Get Out of the Boat!

Recently, I was asked by our MOPS leader what is your life phrase for the New Year. I didn’t have to think about mine. For a while now, God has placed the same Bible story in front of me. Don’t you love it when the same passage comes up over and over? Maybe God doesn’t need to do that to you, but my Creator knows about my hard head and ADD.

The story is of Peter seeing Jesus walking on the water and asking to join Him. When Jesus grants permission, for a moment Peter feels what it’s like to walk on water. My phrase for the year of 2017 is “Get out of the boat.” God’s calling me to step out of my comfort zone.

 

Jay and I decided this summer we will move to the farm. It will definitely be a lifestyle change. You see, the farm has been a reprieve for us as a family, a get-away place to enjoy with Jay’s brother Shaun and his family, but soon it will become a new lifestyle.

This decision has come about after much prayer, contemplation, and confirmation. Last week, while cleaning the kitchen, I asked God to give me another sign that this is what He truly wanted. Earlier that morning, I signed up on a ministry’s website called Embrace Grace, and an hour later they sent me an email with a bloom word. My bloom word was “Adventure.” The email stated they had prayed over me and felt God had a word of encouragement for me today.  The attached verse was Judges 18:6 ESV, “And the priest said to them, ‘Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.”

Under the word Adventure it went on to say…

“New adventures with the Lord are often exciting and filled with a lot of unknown.

Your sense of calling is like an unfolding, epic adventure! Be encouraged that as an uncharted path is before you, God is with you. When we seek His wise counsel and draw close to Him, it is His voice that leads us. A journey that is directed by Him comes with His protection, oversight, and blessings. Pack your bags with only the items that He wants you to take. Leave your worries and past behind and step into your new adventure with courage knowing your heavenly Father is right beside you! Let the new adventure begin!” (Embrace Grace Bloom Word)

 

To top it off, it came with a print button, so you could print off your sign and hang it on the wall. God has a sense of humor. He sent me a literal sign an hour after I prayed for it. Although there are still lingering doubts, we’ve decided to jump off the gangplank and see what happens.

Life on the farm is in extreme opposition from the life in Orlando. For one, I will have to cook dinner every night. Although, I do it a few nights a week, cooking is not one of my creative talents. Can I get an “Amen” for Uber Eats?  There is no Uber Eats at the farm.…sigh. The nearest decent grocery store is a thirty-minute drive down dirt roads, across a one lane bridge, and into another city. We are in the sticks people!

For another inconvenience, my driving son will be in college, and I will have to drive my boys until November when my second born is able to get his license. In Orlando, if all the drivers are unavailable to pick up from Lacrosse practice or a theme park, we Uber our boys home. It’s as easy as entering an address into your cell phone. There’s no Uber at the farm…ugh!

In O Town, we have entertainment and fine dining around every corner. I am convinced, we are some of the most entertained and well-fed people in the USA. At the farm, there are ATV’s, animals, slow internet, and satellite television which goes out during a storm. In fact, if you goggle the area and ask for happening local events, you get a barbecue restaurant by the tracks and that’s a fifteen-minute drive…snore.

There is one sacrifice I am cringing about…my freedom. Here, I have sitters for Bella whom I trust, so I can go to the Barnes and Nobles down the street and put in a full writing day. The cafe is my office away from home. There are no babysitters or bookstores near the farm…boo hoo!

 

Although, my life will not have the comforts and luxuries of this one, I feel this life will help us grow. It is good to step out of your comfort zone on occasion. In the following weeks, I will write about the pros and cons of this change, my fears, and the steps we are taking with the boys for a smooth transition. Eventually, The Writer’s Roost will become the story of a spoiled Orlando Momma who moves deep into the sticks and what that life looks like. You will follow me as I start over, learning my way in a new town and meeting new people, and as always when I’m at the farm, God will provide the inspiration. This Momma will bravely step off her perfectly manicured lawn, and onto the sea of manure. So slip on your muck boots and come along! Watch out for that runaway bull!

If you’ve ever felt the need for a change, or if you’ve experienced a lifestyle switch-a-roo such as this, please share in the comments below. I’d love to hear about it.

Grace Under Bella

 

 

“But behind all your stories is your mother’s story, for hers is where yours begins.”

— Mitch Albom, For One More Day

 

 

Some days I want to curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb. Isabella is turning out to be quite a handful of stubborn will and steel backbone.

“She comes by it honestly.” Momma said yesterday on the phone. “You’ve just described all the women in our family, and her paternal grandmother too.”

I just didn’t think I’d be raising one…but I am.

Bella is in the throws of it… those good ole two’s, and I am praying daily she will come out of it before this Momma starts catching invisible flies in a paddy wagon. To be honest, there are days I am raging mad. You see, I’ve packed away my dreams again to raise another child, and one that lately bucks me over everything. I am ashamed to admit my selfishness. I love her with every part of my being, but I was rambling down freedom road. Wait freedom? What is that? Frankly, I don’t know, but it was on the horizon waiting to be discovered. I’ve only experienced a few years without children at home, within those years, I wrote a “slush pile”novel, took care of my sister while undergoing chemo, and for another I was pregnant. Forgive me if this sounds like complaining, I’ve come to believe God doesn’t like to see me get bored.

I admit my fuse has been short. It is a battle between my imposing will and her standing her ground. Somedays, we are like the bulls at the farm, locking horns. There are nights Jay comes home and thinks his wife has gone cray-cray. “She’s just a toddler.” he’d said one evening. Steam poured from my nostrils. (All you men out there, never say this to your wife.) I am envious of him. He’s out the door using his mind building things, having lunch, and adult conversation. When he returns, he gets the good Bella. The nighttime cuddles, books, and tired kisses. She’s an angel, laughing in his lap and charming him with her lashes. I want to know where was that child all day long? Meanwhile, I get the tantrums, “the two more minutes,” the naked girl running around the coffee table, the broken lipsticks, and lotion smeared on everything. I won’t even go into our potty training…which is not going well.  Did I mention I am in my upper forty’s? So, yeah there’s the age thing.

I know your thinking there’s nap time. A frantic rush to get the laundry, dishes, dinner prepped, and floors done. Just one more thing, I tell myself before I allow writing time, but there’s always one more thing isn’t there?

This past weekend at the farm, my sister-in-law, Prem and I found a little black calf outside the electrical fence, along the trail. I parked the ATV and jumped out thinking the babe was dead, but as I approached, it raised its head weakly. We put in the call for help. While waiting for the farm manager to arrive we lowered our daughters from the ATV, so they could see the calf up close. Its large sad eyes looked up at us. He still had an umbilical cord attached, and I knew he was dehydrated. He was helpless and alone, with its mother no where in sight.

Sniper, our farm manager arrived, and he carried the calf down to where majority of the herd was grazing. He placed the calf inside the fence, but a watery ditch separated the calf from the pasture. The calf stood alone.

“Where’s the mother?” I said. “What if she’s not in this herd?”

“She’ll find him eventually.” Sniper said unconcerned. He jumped into his ATV and drove away. While we waited and watched.

The calf’s legs wobbled as he attempted to cross the ditch, but fear kept him from doing it. Finally, he mooed out a cry for help. The sound carried across the pasture and one head popped up from the grass.

“There she is.” I pointed to the far end.  Immediately, she made her way towards him and tried to get him to jump the ditch, but he still refused. Finally, she jumped the ditch and met him where he was. It is something I will never forget, and it was undoubtedly something God wanted me to see. The Momma cow extended grace to her calf. She didn’t insist on her way. She met him where he was.

A mother’s love is full of grace that can mold steel wills into masterpieces. Somewhere drowning in Bella’s toddlerhood I’ve forgotten that.

One afternoon, I admitted to Prem how difficult it’s been. The sun brought fire to her black hair as she leaned on the kitchen counter.

“I’m going to remind you of something you told me not long ago,” she said.

“What?”

“Love them through it,” she said. “Fill up their love tank. This season won’t last forever.”

“I said that?”

“Yep.”

 

Stay tuned for Part II next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature is Crying out for Redemption

When my boys were little we’d play a game in the car. They’d name everything altered in nature as a consequence of sin.
“Weeds…mosquitos…thorns…animals killing each other… etc…” They’d shout from the back seat.
“Creation cries out for redemption too.” I reminded them.

I stated this to my brother-in-law, Thomas upon passing a moss heavy tree. He stated he loved the Spanish moss and found it beautiful.
“It is a parasite.” I said. “It robs the branch of air and sunshine, slowly choking the life out of it. The branch will eventually break away from the tree. Spanish moss is one of those consequences dating back to Eve’s disobedience.”
I equate it to sin. It may appear beautiful, but slowly it entangles our hearts and minds to the point we can no longer recognize the light of truth, the touch of the Holy Spirit.

Last weekend, at the farm,I thought about nature wanting to be free from the binding of sin.
In the morning, the goats bleat as the food tractor comes by. I stood on the porch to witness the chaos. The creatures stampeded Zach almost knocking him down, as he poured their food into the troughs. The many babies, all different colors followed their Momma’s and jumped excitedly, imitating the behavior they see, for they are still on the tit. I leaned over the bannister with my coffee and laugh. Jay tells me some of the babies have been trampled to death at feeding time. My laughter dissipates. Goats are no better than people I guess. How many human babies have been trampled by their parent’s greed or ambition?
There is a papa goat in the bunch. He is larger than the others, Colin likes to call him Sensei, for you can tell he is wise. He moves methodically throughout the herd and watches outside the fence, as if he is the goat’s protector.

Late morning, I stopped by the cows, as I jumped out of the ATV, the herd stared at me. I take their picture. The sun and wind flittered in their coats.The Momma cows moved closer to their calves as I approached the fence. They looked at me with those intelligent eyes as if they wanted to receive my affections, but knew of the unseen barrier between us, tearing it down would only bring us heartbreak.
I recall a passage in Isaiah, “The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow.” (Isaiah 11:7) One day, cows will receive affection from man, for now they yearn to be free from the duty of provision and returned to the perfection of God’s ultimate plan.

It is no secret the horses are my passion. A passion born in my youth on hot Saturday afternoons. I’d hear the ring master’s voice over a loud speaker echo through my yard. I rode my bike to the stables to watch the horses circle the ring. It was not a place I was treated well by the spectators.
My sister once asked me, “Why do you go there, the people are so mean and snobby?” I didn’t care, I was mesmerized by the fancy horses and their prancing. Compared to the girls riding, I looked a mess, I had stringy blonde hair, a dirt smeared face, and was sweaty from playing outside all day. I enviously watched the girls in the riding attire moving fluidly with their shiny steeds.

Yesterday, I remembered the feeling as I drove up to the horse pasture. There are five horses on the farm, who see themselves as Golden-doodles, unaware of their strength and size, they crowded me against the fence, and I shoved them back. The sight of a halter slung over my shoulder began their restless circling, for they’ve been released to their wild nature far too long. I approached the one I wanted and she turned in the other direction.
I kneeled to appear less threatening. “Sugar… Come here Sugar.” I said softly. “I’m just going to give you a bath.”She slipped her head into the tool of submission, as if she understood. There is healing in washing a horse. I worked the lather into her coat and rinsed away the dirt and grime, the water flowed down her muscular flank. Once the oils and dirt encrusted in her coat are removed her true color appeared in the sunlight…sleek and shiny. She became new, while I wore the dirt on me. I worked through the tangles of her mane and tail, sometimes having to tug hard to release the knot.
I gave her carrots as a treat. She gobbled them up greedily. The soft of her muzzle tickled my hand, I couldn’t resist the sweetness of it, I kissed her and drank in her smell.
We walked through the breezeway of the barn, she called to the herd. They met us at the gate. I attempted to remove her halter, but the alpha-female named Zoe, chose at that moment to bite another in the rear, which started a frenzy.
I am slammed against the fence and Sugar now spooked, turned to run. I snatched the lead line and dug my heals in, determined not to let her go. Her eyes turn wild as the other horses circled around, tempting her to drag me.
She stomped her front legs and thrashed her head back and forth, but my will was stronger.
“Sugar, I have you! Come back.” I remembered to calm my voice, while she remembered the gentle touch of my hand. The wild white of her eyes disappeared, as I pulled her close. She trusted again. Once her halter was removed, she stood free, but reluctant to leave my side.
For a moment I brushed my face against her muzzle before pointing across the paddock to the others.
“Go!” I said. She obeyed and turned to join them.
I sprinkled carrots around their trough, hoping they’d each get a few. Sugar watched me from afar. As I drove away, she was eating the carrots alone.

The spirituality of the experience was not lost on me, for God loves me like that. He saw this dirty, country girl leaning against the bleachers longing to be clean and wearing fancy clothes and riding prancing horses.
He invited me into his shade, washed and brushed my tangled life, took the dirt upon Himself, and left me shiny and new. He didn’t let me go when I gave into temptations. He held the reins when I tried to buck and run. His will was stronger than my own. He told me to “Go”, go and tell others what He has done for me. There is peace and blessings at the trough of the Savior.

Though nature is crying out for redemption, crying out for God’s perfection, it beckons us to witness the Great I Am as well. Nature demands us to lean in, watch, and listen to the message of a Savior, to look past the creation in order to praise the great Creator. When is the last time you looked beyond a herd? Past the Spanish moss blowing in the breeze?

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.