A Funeral…A Birthday…A Calling

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I skipped writing a blog last week. It was a week meant for quiet, sadness, sprinkled with a bit of joy as well. A dear friend named Vanessa Raghubir passed away from brain cancer. If you’ve been following the blog you’ll know all about her. (You can find multiple stories about her by scrolling down)

My husband and I spoke at her funeral. Jay read scripture and shared personal reflection about Vanessa, and called me up to tell her testimony… Vanessa’s story. It wasn’t something I wanted to do, to be honest, the mere thought made me want to puke my guts out and lay on the podium sobbing. 

I told the story of Vanessa having three altars in her apartment one for the Hindu god, one for the Muslim god, and one with a cross. Vanessa choose Jesus Christ. I explained He was the one God who knew what it was like to feel abandoned as she did. He was the one God who knew what it was like to be beaten, as she did. He was the one God who knew what it was like to face death, as she did. 

He’s the God who knows about all of your heartache too. He knows what it’s like to lose a child. He knows what it’s like to be sad, hungry, rejected, humiliated, poor…the list goes on and on.

I told this story to a room filled with Hindu worshippers, and Muslim men and women wearing burkas -not exactly easy on the nervous system if you know what I mean. A friend in the back told us a few Muslim men moaned when I mentioned the one true God, but everyone was respectful and allowed her wishes. You see, one day Vanessa told me she could see herself telling her testimony from a stage to all her friends and family, but Vanessa lost her voice before she got the chance. I know it was no accident she’d told me her wishes.

 God will ask you to step out of the boat during a hurricane, all it takes for the waters to calm is your feet.

God showed up. I survived without puking my guts up, and her testimony was told.

A woman approached me after the funeral, she was co-worker of Vanessa’s at the bank. She told me how happy she was to hear her story.

“I tried to lead Vanessa to the Lord,” she said as her eyes teared. “I kept telling her she needed to choose Jesus Christ, but she brushed me off. She told me she’d think about it. I came here thinking she never made the choice. I’m so glad she found you.”

“I only planted a seed, just as you did,” I said. The truth is this. It was God Vanessa found. God wants us to find Him so badly. He will place people in your path to point the Way. 

“for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek Him, He will be found by you…” I Chronicles 28:9b English Standard Version

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When I think of Vanessa’s life and my own, Proverbs 16:9 comes to mind: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”  

I shared a somewhat embarrassing story at Vanessa’s funeral. A story I’ve kept close to my chest all this time.

About a month before my sister, Tricia passed, she had her son help her into the kitchen where Mom, Dad, her husband, and children were. She walked over to Momma, kissed her on the mouth and said, “Momma, I want to go home.” 

“You are home, sweetheart,” Momma said.

“No! Home Home!” 

“You’re ready to go to heaven?” Momma said.

Tricia turned and walked over to Daddy.

“Daddy, I want to go home!” She said.

Realizing by now what she was asking, Daddy nodded. “Okay, you go on now.”

She turned to her husband Thomas and said the same thing. She told everyone individually her intention. She wanted their permission to go.

Of course, we all assumed she would go just like that. So, I stayed awake that night, looking for some sign and praying God would allow her to pass by my room in Orlando. (She lived in Virginia) That night, Jay fell asleep on the sofa, and I kept the tv off for I wanted to be ultra- aware for I just knew I was going to see something in my room change the moment she took her last breath.

Around 2am there was a light in my room. I jumped up in bed. My eyes darted around searching every dark corner for her, but she wasn’t there.

Instead, it was my phone.

I had a private message on Facebook. The words were jumbled, but I’m going to take the liberty in writing them clearly below.

“You don’t know me, but my name is Vanessa. I know Jay from the bank. I’m in the hospital, I had a brain cancer tumor removed. I’ve been reading your sister’s story. Thank you for writing it.” 

That was my first contact with Vanessa. You see, God wasn’t going to send me my sister. He was going to send me someone He desired to make my eternal sister.  

I’ve spent this week, looking backwards and forwards, wowed by the steps God lit up in our lives and how our paths intertwined, connecting us for eternity.  I celebrated my 49th birthday, with Vanessa’s family instead of my own. It was the day she was cremated. Before we left to go to the cremation ceremony, I found a new laptop sitting on my bathroom counter. I’m so thankful God gave me a man who holds my hand through my dreams. 

Before Vanessa lost her voice, she asked me to write her story when I finished my sister’s memoir. One day, while sitting at the foot of Vanessa’s bed, I told her. “I know you want me to write your story, but my sister’s story is incomplete without you. You’re her ending.” Vanessa seemed happy to hear that.

Take some time to think about your steps. Has God been trying to get your attention? Lead you to Him? Has He called you onto a stormy sea?  Has He put you on a path you didn’t expect? Or is He giving you an assignment?

Next week, I will share what we can all learn from a dying girl from Guyana. I hope you’ll keep a watch out.

Until next time…

Today: August 20, 2018

 

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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.

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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.

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Goodbye my sweet Vanessa. I love you.

Tonight, I know we’ll meet again.

When Too Much Gets to be Too Much!

 

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There are seasons when life becomes filled with too much. Too much stress, too much sorrow… too much work…just plain too much. That has been my season this summer. I’ve had a summer of too much illness, not my own (thank you Jesus), but in the ones I love. My summer started with my friend Vanessa who’s battling brain cancer (you can see her story starting here: Half Naked and Picking Weeds) and took a turn for the worse in May. I left Vanessa’s hospital bedside and flew to Virginia in June to take care of my mother as she underwent kidney stone surgery, while there Daddy became sick. After they recovered, I returned to Vanessa’s hospital room. In July, another dear friend of mine contracted a terrible infection in her knee that could have been fatal. It was off to Tampa to visit her in the hospital. She is still at home with a port in her chest administering daily antibiotics. In July, we almost lost Jay’s father, and drove up to Ocala to visit him in the hospital. After, my son Christian began suffering from a bleeding throat and had to have a tonsillectomy. He’s still recovering today. Last Wednesday, we drove to Tampa to be with Vanessa during her MRI consult. After receiving great news in June that her cancer had almost disappeared, we heard terrible news that it was not only back but spreading rapidly. The doctor told her without chemo she had two months with chemo, she’d have sickness and maybe four. It was all just too much!

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“I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful, than a lifetime of nothing special.” Steel Magnolias

  I’ll admit it, on the drive home,I was bit testy with God. I sobbed until my eyes swelled shut, and told my husband I was darn mad. I wanted to know why God allowed us to get so excited over great news to only crush us with terrible a month later. I suppose I’ll never understand all of that. Maybe, it’s not my place to.

 

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            You know when your Momma tells you to “settle down.” Today, I’ve settled down. I have to accept God’s sovereignty in the lives of those I love, and I’ve decided to truly surrender your life to God means to surrender your loved ones, hopes, dreams for your future, health, and even your anger to the One who holds it all in His hands. Besides, everything that happens to us first slips through His perfect fingers anyway. And His hands… that’s a good place to put the too much too. So, when you feel like you’re going through “too much,” place it in the hands of the God who loves you so much. That’s it for today. A little sad and tired to write more. Have a great weekend!

Perfection Obsession

I threw the broken seashells behind me and placed the perfect into my pail. My toddler, Bella followed behind selecting her own shells. The water swirled around our legs. I kept glancing back to insure she wasn’t swept away by the undertow. Later that evening, I returned to the beach to clean up, and peered into our pails. My bucket was a quarter-filled with the perfect shells, hers overflowed with all the broken I’d discarded. Immediately, I felt the familiar nudge when God wants me to see beyond what is physically there.

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            I have a tendency to wade in the waters of perfection-obsession. Perfectionism can be debilitating to a writer… an artist… an older Momma, filling me to the brim with the “not enough” syndrome. My writing doesn’t grab the attention enough, my paintings aren’t riveting enough, as a mother of a toddler I’m not young enough. Perfectionism’s return is always void, always costing me an empty bucket of unfulfilled hopes.

            That night on the beach, I dumped my shells and slipped a couple of Bella’s shards into my jean pocket.

            Bella is a lover of the broken, the imperfect. I am thankful.

            When we snuggle in the chair at night, she raises her brows, and tells me to do the same. She traces the lines on my forehead with her little finger and tells me she has lines too. For now, rooted in innocence, she sees my lines as beautiful, and I am grateful.

            I’ve worried about my Bella, thought about the unfairness of it all, being stuck with the older version of Momma. The one bearing sags of four pregnancies, diminished eyesight, and with three other children- an over-filled calendar. The Momma with lines around her eyes left from a life of laughter, sprinkled on occasion by the heaviest of clouds.

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            Bella watches me put on makeup. “Mommy you’re pretty,” she says. I smile, the lines appear in the mirror, trying to taunt me, but I remind myself they are evidence of a life well lived. I am living proof a bucket filled with broken pieces produce blessings in a lifetime. The crooked legs I was born with, still want to dance.  A creative mind that daydreamed in school, now creates paintings and characters.  A once naive and trusting spirit brings laughter to the joyless.  A broken heart that feared commitment, still leaps at the sight of my husband.  A memory that couldn’t retain history dates, remembers life’s tiniest details. A weak faith has endured testing and strengthened. A girl who wanted to take on the injustices of the world now shows mercy to those around her. A twenty-something’s unwise choices has produced wisdom. It is the broken pieces about us that can produce full buckets of God’s glory.

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            Occasionally, we need reminding, God loves us no matter. Just like Bella, walking along the shoreline picking up the pieces I’d discarded, Jesus walked this earth and picked up the broken, washed up, and rejected. His final act of love for a broken world was to break Himself on the cross and rise from the tomb, leading me to my ultimate blessing… I have a Savior who’s perfect, so I don’t have to be.

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            Are you chasing perfection? Chasing the lie? Do you spend more time worrying over the sags, bags, cracks, and lacks? Do you work harder to impress the world or to please God? Do you compare yourselves to others on social media? Don’t sap the joy out of your life with perfection-obsession.God loves those broken, tired, wrinkled, and baggy parts, my friend. Nestle into His grace, and while you’re at it, spend a little time this summer picking up the broken seashells.

 

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.

Half-Naked and Picking Weeds part 2

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I can remember it like it was yesterday. Tricia, my sister, and I were sitting on the veranda watching the sun go down at my Orlando home. I was going over the plan to send her to Germany for breast cancer treatment. I would keep Peyton with me, so she could finish the school year, while her and Thomas would travel back and forth to Europe. She would be receiving hyperthermia, a treatment that is now in its experimental phase here in the states.

            “I feel good about this one,” I said, for this was our third hospital…third attempt to fix this and my anxiety was heightened by the cancerous sores spreading over her abdomen and back.

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            She glanced at me across the table. “Tammy, if God doesn’t heal me in this life, He will heal me in the next,” she said. “Besides, if my cancer reaches one person for Christ, all this is worth it.”

            And there it was suspended in her prophetic words. Although, I was too preoccupied at the time to recognize it for what it was…Purpose.

            We will never know how many she reached for Jesus. Tricia and her husband Thomas handed out the gospel message everywhere they went in Europe. Tricia let her bald head and joyous spirit tell the story.

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            But there was the one…the special one…and she wasn’t from Europe. She was an American immigrant from Guyana. A twenty-nine year old, my sister never met. A girl my sister had nothing in common with except one thing…cancer.

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            Vanessa worked at the bank where my husband Jay had his account. He’d gone in one day to make a deposit and mentioned I was writing a blog about my sister’s journey through breast cancer. Vanessa wanted to read it.

            “Send my wife a friend request on Facebook, because I know it posts there. I don’t know how that whole blog thing works,” he’d said.

            Somewhere at the starting line of my sister’s four-year illness, Vanessa’s friend request came and I accepted. I can’t tell you how many times I saw her face pop up on Facebook and couldn’t remember who she was. Nevertheless, I left her there on my friend list.

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            One month before my sister passed, I was nursing my baby Bella in the middle of the night when my phone lit up a private message sent to me on Facebook. The message came jumbled a bit, but I deciphered what she was trying to write. I will take the liberties of writing it clearly below.

            “Hi, you don’t me but I know your husband from the bank. I’m in the hospital, just had a cancerous brain tumor removed. I wanted to thank you for writing your sister’s story. I’ve been reading it. How is she?” (from Vanessa Raghubir)

            Ironically, a month later I posted a blog about a girl with brain cancer who was taking her life via pills. I had no idea when I posted that blog in the morning, my sister would pass that afternoon and due to the controversial topic that blog post was read all over the world. You can find the post Right to Life here:

https://tammycarteradams.com/2014/12/19/the-right-to-life/

            After Tricia passed Vanessa and I communicated via text. She’d shared her heart’s disappointments regarding marriage and children, while I set out to save her by giving her nutritional advice. I look back at those posts and feel ashamed. I was manic to save her as I couldn’t do with my sister, but there are times people don’t need fixing, they just need to be listened to.

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            One day, Vanessa messaged me she was having trouble paying the bills and wanted to know if Jay was hiring. She’d completed treatment but due to being left with a speech impediment, she couldn’t return to her former job. Jay had just started his own development company and couldn’t hire at the time. I told her I’d keep my ears open for an opportunity.

            Soon after, I lifted an iron pan with my bad arm, something tore and I landed on the floor howling.

            “It’s a double rotator cuff tear,” the doctor said. “One tear appears to be very old, I don’t know how you’ve been living with it, and I may not be able to fix that one, but it put a strain on the remaining tendons until another one snapped. You need surgery and I think you should know it’s a painful long recovery.”

            “What?” I said. My eyes widened before landing on my baby girl. He followed my gaze.

            “I know it’s not the best timing for something like this. We can wait, but I don’t recommend it.”

            We scheduled surgery.

            We hired Vanessa.

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            The first morning she arrived Jay asked her to wash my hair. I shot him a look that said, I don’t know this girl, you wash my hair, but he ignored me. Vanessa followed us to our bathroom and while he brushed his teeth, she leaned me over the tub and washed my hair. It was like a weird blind date.

            After she blew it dry using her fingers instead of a brush, which was uh…different…I looked at her reflection in the mirror.

             “I’m sorry,” I said. “I know this is awkward, normally my sister’s here to take care of me in times like this. It’s what we did for each other.” My eyes teared, for my heart felt her loss that day.

            “It’s okay.” Vanessa said smiling. “Your sister brought me to you.”

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It is often said God works in mysterious ways. It is like the seeds growing under the soil, we can’t see the sprouts bursting from the shell, until the healing of time passes, the tears pour, and God mercifully shines His grace on our mournful soul. One dawn when we’ve moved onto plow another plot of land in our lives, we look back and see fresh green shoots popping up, that’ll eventually produce their own fruit.  We’re taken aback by it, because it’s this miracle that we were allowed a small part of or at least to be a witness to.

Vanessa is that to me.

If you would like to donate to Vanessa Raghubir’s Go Fund Me Page, please click on the link below. She is in need of some financial aid. The Go Fund Me page needs to be updated it is from her first diagnoses of brain cancer, but the need is even greater with the second. Thank you and God bless you for helping someone you don’t even know.

https://www.gofundme.com/i3nnns

Part 3 next week…

Half-Naked and Picking Weeds

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When I was a little girl we had this huge garden running alongside our house on Mockingbird Lane. Mornings and evenings when the heat was bearable we’d pull the weeds and collect our bounty in baskets. I can still feel the prickle of the cucumber stems and smell the pungent scent from plucking the tomato off the vine.

            My sister, Tricia and I labored in our underwear. The sun-browned our bodies to the color of mahogany and we’d moon Granny our bright white bottoms because she’d laugh so hard tears spilled out of her eyes. We didn’t have air conditioning in our home until I was almost a teenager. Daddy clutched the coins and feared a high electric bill. In case you’re unaware, summers in the Tidewater area of Virginia can get extremely hot and sticky.

            We didn’t have a microwave either. Momma feared her children would glow in the dark from the radiation. She was a purist when it came to feeding her brood. Most of our food was homemade for she didn’t like preservatives. While Tricia and I raided our cousin’s house for the Pop Tarts. No amount of begging in the grocery aisle would make my Momma cave.

            “That’s junk!” she’d said. “Do you want your poop to turn green? I’ll bake you a banana bread instead.”

            Momma was a firm believer in the color brown, brown eggs, brown bread, brown cereal, brown poop. She was obsessed with us having a good BM (Bowel Movement) every day. This obsession peaked in her wheat germ phase. As I sat guarding my mashed potatoes like a dog over a bone, and hoping Daddy would hurry up… for all things good and decent in this world… and say the blessed blessing so I could get in a few bites before she came around with that jar of brown granules…splat! It was too late, my potatoes were healthy-matized brown.

            “There! Now you’ll get a good cleaning out,” she’d said.

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            I can still picture Momma clad in a halter top and shorts standing by the hot stove. Her dark hair piled on top of her head, while her brown skin glistened from perspiration, cooking up dinner or canning the cucumbers. Without air conditioning, summer meal preparation was a true labor of love. It probably explains why Momma’s lost the joy of cooking today.

  I suppose my nostalgia stems from just returning from taking care of Momma after her surgery. Time has a way of turning the table. I was the one standing by the stove cooking the meals albeit in a nice cool kitchen.

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             I haven’t written in a while because I’ve gone through an extended season of illness. I had Influenza B, then strep invaded our home, after that a dear friend named Vanessa who’s been battling brain cancer took a turn for the worse, followed by my trip to Virginia to take care of my parents.

            Meanwhile these last two months, I’ve felt half-naked in the scorching heat picking through weeds while they keep popping up through the soil of my garden.

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            Speaking of gardens, we’ve entered the garden season at the farm. The land is plowed and planted. The families on the farm are pitching in, to weed and harvest. We are then going to learn to can the produce in an assembly-line fashion. I’m surprised I’m excited about this, and yes, for all those dirty minds out there, I wear clothes when I garden now. (Farm friends you can thank me later…Ha!) Our last attempt at gardening, we ended up with vegetables rotting on the vine, that eventually sank into the earth and fertilized the soil.

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            Lately, I’ve thought about times we feel like that, the times we feel God out of reach or not answering our prayers, the times we think He’s neglected us, left us drooping on the vine. If only we could peer into the future and see our rotten times just may be the fertilizer in someone else’s life, would we be more willing to allow ourselves to be bruised… to feel neglected? 

            I imagine Vanessa feels that way as she lies in her hospital bed suffering from seizures. There were times my sister Tricia felt as if God left her dangling on the vine during her battle with breast cancer, but her rotten part revived the heart soils of those around her.

 

            The older I get the more thankful I am for the rotten times. I hated my sister’s suffering, but it was through it my husband strengthened in his walk with God. It was through it, we all strengthened our faiths in a God who’s sovereign and holy. My sweet Tricia passed away in the winter of 2014.

            When vegetables rot on the vine, they not only fertilize the soil, but their seeds fall into the earth as well. After the vegetables have been long forgotten, a new shoot springs up from the earth. Lately, I’ve witnessed one of Tricia’s seeds in the green faith of Vanessa.

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( To be continued…)

I’m Full of Bull!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Memoir from India

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

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

Seeds of Love…Seeds that Change

 

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“Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.” Mother Teresa

            We’ve been supporting Abilaisha through Compassion International since she was wee thing, now she’s fifteen. What happens to a ripe, innocent girl in India when Christian funding is forced out? Those that sleep on the concrete, untouchable floor of the Caste system are often sold, used, and abused. I didn’t get to say goodbye to a girl who called me Momma in her letters. Abilaisha was abandoned.

Compassion International has been serving the poor children of India for 48 years through an American sponsorship program. According to Guardian, since the election of Prime Minister Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who ran on a promise to rid the country of corruption and to promote Hinduism as the National religion, twenty-five, foreign-funded charities have been forced out. There is a fear by Modi and the BJP, India will lose its Hindu culture, and Compassion International is setting out to convert Hindus to Christianity. Compassion President and CEO Jimmy Mellado denies this accusation, for Compassion International has only worked with already established Christian churches to help them feed, clothe, and educate their needy. Undoubtedly, this shut down is allowing India’s Christian impoverished to slip through the geysers created by its political climate.

According to Open Doors an organization that raises awareness of Christian persecution around the world, since Modi’s election there is also a rise of Christian persecution in India.  Churches are being burned, pastors beaten, and out of the 64 million Christians, approximately 39 million have reported suffering direct persecution.

What will happen to my Christian daughter Abilaisha?

One ordinary day, I was complaining about laundry and dishes and boys dirty socks scattered about, when a letter arrived. I recognized Abilaisha’s foreign script and turned over for the translator’s version. Inside, I read the words carefully printed in pencil.

A typhoon hit her village, wiped out everything. Both her parents had Typhoid Fever and she was caring for them in a small tent. Then, as if nothing in her world was falling apart, she asked about me and told me she prays blessings on me every single day. Me, her spoiled American Momma. No complaining or pity party splattered her page. You see, she’s used to this life, used to the struggle, the hunger, the fraying of her hem, the holes in her shoes, but being used to it doesn’t make it okay.

I tracked down her village on goggle, tons of trees doted with small dwellings. I thought it would make me feel closer, but as I stalked her like a hawk from above, it had the opposite effect. She’s there, somewhere in a tiny hut, and I’m here in a palace. Our worlds lie far apart and I am humbled by my blessings and helplessness.

I stressed my concern to Prem my Indian sister-in-law with indignation, “Why doesn’t India do something to help their poor?”

“Honestly Tammy, the problem is so big. There is so much corruption and so many poor,” She shrugged, “where would you even start?”

I suppose the disciple Thomas felt that way. He was naturally a doubter, wanting to place his fingers in the holes of Christ’s hands to believe His resurrection. When Thomas reached the vast land of India, I imagine he felt a bit overwhelmed. Eventually, he died there, speared in a village like Abilaisha’s, but not before converting many for the gospel. If he hadn’t started Abilaisha may never have received the good news of a God who loves her unconditionally.

Heres where I find my starting point, planting seeds of love.

Although, she’ll probably never read this, this is my love letter for a little Indian girl named Abilaisha, which I’ve lost to a government that doesn’t want me to help her. I ask everyone who reads this to pray for Abilaisha and all the Indian children,  for their safety, their needs to be met, and their unfaltering faith. We have to start somewhere.

 

Note: In order to protect Abilaisha, her last name and village has not been included in this post.

There is a great need for the sponsorship of children around the world. If you would like to become a spiritual momma or daddy to those less fortunate, please consider sponsoring a child by contacting www.compassioninternational.com.

For more information on Christian persecution: www.opendoors.org