put out of her misery. The men grabbed their rifles, and I watched Peyton and Colin jump in the gator to see it done. The answer to my prayer was “no.” Needless to say, it was a sad Christmas season.
By the third month anniversary of my Tricia’s passing, I thought I was surviving without her just fine, for my day was consumed with the unending demands of an infant again, and searching for my missing feline Finley. My husband was out of town for a few days, when the dam broke. The tears sprang up, and I couldn’t stop them any longer. I was dealing with three events back to back that left me broken-hearted and bleeding internally.
While living with me in Orlando, Tricia shared my pain over loosing two cats, and loosing Finley brought those loses to the forefront of my thoughts. She went with me to Tipsey’s (my three- legged Maine Coon) appointment. She sat in the waiting area, while I consulted with the vet over his swollen jaw.
“I’m sorry to report it’s cancer,” he said. The sharp irony of his words pierced through me, and my eyes widened before swelling with tears. He snatched the box of Kleenex and handed it to me.
“I hate cancer!” I said, flailing my arms towards the waiting room. “My sister whose sitting out there, she has cancer. She just received chemo yesterday! What is this the cancer…cancer… apocalypse?”
He looked a little stunned, and unprepared to deal with an emotional wrecking ball who felt her universe was caving in. “I’m so sorry.” He patted my back. “We can put him on chemotherapy, but I believe it will only prolong his suffering. My best advice is to take him home, love him, and spoil him, and when it’s time, you will know.”
When it’s time…I will know…I didn’t want to know.
Tricia’s eyes met mine as I carried Tipsey out. She nodded and put her arm around me. Without words, she knew the diagnoses.
The time came a few months later.
“Make the appointment Tammy,” she said. “He’s suffering.” I knew it was hard for her to watch a cat suffer with the same disease that invaded her.
Once again, she waited while I went in. I knelt beside Tipsey, and told him I loved him. I thanked him for being such a great companion to us. He was the best cat we’ve ever had special needs and all.
The nurse wiped her eyes.
The day I adopted him I intended to adopt a kitten, when this huge Maine Coon chirped at me from the cage. He wrapped that one paw around my neck and held tight and I knew he was mine. He was a lap cat, loved his Daddy’s lap best. At the sound of a can popping open, he hopped down the hall like a bunny and slid into the kitchen doorway. He was a love ball wrapped up in fur.
I looked into his eyes, and nodded at the vet. “I’m ready.”
He injected him with the potion that would close his eyes forever.
“Look at me Tipsey. I love you! You go to sleep now.” His eyes focused on me, and with one last chirp, they went blank.
Tricia came in after, and said her goodbyes.
“I prayed so hard for his healing.” I said on the way home.
She stared out the window. “Tammy sometimes the answer is no. We just have to accept it, even if we can’t understand, no matter how hard we try.”
I knew she was not merely talking about the cat.

Now it seemed once again the answer was no, and I didn’t understand why I was to undergo something painful on the back of the enormity of loosing my sister.
I wept for three days. Exhausted from keeping up the pretenses that I’m okay with it all. I threw on a sundress to attend a baby shower for my cousin, but when I saw my belly pooch, I wailed all over again, so I stayed home. I didn’t want to see anyone, for I felt my God didn’t hear me. I questioned if my pleas fell on deaf ears. I placed all my faith in Finley’s return.
The storm of grief can swallow you just when you’ve safely reached the shore. My missing cat made me miss my sister more. I wanted to cry out to her, for she had been there for two of my cats deaths, but now she was gone.
In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon wrote “There is a time for everything a time to weep and a time to laugh…a time to mourn and a time to dance… .” There is a time to grieve. If you are in a grieving season as I, there is a coping skill to bring you out of the swells of sorrow It is another “G” word…Gratitude.
Being thankful for my blessings in spite of my sadness keeps me afloat. I have many more things to be thankful for, than to be sorrowful for. My daughter’s giggle, my husband’s love, my boys obedience…(except when it comes to cleaning their room), the ability to pay the bills, the daffodils on my table. I have to accept the no’s just as I accept the showers of “yeses”. I don’t have to understand I just have to trust He knows what He is doing.
Last week, I wrote one last message on our community website regarding Finley’s disappearance. I knew it was a shot in the dark, but I had to try once more. I received a message back from a woman who lives across the highway in another neighborhood. She saw a tailless-orange cat walking into her neighborhood. The boys and I covered that community in posters with the promise of a reward if found.
Yesterday, a compassionate neighbor called.
“He shows up here every 3 to 4 days begging for food. He’s very vocal and seems friendly. I’ve never tried to catch him. I just set the food out, but we’ll try to catch him next time he shows up.”
I am praying it is Finley, and we will be able to get him back, but if it’s not I need to accept the fact that the answer is “no”, and move on. I will grieve the fact I may never see Finley again, but I can be grateful I will see my sister some day.
When my sister passed my former roommate’s mother hugged me and said. “I know right now you are sad, but think about how excited you will be when your time comes, for someone you love has gone before you, and she’ll be waiting for you there.” Now, that’s something to be grateful for. My sister will be looking for me.

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, 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