A Bike With Fat Tires

DSC_0353

Something happens to me when I hop on my bike and head out for a ride; in my mind, I become a 10 year old. It’s as if I have no fear, and I’m transformed into that dirty, stringy, tow-headed girl who wanted desperately to keep up with the country boys. I probably smell like her too. This morning, I flew through our neighborhood gate right before it closed, jumped a few curbs, and twisted through traffic. Afterwards, as I’m parking my bike I have a conversation in my brain that goes something like this… “that was really stupid, you could’ve hit the gate. Praise God, that driver saw you! Tammy, if you wipe out jumping that curb you’re not going to jump up and yell, “That was radical!” You’re going to lie there crying, “Dial 911!” 

But, then… it’ll happen all over again tomorrow.

I have a hybrid. I love my bike. It has the wider wheels that can get me through packed sand, turf, or city traffic. Last weekend at the farm, I was eyeing my friend Ed Kobel’s bike in his garage. It had extremely wide wheels. I’d never seen a bike like it. 

“That’s the wheels it takes to get down these sandy roads?” I said nodding at the bike. “I’ve been wondering if my bike could handle it.”

“Oh yeah,” Becky, his wife said. “A normal tire can’t make it here. You have to have thick wheels to get through thick sand.” 

Thick wheels to get through thick sand… 

DSC_0164
Appian Way, outside Rome: That cat has no fear.

This morning on my ride I was thinking about fear versus faith. How Satan loves to throw the stick of fear into our spokes knocking us off the course God’s cleared for us. God never leads us to a place of fear. He may ask us to do something that gives us fear, but the feeling of fear and trepidation is never manifested by God. It is propagated by the enemy.  It is the enemy’s way of getting you to doubt the Father. So, if you are feeling fear about something God is leading you to do, don’t let the enemy win. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 English Standard Version.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.” How is it God tells us in His Word be anxious for nothing, yet anxiety is now the most common mental illness in the US?

As Christians we are equipped to deal with anxiety and fear. The anxiety or fear I’m referring to is not birthed biologically or traumatically, it is the fear produced by insecurity in who God is, and who you were created to be. If you truly believe God and His word, you won’t let fear rule your life. 

Thick wheels can cut through thick sand. The most important tools we have to combat fear is God’s word and the Holy Spirit. If the word of God is your foundation throughout your life, you will have the ability to glide through whatever season or calling your are in. When the sands of life get thick and you feel fearful of the trail ahead, you have God’s power inside of you to break that debilitating stronghold and pedal forward.

Remember, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 ESV.

DSC_0010

I was a witness to the enemy’s fear tactics when my sister, Tricia was dying of breast cancer. It was around two months before she passed, and I found her sitting up in bed one morning. 

“I know you’re not going to believe me,” she said, “but Satan was whispering to me all night.”

“What were you hearing?” I said, a bit skeptical.

“Sinister laughing. Then he told me that God could’ve healed me, but He didn’t love me enough. He told me the work I did for God won’t matter once I’m gone. He told me my life with cancer was a waste, and never made a difference like I wanted it to. He was constantly repeating, you’re going to die and laughing.” 

She grabbed my hand, her palm was clammy.

“Tammy, I know where I am going. I don’t fear dying because I know I’m going to heaven, but do I have to be terrified in the process? It was so real, I looked over at Thomas to see if he was hearing it too, but he was asleep.” 

The passage in Psalms popped in my head, so I recited it to her. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, as You are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. ” (Psalms 23:4 ESV) For the first time in my life, that passage came alive between us. I fully understood God was warning us that Satan was not done with her. It wasn’t enough her body was riddled with pain. He wanted to discourage Tricia even on her death bed. We prayed that God would intercede on her behalf and He would give her peace. The Bible reminded Tricia that God is there with her in that valley, she just needed to grab on to Him. 

Tricia destroyed the bondage of fear with her faith. The next night, Tricia slept with no problem. 

“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (II Corinthians 10:4 ESV)

DSC_0012
Jay giving me his evil expression. That would be my purse he was holding. (felt I needed to clarify)

 

Looking back now, I think about what the enemy was telling my sister. Her cancer didn’t matter… Her life didn’t make a difference to anyone. If you’ve been following this blog, you know her cancer made a difference in the life of my friend Vanessa who died one month ago from brain cancer. Vanessa Raghubir’s decision to follow Christ started by reading Tricia Baines’s story, yet Tricia died not knowing the impact her life and death had on others.

We, as Christians are God’s army. We are all a threat to the enemy. He would love to keep our journey’s stagnant our lives meaningless because we are ill- equipped with skinny tires in thick sand or paralyzed in fear of what’s ahead. Are you going to let him derail you from God’s plan for you? Or are you going to place the thick Word of Truth as your foundation and utilize the Holy Spirit’s power in the pedals?

Is God calling you to speak? Just do it.

Is God calling you to write that book or article? Do it.

Is God calling you to forgive someone? Do it.

Is God calling you to try out that Bible study? Do it.

Whatever God is calling you to do, don’t let fear win. And believe this, whatever God is calling you to do, it will be a success if you get on that bike and pedal. Ride your faith like you’re 10 years old. You’re life will be powerful!

See you on the trails! Until next week…

Today: August 20, 2018

 

IMG_1775

Today, at 8:30am, Bella started Pre-K4. She was nervous and had a fluttery stomach, but once we arrived and walked into the classroom, she ran over to the puzzle table and dove in. “Bye Momma!” she said waving me off. Today, she passed a milestone. Today, she seemed to grow a foot…a year… and a whole lot of independence.

 

Today around noon,  I visited my friend Vanessa who’s been suffering from brain cancer. You can find her story “Naked and Picking Weeds 1, 2, and 3 by scrolling below) Today, her breathing was different than the last time I saw her, I held her tiny hand, her princess hand I like to call it, her fingers didn’t curl around mine like they did last week. Today, she didn’t pull me back when I tried to let her go. Today, she didn’t blow kisses at me as I headed out the door.

Today, I leaned over her, “I love you,” I said. “You have a great adventure ahead of you. You’re about to meet your Heavenly Father and He has something amazing in store for you. I just know it!”

Today, I witnessed a mother’s touch, calming the breath of a dying child. It was beautiful.

IMG_1780

Today at 4:30 my doorbell rang. I received a surprise package in the mail. My editor at She Leads Daily decided to print last month’s magazine that included an article about my painting. I hollered before texting my family and showing my boys. “My writing and art is in a print magazine!”  Today, I crossed milestone.

Today at 4:51pm, just twenty-one minutes later, Vanessa took her last breath. She passed away. Today she crossed over. Today, Vanessa can see, run, talk, laugh, breath, and eat. She is meeting the Father who’s watched over her.  She is meeting Jesus whom she gave her life to, not too long ago.

On one of my visits, I laid my head across Vanessa’s chest and she stroked my hair. “I’m going to meet Tricia soon,” she said. (My sister Tricia died of breast cancer.)

Today, Vanessa met her sister.

Today,  I’ve swayed between shock, joy, incredible sadness, love, and peace. Today I experienced an abundant life.

Today, I ask anyone reading this to say a prayer for Vanessa’s Momma Joan, and her family and friends as they mourn her passing.

26907656_1661788723883006_7774750930650975564_n

Goodbye my sweet Vanessa. I love you.

Tonight, I know we’ll meet again.

When Being Still Seems Impossible!

DSC_0072

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalms 46:10 English Standard Version.

In 2015, I wrote about a citrus tree I’d planted in my small garden. (You can find the story here https://tammycarteradams.com/2015/08/28/far-reaching-branches/) My husband, Jay told me it would never produce fruit in such a small space in our garden.

            I am happy to announce…he was wrong! Fist pump!

10339353_10207529967396120_1386616201635356069_o
“Give me some dap!”

 

There are huge uh… fruit of some sort growing all over it. I believe it’s grapefruit, but I won’t know until the day it ripens, which for weeks I’ve been monitoring its progress.

            “How’s the fruit?” Jay says when I walk in the door from the garden for the umpteenth time.

            “Still green.”

IMG_1216
The Mystery Fruit

            After several months of this, I contacted a specialist on all matters of the universe, Dr. Goggle and found it takes 11 months for grapefruit to ripen on the vine. ELEVEN MONTHS!  I mean goodness gracious, I could die of scurvy before this fruit ripens! Kudos to the citrus farmers out there, I crown you Saints of Patience.

            Blessings follow patience I suppose. If you’ve read my previous posts titled Half -Naked and Picking Weeds Part 1-3 (You can find part 1 here: https://tammycarteradams.com/2018/05/22/half-naked-and-picking-weeds/), you’re familiar with my friend Vanessa and her battle with brain cancer. She’s being blessed for her patience.

fullsizeoutput_3ecd
Bella staring out the hospital window.

            Since Half- Naked and Picking Weeds was posted, I’ve been sitting with Vanessa in her apartment while she tells me her life story. Her apartment is dark, because her eyes hurt, and I squat at the foot of her bed with pen and notebook. Somehow, we work through her sentences one by one, word by word, and I’m able to understand. (The brain tumor has affected her communication skills.)

            These past weeks, her head has been hot to the touch. So much so, one day I placed a cold cloth on it after rubbing it with oil. There was a bump rising up on her skull, along with the anxiety in my gut. Time was running out…or so I thought.

            Her mother Joan came into the room, “No Tammy take that cloth off. Jesus is using heat to heal my daughter.” I removed the cloth, remembering my sister’s hyperthermia treatment in Germany, where a doctor heated her body up and iced her brain to fight breast cancer. How ironic, Vanessa’s brain was heating up now on its own.

            Last week, my husband and I met Vanessa at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. While we waited for her MRI consult, Vanessa wrung her hands, I reached over and squeezed them in her lap.

            “Oh my gosh, I’m just so anxious,” she said.

            I touched her head. “You know it’s weird, but your head’s not hot and that bump has gone down. You look good and sound better since the last time I saw you.”

            “I know. I feel great,” Vanessa said.

            Finally, we were called back to speak with the doctor. The doctor turned from the monitor and asked her, “Are you sure you haven’t received any other treatment?”

            “No,” Vanessa shook her head. “I’ve been on hospice.”

            “Well, this is incredible. You only have one tiny spot of cancer left. Here,” She pointed to the monitor, “at the base of your brain. You can see, the swelling and the tumor have all shrunk. I suggest you get off hospice and start getting some physical therapy right away.”

            Vanessa laughed. Her mother cried. I sat speechless by it all. (Speechless is a word rarely prescribed to me.)

            You see, I’ve struggled with this whole cancer thing since my sister’s diagnoses. I’ve been asking God if He ever heals miraculously in the USA. I’ve read of many healings in developing countries where there is no medicine. Although, I’ve prayed for a miracle, I admit my faith is weak when it comes to healing. Sometimes, hopes hurt, and when they’re dashed to bits it takes time to recover. So, we build a wall around hopes and tread the perimeter with caution.

            I can’t imagine I’m the only one who feels this way.

IMG_0995
My sister’s daughter Peyton.

            Around two months ago, Vanessa was given two months to live. Her tumor grew and swelled her brain to a point where she wasn’t conscious. Two hospitals washed their hands of her and sent her home to be on Hospice, but God had a plan. The miracle comes when there is no other option.

            After her MRI, I sped a squealing Vanessa zig-zag down the hallway to the check out. Behind the check-out desk there was a sign on the wall. The sign was incomplete, but I knew it was meant to be noticed.2018-06-26_17.00.01

            “Vanessa, look what that sign says.” I whispered in her ear. “It says, Be still.”

            She nodded. “Be still and know that I am God,” she said.

            Perhaps, that’s why God allowed my tree to produce something to teach me to be still while He brings uh… something to a ripened state. Hmm…Maybe that’s why He’s brought me Vanessa. So, I’ll just wait…and continue praying….and maybe wiggle in my seat a bit.

            Perhaps you’d like to share how you struggle with being still, being patient, and letting God. Until next week…

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

A Goat, A Stranger, and A Resolution

I stared at the picture his leg sprawled out in front of him, his backpack and long board  tossed aside, an emergency vehicle with flashing lights careened towards him in the night. The picture text included no explanation, but told a horror I wasn’t prepared for this Christmas season. My hands shook, knowing I couldn’t get to my son. He was at his friend, Caleb’s beach house for a few days.

“Christian,” I texted frantically. “What’s happened?” I wanted to scream into the phone. He didn’t respond. I prayed, while dialing his number several times to no avail.

His younger brother, Colin leaned over my shoulder. “What’s wrong Momma?”

“Pray for Christian. Something’s happened.” I showed him the picture. “He’s not answering his phone.”

Finally, the phone rang.

 

There was a little goat on the farm named Prince William. Prince William didn’t have the typical goat life in the beginning. His mother developed mastitis and was unable to nurse him. He lived in a stall in the barn and was bottle-fed on schedule, usually by a young girl named Emma, who lives with her parents in the barn apartment. You couldn’t help but love this little guy. He bleated as you passed his stall, begging for attention. Emma rode her scooter up and down the barn, and Prince William scampered behind as if she were his mother.

Before long, it was time for Prince William to be castrated so he could join a herd. In the pen, he was the black goat in a pack of white, the smallest of the bunch and one of his ears pointed down while the other pointed heavenward. Life with the herd wasn’t easy for Prince William. The other goats didn’t accept him, he was always in a corner by himself. His food was placed in a separate container, so he would not be ousted at mealtime. Whenever I drove up on the ATV, he ran alongside the fence and bleated as if to say, “My peeps! There you are! Get me out of here!” I think he thought he was human to some extent. We’d discussed moving Prince William to our yard. He’d become a pet and not be so lonely, but after going back and forth we decided he was safer with the herd, until we moved there full time.

One night we’d left our bedroom doors open to allow the cool wind to blow through during the night. Around midnight, I jumped up hearing a loud noise.

I shook Jay. “Do you hear that?” I said.

He scrunched his face. “What is it?”

I ran out onto the porch. Howling and yapping to the left of our farmhouse, then in the front, and answered by howling to the right.

Jay squeezed my shoulders. “Coyotes,” he said.

“We’re surrounded. There’s so many!” I’d never heard anything like it.

“Sounds like several packs are passing through,” he said. “Unfortunately, we offer a buffet. They eat chickens.”

“What about the goats?” I said, turning to him. “Prince William?”

By his expression, I knew goats were what’s for dinner. “We’ll know in the morning.”

I didn’t sleep well that night, worrying over the little black outcast.

Surprisingly, Prince William survived that night, but soon after he received a slash on his hip by what the farmers believed was a bob cat or a Florida panther. He was treated and as it healed coyote tracks were found by the goat pen. This time Prince William wasn’t as fortunate.

He was eaten.

The herd is to blame. While they huddled in a tight circle of protection, Prince William was sacrificed. It’s a part of farm life, I will never become callous to. The pangs you feel when a beloved creature is killed, slaughtered, sold, or traded. Jay often shrugs “It’s farm life.” Sometimes, I wonder if I’m cut out for it.

I’ve thought about Prince William. The poor guy was doomed from the beginning. I knew his story was to teach me something. I didn’t know what until a few nights after, when I clutched my cell phone. Finally, Christian’s face popped up on the screen.

 

My “hello” sounded frantic.

“Momma!” he said, the sound of traffic in the background. “There’s a dead guy.”

“What dead guy? What happened?”

“This guy was riding his bike around the bridge. We saw him as we long boarded to the beach. Four hours later, his bike was on the side of the road. He was face down in the water on the rocks.”

“What happened to him?”

“He’s dead Momma. He was just alive. I just…” His voice wavered. “I just can’t believe it! When Caleb ran to get help, I called 911. I nudged him and talked to him, but I knew he was already gone.”

“You couldn’t resuscitate him?” I said.

“No, he was already gray and stiff. I sat in the dark with his body. I don’t know why I was talking to him. I didn’t know what else to do. I was scared to touch him too much maybe I’d be blamed for his death or something. The investigator said it was good I didn’t move him.” He paused for a moment. “It was suicide Momma. The guy killed himself.”

I didn’t realize I was holding my breath as I exhaled. My son was okay. It was someone else’s son. Some poor mother would receive a call, days after Christmas. She would hear the gruesome facts. The cans found around his body. How he removed his wallet from his pocket and laid it neatly on a boulder. He wanted someone to know who he was…who he once was.

Your son was snuffing they’ll tell her, he snuffed his life out…snuffed his soul free. He snuffed because he couldn’t stand on his own two feet any longer. He fell face down in the rocks. Crushed his skull. His nose was smashed to bits….No longer looked human.

 

At home, the next night Christian couldn’t sleep. The picture of that thirty year old’s face and bloated body wasn’t easy to forget. His mind swung back and forth between seeing him alive and then dead. Knowing he and Caleb were probably the last to see him riding his bike in circles on that bridge as he contemplated his end. I explained to Christian, God allowed him to be this man’s witness.

“Maybe you were to see what snuffing does, so you could help someone. Keep someone else from making the same mistake.”

He nodded sadly. “What would make him do that Momma?” He’d ask later.

Sometimes there are no answers… just questions.  I myself couldn’t help but wonder if this man like Prince William was rejected by his herd, and if he fought the coyotes and panthers of this life alone. I pondered why he was outside a circle of protection. Was there no one to turn to?

This was not the way I’d planned to start my New Year, but the experience pushed me into a resolution. My resolution for 2017 is to try harder to extend grace to those who are angry, rude, treat me unfairly, or see things from a different point of view,  to care for those who are sick, to befriend the lonely, and to open the door for the elderly. Jesus called this loving your neighbor. We are commanded to love without expectation of anything in return, for we never know what’s going on in someone else’s pen. Maybe, this man’s life will not be lost in vain after all.

 

Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” AKJV

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shades of Skin

“Momma if we end up in a race war whose side are we on?” His large dark eyes peered up at me. Eyes inherited from his paternal grandfather. His brown skin a perfect blend of my pale and his father’s dark. A color, many will risk skin cancer to obtain.

I glanced at the television. As a mother of four bi-racial children, I shuddered at the scene. What do I tell my twelve-year-old son? Whose side do we take?

My white heritage is layered with historical accolades in the building of this great nation. Some of the names sprouted on our Carter/Turner family tree are planted in historical references and textbooks. I’m proud of that. They risked their lives for their religious freedom and later freedom from the British. There is also a dark side of my ancestral history, one in which I’m not proud of. My ancestors were wealthy slave owners. One of those slaves born on an ancestral plantation was Nat Turner, who led the Nat Turner rebellion.

Through the limbs of our family, this racist ideology slithered down like a poisonous snake and I was raised within the snag of prejudice.

After I married, my father and I co-wrote a story to share his overcoming this generational sin. In light of all that is breaking on the news, I thought it applicable to re-post here.

He Said:

I was raised in an era when children were taught to respect their elders, saying yes sir” and no ma’am” to every adult…every adult, except black adults. As a small boy, I once addressed a black lady with,yes ma’am” and was scolded by my elders. They instructed me never say that to a colored person.” Upon asking why, they answered, You just don’t.”

Everything was segregated then from the black and white drinking fountains, to the restaurants and schools. Blacks sitting in the back of the bus were the norm. An age when congregations understood the words, “love thy neighbor” to mean, love thy white neighbor.” Hate, bigotry, and prejudice abounded. Our hearts from youth were ingrained with this ideology.

Like so many people at that time, I too was prejudiced, so much so, I refused sleeping in the same motel with a black family. Looking back, I’m not proud of this chapter in my life, but this is the reality of who I was.

She Said:

I knew the line we weren’t to cross, like the train tracks running through our small town, splitting colored town” from white town.” The gulf not only ran through town, but hung heavily in our churches as well. A dark veil prevented those who loved God, from feeling God’s unconditional love for others.

            One Sunday, a dark-skinned Indian man and his white wife visited our church. Once the service was over my father greeted them, and I took notice. When it was time to leave I jumped into the back seat, and leaned in between my parents.

            Daddy, you said black people can’t marry white people,” I said.

            My mother glanced back at me. Honey, he’s not black he’s Indian.”

           What’s the difference, he’s dark skinned?”

            She started to answer, but my father interjected. It’s wrong for anyone to marry outside their race,” he said. It’s not God’s plan or He would have made everyone the same color.”

           But you were nice to them,” I said.

           Once they’re married,” he shrugged, they’re married.”

He Said:

My oldest daughter Tammy moved to Florida for a job opportunity. One night in November, over the phone, she explained she ate Thanksgiving dinner with a black family, invited by their son Jay. I blew my top.

            “Don’t you ever see him again!” I yelled. No coffees, no lunch breaks, no contact at all. I forbid it! This is for the best.”

Months went by. I heard nothing more about Jay.

 She Said:

I’m ashamed to admit, I was unkind to Jay upon meeting him. His first attempt to invite me to dinner gained rejection. I tried to push him away. Where I come from you don’t date outside your race, religion, or political affiliation, but when alone in a strange town you begin to see outside the bubble you’re born in.

 He Said:

Tammy flew home for a visit and we had a wonderful time together. When it was time for her to leave, I sadly watched her plane veer down the runway back to Florida. When I returned from the airport, my wife informed me she found a letter my daughter left behind. A heavy dread came over me, as I backed into my chair. I examined the envelop in my hand. A father has an intuition when it comes to his daughter. I knew what was in the letter.

 She Said:

I left my engagement announcement in a letter. I remember the smell of my father’s shirt that day, when he hugged me goodbye. I didn’t know if he would ever speak to me again. As my plane turned onto the runway, I looked back to see his silhouette waving through the window, and I cried.

 He Said:

Every bitter emotion filled the fibers of my mind and body. An older family member advised me to disown her…count her as dead. He went on to say, Have you seen mixed children? They have yellow eyes.” That criticism was the last thing I needed to hear. My heart was broken and filling with disappointment, shame, and anger. Maybe he could disown his daughter, but I could not! I loved her, and needed time to work things out. Many sleepless nights followed. I spoke with my pastor and friends to no avail. I was still in turmoil.

 She Said:

I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I started to have abdominal pains landing me in the hospital one night. I repented for living a lie, while wearing down the carpet with my pacing. I waited and waited for the phone to ring.

 He Said:

Not long after the letter I purchased new tires, and while waiting for their installation I sat in the lobby. There I saw Mr. Goodman, a black man I’ve known for years. I looked over at him and prayed, Lord, can you show me how to love this man?” There was no vision or bolt of lightening, but He did answer my prayer, and I can testify God went to work on me. He cleansed my heart and lifted a heavy weight from my mind. If I had heeded the advice of family, I’d have missed many good times and so many blessings.

 She Said:

I made one mistake…I warned Daddy. I told him Jay planned to officially ask for his blessing.

            “You mean today?” He said.

            “Yes, today.” I nodded for emphasis.

Daddy started avoiding, and Jay started pursuing. Three days later, an exasperated Jay trapped him during a football game. Reluctantly, he gave his blessing, and it was like the heavens opened and the angels sung. We were blessed!

The wedding plans began the next day. Jay picked the date, the venue, and reserved the hotel rooms. In less than three months we were to be married, before Daddy changed his mind.

At our wedding, Daddy stood and gave me away with the words, Her mother and I.” I looked back at them and whispered my thanks. We were one flesh, no matter what the color.

 He Said:

Tammy and Jay have been married for 18 years. As her father, there is a deep satisfaction in watching the happiness of my daughter. She’s blessed with a good husband, who treats her like a queen. I am also blessed with three beautiful grandsons and a new granddaughter whose dark eyes light up, when they see their Granddad and Nana. They shower us with hugs and kisses.

 She Said:

After the birth of my first son, my father came to see him. He held him in his arms by our pool. The sunlight shimmered through his light newborn hair.

            You know, I can’t tell which one of you he looks like,” he said. I think my grandson’s Italian.

            He’s a mixture of us all,” Jay said.

Four children later, I recognize God’s handiwork. I imagine once we exchanged our vows, God released a sigh in His heavens and said, It is good,” just as He does any union He orchestrates. Still, what amazes me most is God loved my father so much; He took one of his biggest fears and made it a blessing. God is good.

He Said:

There are some who say nothing has changed between the races. I say they are wrong. I have changed, and I choose to believe I am not the only one. I believe God has erased bigotry from the hearts of millions across this nation. When I look back to how far I have come, I am slapped by the irony that I, the great, great, grandson of a plantation owner, who owned 99 slaves, has four grandchildren from a bi-racial marriage. Hate crime laws, race legislation, or the right politician in office will never change a man’s heart. There is only one who can alter the heart of man. All we need to do is allow it, by practicing what my daughter teaches her children- to truly love is to love with a colorblind heart.

 

I thought about this article today while reading everyone’s posts on Facebook. Many of the posts revealed which side of the line the writer stands on. My thoughts also returned to the night the Ferguson riots blared on the television…

“Momma?” Colin said again, tugging on my sleeve. “Whose side do we take black or white?” I glanced across the room at my husband holding my little girl, the palest of my children, who prefers her Daddy to me. Each member of my family beautiful and distinct in the color God created them. I imagine the Master added a dab more brown on my son Christian, and a smudge more white on Nick.

I wrapped my arms around him. “We are on God’s side,” I said.

I am the blessed wife of a loving black man and the mother of four bi-racial children. I was raised in a racist home. May my life be a testimony that it does take innocent blood to cleanse this country. Our Lord Jesus at Calvary shed the only blood capable of cleaning our land and our hearts many years ago. I refuse to stand with any group spewing hate or ranting chants inciting violence. I do not stand with Black Lives Matter, nor do I stand with any White groups, I stand on the rock of my salvation. All lives matter. Every life is precious no matter the color and each holds a unique purpose under heaven. Whose side are you on?

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.