Rainy Seasons

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Welcome to our Orlando garden.

We’ve had a couple of weeks of very hot, dry days, and like a toddler looking for Santa in the night sky, I’ve looked for storm clouds anticipating our rainy season to start. Rainy season is a blessing in Florida during the summertime. It makes for a cozy afternoon when that shadow settles over my house. I tend to light candles and brew a cup of Joe while trying not to trip over my shivering Poodle-Bichon, Rudy. The rains leave behind a greener garden and cooler sidewalks.

Yesterday, Bella watched her brother Colin dart out to play in the rain with his best friend Deven. She glanced up at me with her look. I nodded. “Go on.”

A few seconds later, she ran into the house. Her upper lip quivering. “Colin told me I’m not allowed to play in the rain.”

I took her hand and led her back outside. I nudged her into the downpour. She took a few steps out before running back to the cover of the garage.

“What’s wrong?” I said.

“It’s cold!”

“Go. You’ll get used to it.”

Colin, seeing I was encouraging her, ducked into the garage, grabbed her hand, and together they ran across the street to play. He helped her through the rain.

 

 

 

There are times the skies fall out on us, when life begins to feel cold and uncomfortable, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this…a garden needs rain and light to grow. So don’t be scared of the rain, even if you feel your standing in a torrential downpour because you have two survival tools to help you.

The first is a God who sees. Seek God daily and whole heartedly. If you spend time reading the Bible and in prayer God will give you peace, no matter what your circumstances. The other survival tool is the people God has placed into your life to help you through it. Accept the love and help from others.

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This is our Orlando garden that wraps around our home.

In the last few months with breast cancer, I’ve felt an outpouring of love from friends, neighbors, and family. Many prayed for us, made us meals for over four weeks (!), a friend sat in the waiting room during my surgery for hours. There were flowers, gifts, cards, and girlfriends willing to rush over and give me a hug whenever I needed it. All of them…all of you… were the weed pickers in my garden. The outpouring of love overrode the fear and sadness that tends to creep up when dealing with cancer.

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This is our spring sister in our garden. We have a sister representing each of the seasons.

 

Experiencing the rainy season alongside Jesus will increase your faith in a good God. As I teach Bella, God is good all the time, in the rain and in the shine.God never wastes a good rainy season in a believer’s life. He allows the rain so He can later produce a harvest.

Paul writes in Hebrews 6:7 and 8,  “For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.” (English Standard Version)

 

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. We called our friend Richard Case. Richard and his wife Linda have taught Abiding in Christ studies to couples at the farm to help them learn how to hear from God. Richard advised us to immediately go to God and pray for a verse to cling to during this season in our lives. Jay and I were sitting in my office. I spun around and glanced at a verse that I’d posted on my bulletin board a few weeks before. If I know anything about God it’s this, if He keeps putting a verse in your face, you better post it somewhere prominent because in the near future you’re going to need it, if you haven’t needed it already.

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You see, God always tills the land ahead of you. He’s churned up the soil ahead of your pain, sorrows, frustrations, even breast cancer. He had already spoken into my spirit for the months ahead, but we did what Richard Case instructed. After, both of us agreed Romans 8:28 was the verse to cling to. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for those who are called according to His purpose.” (ESV)

Throughout those difficult months, Jay began to notice this verse popping up everywhere. He’d say, “There’s our breast cancer verse again.” And each time I felt discouraged or beaten either I’d remember it, or Jay would remind me of it.

 

What’s your storm today? Do you feel you are being pounded by a hard rain? You have a choice to make, you can either grow a harvest that will grow your faith and one day nourish someone else, or you can grow your thorny weeds. Keep in mind…nobody likes a prickly person.

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This is Winter Sister

My advice? Don’t waste a good rain.

Till we meet again under sunnier circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Closing the Envelop

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She pressed the pain button on the pump wedged beside her and turned to me. “I think God’s timing is so different from ours,” my sister said. “When I go to heaven, it may seem like I haven’t seen you in a few minutes, but for you it will feel like a lifetime.”

God’s timing is a mystery to me. I believe His timing is not linear in the way we experience it, but falls in circular patterns, like the closing of an envelope, our past folds over and seals our present. We hum the Nocturne of our present, knowing His fingertips composed it somewhere in the past.

After posting my last painting, “Out of the Boat” to social media, I received a text from my sister-in-law, Tracey.

It read:

“The title of your new painting were Tricia’s last words to me. She said, ‘I have to get out of the boat! I have to get out of the boat!’ I pushed her down in her seat and told her to stay right where she was. That’s when she looked at me and said, ‘How are you going to stop me with your skinny self?’ I thought she was hallucinating, but she was still herself.”

I didn’t know this story when I painted the picture. I didn’t know it when the story of Peter stepping out onto the stormy seas kept reappearing in my devotionals. One thing is clear, I know God closed this envelop and is preparing me for something different, but I am humbled and saddened to admit, it is not for me to move to the farm.

I have a Cabinet of Curiosity in my Orlando home. Behind it’s metal grate doors, there’s a collection of treasures. On the shelves, to name a few, there’s a rock from Appian Way, the road that leads into the gates of Rome, another from the walls of a pirate’s handmade tomb I found on an undeveloped island, a rock from the catacombs (I hope it’s a rock), and a human skull I purchased from an old southern gentlemen’s garage sale in Windermere. (Yes, I did, much to my parent’s horror.) In my cabinet, are things from the natural world I treasure and love to bring out, hold in my hands, and ponder on.

Metaphorically, God’s timing is also there. When I think I’ve understood one tiny thing, and filed it away in my box of knowledge; after time, it springs out like a jack in the box revealing something more. Maybe that’s my mistake, trying to put anything about God in a neat square box. Around the cabinet, I’ve peered through the metal, curious why He’s telling me to step out on faith, to step out of the boat, if it’s not to walk across the cow patties? Moving to the farm would take tremendous faith! I’ve tried to convince Him of this.

The same husband who told me to get the boys registered for the new school admitted he was following my lead and had no peace about the move.  He listed his reasons: his ministry is in Orlando (he teaches business men in Abiding in Christ), his office is in Orlando, and we’d be apart from one another three to four days a week, Jay feels God wants us to use the farm house for Bible retreats, and if we lived there it wouldn’t be, I would be spending most of my day carpooling children in and out of the city. He didn’t like the idea of me riding those country roads alone after dark. On and on he went and when he reached the end…

“That’s just great! Well, thanks a lot for blindsiding me, after I’ve put myself out there on my blog!” I said. “In one fell swoop you’ve obliterated my credibility, squashed my ministry, and killed my dream of riding my horse and growing my own food!”

“You don’t even like to cook!” He said. “You will have to cook every night.” He’d already stated this. Mentioning it twice proved what I suspected, he hated my cooking.

But, I would not be defeated. “I’ve been preparing. I bought that cooking school book. I could become a chef if forced to,” I pointed my finger at him, “but now you’ll never know my full potential.”

He didn’t appear disappointed. “Walk me through what a day looks like living on the farm,” he said. “I don’t think you’ve grasped what it will be like.”

“I can ride horses. Bella can run and not get hit by a car. Do you realize we are losing our boys to other houses? The boys will make friends at their new school and our house can be the hangout place. You know boys would love hanging out on a farm.”

“What if they don’t make friends?”

I shrugged. “Then, we’ll come back.”

“You want to uproot the boys from a school and friends they love, so you can ride horses?”

It sounded selfish when he put it that way, but it wasn’t truly about the horses.

I stared at the floor. “It’s not just about the horses.”

“Explain to me what it is about.”

“I can hear there okay? Here, the landscapers never stop. I can’t think. It’s quiet on the farm.” I struggled trying to explain it. “I see things in nature. I grow creatively. I need to try a different life.”

He nodded. “You feel inspired there.”

How did he do that? I nodded.

            “You can go to the farm anytime. The boys are in a good school and have good friends. Why rock the boat? Until I know it’s what God wants, I’m not on board with it.”

“Fine!” I stomped out of the room.

Funny thing about time it brings clarification. I’ve stayed away from the blog and given myself time. Time to lick my wounds and wallow. Time to hear. Time for prayer and acceptance. Time to rewrite this essay over and over. Time to repaint the walls of our Orlando home white, breathing light back into this Mediterranea. I’ve made other changes. I’ve moved my art studio into the formal living room. I am surrendering my studio space, so the boys will have a place to hang out with their friends.

Easter at the farm, my boys celebrated two gifts of grace. I teared up as I explained to them, I am giving up my dream of country living and leaving them rooted where they are happiest in Orlando. That evening, Jay drove the Dually packed with my large easel and painting supplies to bring home. I followed behind in my SUV. He waved and blew kisses to me in the mirror at every stoplight. Charmer! He knows how to get on my good side. I’m no longer mad or sad, but humbled. How could I have gotten it so wrong? Did I run ahead of God? I have a tendency to do this. I like to lead… to step on toes…to be the boss.

Recently, I spoke with one of my spiritual mentors Linda Case about how I got it wrong and am now eating crow. “I suppose God wanted to humble me,” I said.

Linda’s smile can light up a room. “I wouldn’t look at it like that. Maybe you found a hallway. You realized God was telling you something and you opened a door to a hallway of more doors. Door by door, that’s how we walk in faith. We just have to keep ourselves willing to opening doors. You’ll find His will behind one of them, but it will happen in His timing.”

Did I mention, God’s timing is a curious thing?

This blog post was supposed to be about how to hear from God through scriptures, but I’ve asked Linda Case from “All for Jesus Living Waters Ministries” to write on the subject of hearing from God. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us.

While my pet goat returns to the herd and my Tennessee Walker vanishes from its stall, all I can do is pray and wait. Besides, God’s timing is not like mine. He will close the envelop when He knows I’m prepared to receive the missive. Until then, my readers the content I’ve planned for the year is in the trash. I’ve lost my way a bit. Please be patient as my blog may swirl around through loops and circles. I apologize in advance. Until the direction is clear, sit back and enjoy the ride.

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.

The Man in the Stilettos

“We’ll call ourselves ‘Starfish Sisters’.” My friend Heather said over lunch. “You know after the Starfish story.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uytlJ8urv4I (Click the link for the starfish story.)
That was how it began, about thirty Momma’s and Grandmomma’s coming together to make a difference in the world, or at least, at a charity in Orlando, Florida. Heather sent us an assignment, we hired a babysitter, and went to work.
One of our first assignments was for a charity called Mending Hearts, owned by a powerhouse named Stephanie Richards. I was pumped and ready to go. The assignment? Clean a house and get it ready for a family. I could do that! I had three boys, I was over-qualified for this assignment.
When we arrived, sinister-looking men lurked in the shadows, one ducked behind a tree. I wanted to yell, “I see you!,” as if it were a game of hide and seek, instead my eyes darted warily at our spectators.
An older “sister” grabbed my arm, “Tammy, don’t be afraid of them. We have God with us.” I raised my chin a notch. I wanted to yell it. “Yo Yo You wantta mess with me. I got God with me! Come try and see what happens!”
Inside, we found Stephanie on her knees scrubbing the floor. She was dirty, her blonde hair hung down into her eyes, but she smiled, for the calvary arrived.
Let’s just say here, crack houses are disgusting. There was feces among other unmentionables on the floor, windows, and walls.
By that afternoon, the walls had a fresh coat of paint, and the house was almost ready for a single mother and her children, once the fumes from the bleach cleared out. We were packing up to leave when Stephanie received word another house of hers, was set on fire by it’s former occupants. She laughed and said, “This is what I deal with all the time.”
“Why would you chose to do this?” I asked. It seemed not only exhausting but deflating as well. She explained, lower-income families slipped through the cracks of our society. They feel defeated even though they work just as hard. By providing a fixed rent, furnishings, utilities, and childcare, Mending Hearts sealed those fissures and provided a solid foundation where children grew up with stability. Stephanie required her renters to work, which helped parents maintain their self-worth, and their children grew up understanding a work ethic.
I admired Stephanie. She was the old man throwing the starfish back into the sea, while I was the boy asking what’s the point?
Another assignment for the Starfish Sisters was to collect personal products, organize them in bins, and hand them out at the homeless shelter downtown. The big day came, and I was manning the toothpaste distribution, when a man with green eyes and eyeliner, stumbled in his stilettos past my table, for a fourth trip. I was indignant. He was breaking the rules!
“Excuse me sir! Excuse me! You have gone through my line three times already, and the rule is you are only allowed once.” I motioned to an employee, “He keeps coming through the line. This is his fourth time!” I was the toothpaste police, and would not allow anyone to have more than their share.
He didn’t deny it, and nodded as the employee took him aside as I felt good about the job I was doing.
When we were cleaning up a deaf couple ran up with their two children, one in a stroller and the other around four years old. They signed frantically that they were there to get personal products, and I grabbed a bag and ran through each station dumping all that was left in their bag. My heart went out to these people and their situation.
Later, I had lunch with them, and in my best sign language asked them if their son could hear. They nodded ‘yes’ he could. I looked across the table at this little boy who grunted and pounded the table for more cake, but his parents couldn’t hear him. I slid a piece towards him, and his smile stretched from ear to ear.
That night, as I lay in bed the little boy’s grunt still rang in my ears. What kind of future would that child have if he never heard language?
The next month, I couldn’t work with the Starfish Sisters, for Momma was coming to visit. Daddy was flying to Orlando while Mom was taking the train. (She’s petrified of flying.)
I arrived at the train station early to pick her up. I double checked to ensure my SUV was locked before walking into the open air station. Sitting on a bench, I took in my surroundings. Piles of trash and leaves were on the floor. The dank odors of trash hung in the air.
Alone, I was in a vulnerable position. The train station was not located in a nice part of town, anyone could walk up behind me and put a gun to my skull. I clutched my designer purse tight against my chest and kept an eye on both doors.
It was then, someone started snoring. I jumped off the bench, ready to run for it, but stopped…
I recognized those shoes.
His stilettos were cast aside on the floor beside him. It wasn’t just Louis and I in the train station that day.
I sat and studied him.
His mascara was smeared under his eyes. He was lanky and long, with fingernails painted bright red. His lips were still stained from the lipstick he wore the night before.
I listened to the rhythm of his breathing. A maternal love filled me for this bi-racial man, for I was raising bi-racial men of my own. I wondered what his mother was like, or if he even had one. I longed to wake him and ask “What happened to you? Tell me your story!” But I lacked the courage. I hadn’t the courage to tell this beautiful twenty-something boy ‘Somebody loves you’.
For thirty minutes, I watched him sleep. He was peculiar, and although I knew he was far from innocent, he appeared to be curled up on a bench too small for his frame. He tugged his filthy blanket up around him, and switched sides.
Ashamed,I glanced away. Was toothpaste really all that important? I questioned why was I willing to dump tons of supplies in a deaf couple’s bag, yet I embarrassed this boy for going through the line as many times as he could.
I repented and prayed God would intervene in his life, and someone with more courage than I would come along and tell him Jesus loved him.
The train rolled in interrupting my reverie, and I stood to greet my mother. Once we collected her baggage, and re-entered the waiting area, I looked around for him, but he and his stilettos were gone. My chance to help save a starfish disappeared.
Later, I realized if he awakened he would have seen the toothpaste police clutching her purse to her chest. Who am I to think he’s peculiar? I am just as peculiar as he for what I held tight…what I valued enough to protect.
Before my sister Tricia died she said, “We worry about so many things that don’t really matter in the end.” Wisdom comes to those who taste death. Name brands, getting into that smaller size (loosing those baby pounds ugh!), our titles at work, impressing others with our cars, houses, bodies, and selfies, take our focus away from God and others, and places it on ourselves. People are mourning, feeling inadequate, rejected, scared, unattractive,and unloved.
Life is too short. Those things we hold so tight don’t really matter, so let them go, for how else will you be able to get your hands dirty picking up something (or someone) that does?

Please note: Mending Hearts needs your help. Stephanie Richards has been fighting Orange County for her tax exempt status. If you can give anything at all please click the link below to read about her situation further. Thank you.
http://www.gofundme.com/n4s2kk