When Being Still Seems Impossible!

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“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!

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Far Reaching Branches

There is a citrus tree in my garden, although one would never know, for it has yet to produce a single piece of fruit. One day feeling green, I stuck the roots in a hole and filled in the dirt around the base. Standing back, I wiped the soil on my jeans, and admired my twig, before walking away. That is the extent of the care I’ve given my fruit tree.
“Baby, you do realize you’ve placed a citrus tree in a small corner of the garden. It needs light and space to grow.” My husband said, six months later.
I called the neighbors attempting to find new parents for my tree.
“It’s a good little tree. Won’t be a nuisance whatsoever. All it needs is a yard with plenty of sunshine. It will give you plenty of citrus fruit.” I said.
“What kind of citrus?” A neighbor asked.
“Um…I don’t know. The citrusy kind I guess.”
There were no takers.
Two years later, it grows wildly it’s many limbs spiral over the pavers and back again. I imagine it’s stretching it’s arms out, in attempt to wiggle out of it’s small space, but it’s produced no fruit, for all of it’s energy has gone into the limbs…into the reaching.
Jesus used an illustration of the grape vine when teaching the disciples. In John 15 he said, “I am the true grapevine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.” (NLT verse 1-3)
“Yes, I am the vine you are the branches. Those who remain (abide) in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain (abide) in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned.” (NLT vs 5-6)
There is no real spiritual fruit in your life apart from Jesus.
The vine feeds the branches, and God the gardener takes care to cut off branches that are not producing.
Looking back, there have been times in my life where my branches sprawled all over, I’ve had my attention reaching out to perform good deeds, buying the latest, and performing for the approval of man. I’ve scattered my attention so broadly, I’ve neglected my personal walk with Jesus. Today, I wonder if any of those deeds produced fruit at all.
Multiple times, God has walked the garden of my marriage and chopped away things that produce void. He has taken away relationships that drove us towards materialism. He removed things that have kept us from depending on Him as a couple. With those vast branches detached our limbs point upward, and our hearts yearn for a smaller life…a simpler life. Little by little…chunk by chunk…He cut away the weight that tore our attention away from our vine Jesus.
Our branches unburdened by the useless weight of this world feel true freedom to grow fruit.

True freedom is found only in the will of our Lord.
I walked through the garden this morning, and found my landscapers felt pity on me and cut back my fruit tree. A beam of sunshine shot through the shadows and flittered over it’s crown. We will see if fruit can grow in small spaces.
I think it can.

Personal Application: Are you finding your limbs spreading out over the earth reaching for empty activities, materials, or destructive relationships? A fulfilled, meaningful life is a life attached to the true vine Jesus Christ. If you haven’t accepted Christ, you haven’t experienced true freedom. Today ask Christ to take your life and fill it with Him. Know that Jesus died for you… YOU…no matter what you’ve done…no matter who you are… He loves you, He knows you, and He wants you. He wants to attach you to Him and give you a fuller life, a life filled with promise, hope, and a purpose.

Finding Contentment in the Dark Part 2

Phillipians 4:12-13
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
I finished nursing my infant, laid him in his bassinet, and reached for my suitcase. I was going to run for it… escape in the cover of night. This was not the motherhood I signed up for, and my sanity was at stake. My baby cried day and night from colic, before falling asleep in the wee hours of morning. He threw up all day, sometimes projectile style, giving Mommy a taste, and if that was not enough that week the pediatrician peered suspiciously over the growth chart, “And… how often did you say you are feeding him?” she asked.
Let’s just say he nursed so often, I barely had time to slop on the utter cream before he rooted me again.
He was failing to gain weight and I was failing motherhood.
In one year, I had everything I thought I wanted, a beautiful home with a pool, new furniture, a new husband, a new dog, a new town, a new name, and on the day of our one year anniversary a new baby….It was maddening!
I missed my old life, coffee with colleagues, the satisfaction of achievement, wandering the beaches of the Tampa Bay, My worn sofa in my own apartment, and most of all… freedom. The first year of marriage, Jay and I drifted down the inter-coastal of marriage fighting over who would man the oars.
When Nick was a few weeks old a friend asked, “I bet you can’t imagine your life without Nicklaus in it?”
I plastered a blissful look on my face and said, “I had no life before him.”
Meanwhile every fiber of my being screamed, “Somebody give me my life back and while you’re at it, I’d like my bootie back too!”

I was discontent.

The word contentment as defined by the world is “A state of happiness and satisfaction.” I would argue God’s definition is slightly different. According the Holman Bible Dictionary contentment is “An internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances”
In 2013 a Harris Poll revealed only 1 in 3 Americans consider themselves very happy or very content.

Today, I’ve noticed a rise in restlessness among women. Those that seem to have it all, the nice cars, the big house, the great kids, seem to be the most dissatisfied with their life. In my experience, having it “all” didn’t equal contentment as one would think, because I was looking for contentment outside of myself. It is not your circumstances that produce peace. I found three actions I needed to take in order to bring my life into state of contentment.

I.. Identifying your Purpose:
God blessed me with a purpose greater than myself and He trusted me with a baby. He had more faith in my abilities, than I could muster in myself. During those difficult months, as I carried that screaming infant around in my arms, I often wondered, what was God thinking giving him to me? I didn’t realize at the time, there was a new purpose in my life. You have to realize your purpose, and if you don’t have one, ask God to reveal it to you.

II. Fill your Spiritual Well.
I was empty. Those first years, I was a Sunday Christian. I neglected my quiet time and veered away from God’s guidance. I was stepping out on my own, and attempting to mother in my own power. When you are lacking in your personal walk with Christ, you can expect the fruits of the Spirit to weaken within you. I was impatient with my baby and husband. I lacked peace, self control, long suffering, and love.
Several nights practically tossing Nicklaus into Jay’s arms and yelling, “I can’t do this anymore. You take him!”
“He’s only a baby!” Jay said.
I stormed to my bedroom and slammed the door. I resented Jay because he was able to go to work and have the life I gave up. Meanwhile, I assumed he thought I was a bad mother.
I was the woman at the well filling my bucket with destructive thoughts leaving me spiritually dehydrated.
(The story of the Woman at the Well illustrates the need for a relationship with Jesus. You can find that here https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+4.)
III. Surrender to God’s authority.
I had to surrender to God’s authority and will for my life. Surrender doesn’t come natural to me, I tend to paddle against the current, but I am thankful God’s will is much stronger than my own. With grace, He has bent me into crying “mercy,” many times in my life.
My most recent surrender was my sister. For four years, I obsessively threw out the life-savers trying to find the cure for her breast cancer, while God’s will was to bring her to the shores of eternity.

Before my daughter was born, she patted my belly and said, “When this baby’s born, it won’t be long for me.” She knew I would struggle with letting the life line slip from my fingers.
She was right, around the time Bella was born, I stopped searching for miracles, for Tricia was slipping away, and by the time Bells was a few months old, I was begging God to take my sister.
The two events back to back was almost too much for my heart to bear. I had to let go of my closest earthly relationship (beyond Jay) and embrace another baby, just as I was settling into my writing chair and spit shining my laptop.
Surrendering to God’s will is not always easy, but always brings peace.
The house was so quiet the night I reached for that suitcase. I grabbed clothes off the hangers when Jay began to snore, and my baby made a gurgling sound from his bassinet. I glanced back at the two of them, and knew I was at an important crossroads. I had a decision to make.
I hung the clothes back in my closet. I loved them too much to leave.
‘What kind of mother abandons her newborn?’ The thought landed me on the bathroom tile in a pool of tears. I told God I give up, I’d do whatever He wanted me to. I asked Him to help me find contentment in being a wife and mother and admitted my fears of inadequacy. God’s response to me was as clear as if He was sitting right there beside me. It is the only time in my life, I swear I heard him audibly speak to me.
You know what He said?
“Tammy, the baby’s sleeping. Wash your face and go to bed.”
You thought it’d be some ground shaking insight didn’t you? God isn’t about nonsense.
It was my first test of obedience. I washed my face and went to bed, and that was the first night Nick slept for five hours straight. I felt like a new person the next morning.
I found peace and contentment in surrender, even while navigating the white waters of fear, insecurity, and colic.
Finding contentment is not finding happiness, it is finding peace. It takes work on your part to be content. You must find God’s purpose for your life, pursue a relationship with God, and surrender to His authority or will, through these actions you will find your contentment.
Nick is now sixteen years old, and he is a blessing to me. He became such an easy baby once his stomach issues disappeared, and I found joys in being his mother. By the time he was nine months old, I became pregnant with colicky Christian, and there was a whole lot of surrendering after that boy was born, but that’s another story.

Take Down the Walls

I know how it went down…
“Psst… Hey Fisher the door’s open, let’s go check out some hot felines. You know the street variety called strays.”
“But Finley, Momma made us monks.” Fish said.
“A man can look.” Finley said.
I found one of the escapees, the shy one named Fisher or Fish as we like to call him hiding in the shrubs, but my tailless Finley is still missing, and I am consumed with finding him.
I have worn down the tile by the windows. I’ve stuck my head in many shrubs, and snooped in the backyards of my neighbors. (gulp…sorry ya) All I can think about is how scared he is, and the temperature outside. I worry he’s hurt or dead.
Two of our cats over the last 14 years have been killed by wild beasts. When my boys were little, in my pajamas I chased a bob cat down the street in the middle of the night. My cat Gidget dangled from it’s mouth. I’m surprised the neighbors slept, as I screamed like a crazy woman, flailing my arms. Gidget was dropped, but it was too late for her neck was broke.
You would think living in Orlando in a gated subdivision our pets would be safe, but we have had Bob cats, a Black Bear, and Coyotes jump the brick wall and take what they want. Our subdivision was planted right by acres of forest. We call them the Disney woods, and unfortunately the occupants are not of the Mickey Mouse variety.
We think we are safe trusting in our brick walls.
One of my favorite walled cities is Rome. My friend Emanuela, a historian there, stated the city of Rome is like lasagna, each time a fire or some terrible calamity overcame the city, they built on top of the rubble. Rome has had many years of peace, but Roman citizens today are realizing their walls cannot keep them safe, for ISIS has declared their wild intentions. Five hundred troops will be placed within the city walls to protect the city from terrorists.
Here in the USA, we put our hopes in our walls as well. We depend upon the walls of our wealth, status, job security, and relationships, but all of those things can be snatched away in the dead of night.
Early this morning, my husband told our family via text to read Psalms 27, and there was a passage that revealed an impenetrable wall.
Psalms 27: 5 and 6 :“For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me.”
The only fortress that is impenetrable is a relationship between God and man through Jesus Christ. If you haven’t built your personal relationship fortress with God, I encourage you to do so for peril is encroaching, and like Finley I would hate for you to be lost.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ladder of Hope

Jesus carrying cross
Image via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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