Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Did I Tell You About Dallas and Roy?

Here's a little story about 2 horses and their riders. . .

"Let's just do it! Let's take the horseback riding tour to the beach! We'll make it right on time if we leave now!"- and there began our most spontaneous adventure during out trip to California.

We had stayed the night in a quaint little cabin along the Big Sur River and had woken to a gray, misty sky and a chill in the air. After a hearty breakfast at the local diner, complete with apple cider garnished with a real cinnamon stick, we lingered at the over sized stone fireplace- roaring. So cozy.

Not knowing what our morning would hold, we headed back to our campsite. A sweet, energetic blond welcomed us at the gate and showered us with a myriad of tempting itineraries, from hiking trails and hidden beaches to the horse-back riding tour. We figured it would be the best way to experience the trail to the beach, since we were headed there anyway. "Why not ride?" we thought. So we bundled in layers, packed our camera, and headed out.

When we arrived, we were given the option to wear helmets. Yikes, I thought. It was really "ride at your own risk". We lined up with other tourists to be assigned our horses. The guides looked us over and asked about our riding experience. I think somehow Kaleb and I, with our 4 or 5 riding experiences (put together), appeared to be the most knowledgeable, and at first look, the most agile.

"You will be with Roy," the leader told Kaleb. "Now he likes to bite at his bit, and he likes to wander off the trail, so you have to watch him." "Oh my goodness," I laughed to myself. "This is going to be a story to tell. I can feel it."

"And you'll be on Dallas," he said to me, leading me to grab the rope. My foot found it's way into the stirrup and over and on I climbed. I don't know why it surprised me, but here we were, a group of very inexperienced adventurers, and they just let us sit there with our horses- and expected us to learn in 5 minutes how to steer and stop and go. "The horses know what to do," they comforted us.

So I on Dallas and Kaleb on Roy, we followed the line. There were 2 or 3 guides, and ours was 2 horses ahead of me, and Kaleb and Roy brought up the rear. It's still hard to believe they let him be back there. I kept thinking "What if Roy just decides to wander off with Kaleb and there's no one back there to get him back on track?" As we moseyed, and the sound of the horse shoes ambling in the sand found their rhythm, I relaxed and began to feel like a true pioneer woman there in the mountains of California. The weather was perfect, the ride was smooth, this was so much fun! I loved it! We crossed a little stream, which provided a little excitement and padded my ego a little more. I was doing it! I was riding that horse and exploring the valley of Big Sur. Kaleb and I laughed as Roy nibbled loudly at his bit. "What is that?" I would ask. Then I would turn around and glance to see him gnawing away. "That's just Roy" Kaleb would say- slow and southern.

As we neared the beach, I heard the guide in the very front (the main guide) say to our guide, "Did you warn her about Dallas?"
"Warn me?" I thought, "What is he talking about? Warn me about what?"
"Not yet," he replied.
Then, nothing. Suspense- time dragged on as I wondered what I needed to be warned of.

A few minutes later, the guide turned around and said. "Now, Dallas likes to put his head down in the sand. So when we get to the beach, be careful, and if he tries to put his head down, pull up really hard on the reigns and kick him with your heals hard and fast."

"Oohh kay." I was thinking "Is that it? He likes to put his head down on the sand? That's no big deal, and he probably won't even do it. He's probably done that like one time and now they have to warn people."

We clip clopped on. I could smell the salty ocean air.

The trail soon opened up to the sandy shore of the beautiful Pacific. White sand speckled with driftwood that folks had made into piles and forts looked old somehow. And I felt like I was somewhere in the middle of a Nicholas Sparks novel. What a great picture.

So. . . we all stopped to take a picture. Our guides dismounted to come retrieve our cameras and capture the moments for us. I was getting ready to reach for my camera when my guide said. "Pull up! Pull up!" I realized that Dallas was beginning to lower his head. I pulled with all my might and kicked him in the ribs. He was strong and pulling hard against me. I jerked the reigns again, and kicked harder. He lowered his head, then the whole front part of his body lowered as he made his way to his knees, and from there it was more like a crumble. He laid his whole body down in the sand. Just as he reached the ground, I jumped off to the side. Thank goodness I did because he rolled over sideways, and to this day, I really think he would have crushed my leg- and maybe my whole self had I not hopped off! He just laid right on down. And there I was looking at him as the guide ran up and began struggling to get him up again. "You broke your horse" Kaleb later told me. It wasn't too funny as it was happening, but it sure was funny a few minutes later.

That whole experience was funny. The pictures are hilarious. Kaleb had already been picking on me the whole trip about my lack of photography skills. Each day, we would review the pictures we had taken that day, and we would laugh. There would be 2 or 3 of Kaleb in each spot- one with him not looking at the camera- or totally out of focus- one that I would catch of him pointing to tell me some background to be sure to include- and then one (if we were lucky) halfway decent shot. On the horse-riding day, I was in front of him, so I was really at a disadvantage. I was afraid to turn all the way around on my horse, so I tried to snap shots over my shoulder. As we laid under our quilt in front of our cozy fire that night looking at the day as we downloaded the pictures from our camera to the computer, we were crying we were laughing so hard.

So, there it is. The story of Dallas and Roy. Had I told you that before?
And that's Kaleb in the corner of the frame. Told ya.

Desperado (this might be the picture that makes me laugh the most)

Ok- this was one of the better ones that I took of Kaleb

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hope for the best- expect the. . .BEST

As a children's choir director for several years, I learned quite quickly the power of expecting the best. I would often start the class with "I know y'all are going to do so well today!" and somehow starting off with a positive expectation set the pace for the entire practice. "I can't wait to see how much y'all have practiced!" or "I know y'all are excited about singing today!" uncannily seemed to always lift them to a higher level. And most every time, my efforts paid off and they rose to meet my expectations.

We've heard it said "hope for the best, but expect the worst." I believe this is for the faint of heart, and it is our feeble attempt to prepare ourselves for the worst. But then we become a people who are going around anticipating negative outcomes. If a negative outcome is at hand, wouldn't we rather live fully up to that moment- at least imagining a positive outcome? I would. Not to say I always have that fortitude of mind. But I sure want to.

I heard a story once that supports the same idea of expecting the best- primarily regarding how we respond to others.
(I apologize for not being able to remember the author. I believe it was on a radio show). Here goes. . .

As the school year began and teachers and students hurried in and out of classrooms the first few weeks, one young teacher was particularly energized about his schedule. Each morning, first thing, he taught a group of gifted students that daily amazed him with their attentiveness and exceptional test scores. With this one class, he spoke to them differently, emphasizing their giftedness and telling them how proud he was to have them as students. Their score continued to soar and their attitudes were delightful. His other classes remained mediocre with a mixture of potential and effort- nothing to get excited over. 
One morning a few weeks into the semester, while in the teachers lounge, the young teacher commented to a few other dedicated educators "Man! I am so excited about my first period class this year! They finally gave me a gifted class, and they are awesome! They do their homework, they pay attention in class. It is wonderful! After all these years, I'm so glad to finally teach such gifted students!" The other teachers glanced at each other in confusion and continued listening to the young teacher brag on his first period students. Some of the older teachers smiled in wisdom, understanding slowly. Another young teacher finally broke in and spoke up. "I don't know what you're talking about," she said to him, "They haven't offered gifted classes in years. That class you have first period is no different- no smarter- than all your other classes."
He had been led to believe that his class was gifted. He treated them as gifted. And they performed as gifted. His attitude toward them had affected their attitude toward him, toward their work, and had set them a step above the rest. Just his attitude alone and the expectations he had of them directly affected their performance.
I often use this story when counseling couples- or even when talking with individuals who want to see change in others- someone they love or someone they can't stand! Sometimes even when we want to see change in someone, the most difficult part is allowing that change to occur- much less expecting and anticipating that change.

I call it "giving some slack"- giving a person "room to grow and change". So often, we try to hold people in an old pattern. I noticed this early in my private practice when I would ask a wife "Do you believe he can make this change you're asking for?" and I would be given a "Yes, but" response. I didn't buy it. There is no "Yes, but" (which is typically followed by "he'll probably try for a while and go back to the old way" or "He says he wants to here, but when we get home. . ." you get the picture). And it can be so frustrating! Both people want change, both people are willing to change, but neither is willing to ALLOW the other to change. It is hard to take a risk and expect something better- something new- with the potential of being let down again. It is hard- but it is necessary.

If we see people as God sees them- full of potential to grow and change- we can then treat them as the person we hope they can become. This is true for children, for our spouses, even in friendships. This is how we expect the best. When they try and fail, we choose to avoid statements such as "I knew you would go back to your old ways" or "You ALWAYS are going to be this way." YUCK! Give him/her some slack! Give the person you love room to be their best and help them see that as a possibility too by the way you choose to respond to them. "That wasn't like what I know you've said you want to be, and you look frustrated at yourself. I forgive you. . ."

I have watched it work. I believe what God's word says is true. We are to think on things that are pure, lovely, true, of good report. We are to choose to focus on the positive. When we give each other slack and begin to treat each other with gentleness and positive anticipation, we will see changes. Change is not the hardest part. Letting change happen and developing new norms is much more difficult. So I ask my clients if they are willing to do that- to really trust and get into a new system- new patterns. It may mean being let down a few times- even after the other person commits to the change too. But it will also mean experiencing, giving, and receiving grace in a whole new way.

Sometimes the people closest to us strangle us the most and keep us from moving forward by trapping us in our old ways and reacting to us within pre-set stereotypes. "Suzy is always late." Sure she's going to be late every time if no one expects her to be on time anyway and even worse if they react with joking and sarcasm if she arrives early "for a change." That is no fun. "Sam never cleans his room." Well, he'll never choose to clean it if you keep telling him he's lazy and then clean it for him. Again, you get the picture.

So, I challenge you to try it. Begin putting a word in your husband's ear that lets him know you respect and admire him. "I sure am thankful you always take care of our vehicles so I don't have to. I love not having to worry about getting my oil changed" or "I loved when you took me to the movies. That's one of my favorite things to do." Expecting and reinforcing the positive (sometimes with hints and sometimes just coming right out and saying it) gives the other person insight into what he can do to make you happy more often. Even "I knew you would ace that test" gives a child the idea that you were expecting his best all along, creating an environment for growth and achievement.

I could go on and on and on and on and on on this subject. But I won't. I'm going to assume the best- that you are still reading at this point- and reinforce you to come back and read again- by stopping myself at this point! Thanks for listening! And have a good day today!


Phil 4:6-8
 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 

2 Cor 9:8
And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Wedding Story (Two Sparrows in a Hurricane) Part 3

It was a sleepless night. Tossing and turning with excitement and anticipation, I prayed God's will for the day ahead, and for strength, and that it would hurry and arrive. Three sweet friends shared the room with me. The quiet darkness hung in there with me til morning, interspersed with fleeting moments of slumber. It was one of those nights when you can't tell if you're sleeping or dreaming or awake and thinking or somewhere in between. And it was long.

The hotel phone rang early, waking me from my lack of sleep.

"Well Lacy, Bellingrath called, and it's not going to happen. They told me they are closing down completely and going home for the day." Mama was calm. I was calm. It was like I'd just lost a project on my computer that I'd been working on all semester. And it was due in just a few hours! I knew we had to lower our heads and bust our rear ends to make it good. And we still could. It was going to be good- I was determined. I had done some of my best work in college at the last minute. I knew what this pressure felt like. Most plans were already in place- the flowers, the food, the tablecloths, the cake, the photographer- everything except a location. And I DID NOT want to get married in the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Tillman's Corner Alabama.

Soon, the hotel was bustling with our friends and family in and out of rooms- everyone asking questions, watching the weather on TV. We were on it! We piled into a room with our telephone books and cell phones. I called hotels with banquet halls. "I'm sorry, Ma'am, but we do not allow people to bring in their own food." We called Country Clubs and Churches. We called friends of friends of friends who lived in the area and who may have connections.

Then guests began arriving early to the hotel. They found me huddled at the lobby computer researching. "Hey! I'm glad y'all came!" I would say. With no answers yet as to the plans for the day. We were suppose to begin pictures at 11 or so. Everything was busy around us with people calling venues on our behalf, and the storm upon us, rainy, windy, and angry.

Just then, our caterer called. She had catered events at several places and was also being proactive in securing a new location for us. "I've been at weddings at this sweet little chapel called Brookside that has a reception hall beside it. It is really precious, and lots of people actually want to reserve it for their weddings. I could check on it for you. The only thing is... it's in a retirement village."

"Call 'em!" I told her.

And that was that. It was available! She booked it. And the set-up began! Flowers were to be delivered there. The food would be directed there. It was decided! But, our 2 O'clock nuptials would become a 4 O'clock event (which is actually interesting because I had always wanted to be married later in the day anyway! And 4 was my lucky number- my softball and basketball number!)

Everything else happened so fast, it is difficult to trace the events. I took a bath and fixed my hair very quickly. I believe some of our friends stood post at Bellingrath to re-direct guests who had not heard of the change of locale. I still can't figure out who called everyone or how people found out exactly where to go. Sadly, a bus from our church that would bring some of our dear older friends was forced to stay home and not make the trip due to the weather. Our grandparents wouldn't make it. And many of our RSVP's wouldn't make it either. But many were there, and we were going to be married that day!

When we arrived at the little chapel, it was delightful! Perfect! Simple and clean with wood floors and white-washed, arched windows. I loved it! Soon, a news crew arrived to interview us. Apparently, the diminishing hurricane, which was quickly becoming a tropical storm, didn't provide the stories they had hoped for. They caught wind of a couple that had traveled all the way from Mississippi to be married at Bellingrath only to be re-routed to a retirement village thanks to Arlene!

We have the video. It is hilarious- we were so excited just to be getting married! We were silly goofy, and I said "I've always wanted to get married in a little white chapel" and Kaleb said "Some of our friends have said we should name our first child Arlene". We were so cheesy. But we didn't care!

Our bridesmaids and groomsmen, and our choir (yes, we had a choir) crammed into the front of the little chapel. The house was packed! Guests splashed in through the pouring rain, and ushers walked them in with umbrellas, gave them towels and led them to their seats. Someone's car nearly floated away. Water was up to the door handle! It was a long ceremony. Quite long actually- but good. In place of a unity candle, Kaleb had the idea to drink from the same cup. We each poured our individual cups into one bowl, scooped from it, and drank of one shared cup- sharing our joys and sorrows- the water metaphor interwoven yet again into our wedding story. Among other songs, the choir sang "This Is My Father's World"- one of my favorites, and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross"-reflecting the covenant Christ has made with us- what our wedding was pointing toward.

The rain stopped by the end of the ceremony, and the reception was beautiful. The food was delicious, but there was way too much. The flower arrangements were huge for the room, so the place looked like a garden.  And everyone was soaked- some were barefooted, some had come out of their dress clothes completely. And everyone seemed happy just to be there- wet, all together, just there. We talked with friends and family who had driven into the storm to witness our uniting. We threw the bouquet and the garter and had a dance.

Then. . . a surprise. . .

When we walked out to be showered with rose petals, we saw it...

Our very own horse and buggy! Mama had arranged it from the beginning. She had been calling them back and forth all day to make sure they could make it to the Brookside Chapel. They promised her they would come if the weather would allow, and it did! So we all took our turns riding. Kaleb and I rode first- up and down the manicured streets of the retirement village, elderly residents stepping outside their doors with their canes and their leashed dogs- to wave at us as we rode past. We waved back- full of delight as if we were in a parade. We were married! And we were taking our ride of fame!

We rode back and others hopped in. Mama said "Now, Lacy, the man said we can have it til  7 O'clock. Y'all can stay here as long as you want to." Of course it was her last attempt to keep me close- to put off as long as possible letting me get in that car and drive off a married lady, when I'd started the day as her little girl.

The car was decorated too. And for whatever reason, we kept forgetting to clean the Vaseline from underneath the door handle. So every time we opened our doors for the next few days on our honeymoon, we were tricked again.

And so the wedding story ends. We were married! Like two sparrows in a hurricane, we flew through the day and off to our honeymoon- just as married as we would have been with sunshine and 500 guests. They say that rain on your wedding day is good luck. Well.

(Oh- and it was around 70 degrees and breezy alright.)

The End

Brookside Chapel- the day after the wedding (Mama took this one)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A Wedding Story (Two Sparrows in a Hurricane) Part 2

As Arlene moved on up the Gulf of Mexico, we packed our bags to meet her there. We had planned to stay the night in Mobile Thursday night to make it more convenient to get our marriage license on Friday. Yep. . . that's what I said. Apparently to get a marriage license in Alabama, you just show up at the clerk's office with your driver's license, and the next thing you know, you have a marriage license! No blood test, no "are you kin to each other" questionnaire. Just that simple.

On the way down, we decided to stop at Walmart, and we picked up some hot pink umbrellas- our way of hoping for the best actually. If we could have the wedding at Bellingrath under a tent, then we would need pretty matching umbrellas! I had gotten out all my tears that day, and it was "on with the show" at that point.

Friday, Kaleb and I and a couple of our close friends set out from our hotel to downtown Mobile to get our quick-stop marriage license and have lunch. I don't remember worrying much at that point. I knew I was going to be married the next day- one way or another.

That afternoon, an unexpected, pre-hurricane thunderstorm raged through. Just as people were arriving at the hotel- and not long before the rehearsal was to begin- the bottom fell out! Til that point, plans were to move ahead with the rehearsal at Bellingrath and the dinner cruise afterward. Would it pass in time?

It did.

And I praise my Lord for the gifts he gave that evening. After the storm passed, the sky cleared, and the evening turned out to be most beautiful- with a hand-painted sunset and a nice breeze. The rehearsal was held under the big white tent, and for all that I remember, it went smoothly. Then, we all enjoyed a smorgasbord of food and music on the dinner boat cruise, and it was just a delight to have so many friends and loved ones in one place at one time, loving us. They had truly driven straight toward a hurricane to be there for us.

We laughed and danced, and many of them took a turn with the microphone- telling stories about our relationship, about my gullibility, about the complementary differences in our personalities. Funny stories, sweet stories, stories that only friends would know. We loved it. They loved us- and we sure loved them.

At the end, I stood at the microphone and in an effort to help everyone be at ease, I sang "His Eye is on the Sparrow". Again, my desire was for them to see that I was ok. Then they could be ok too. And I was ok at that point. I was really ok.

Tomorrow would come. And when it would come, it would have a story of its own.

Why should I feel discouraged? why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely  and long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion- My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Wedding Story (Two Sparrows in a Hurricane) Part 1

The Prologue
A tale that begins with water (see my first post "Old Water") inescapably ends with the same. Love and fury poured down from Heaven. And it all began with a ring in a stream. .  .and a quote from Ephesians 5. The theme of water interwoven into our story and climaxing on June 11, 2005. . . here goes. . .
The Story
Mama and Daddy have always been big believers in the Farmer's Almanac for scheduling events around weather. And we were in the clear it seemed. Prediction- sunny and hot. Our plans to get married outside in Mobile in the middle of June didn't stop me from praying for a miracle of sorts. "Lord, please, somehow, let it be 70 degrees and breezy." We wanted our loved ones to enjoy Bellingrath Gardens, share the binding of our hearts as one, and not pass smooth out on the grass from the sweltering heat.       I know. Unlikely.

Or not?

As the days grew closer and I continued wrapping up last minute details, I was at ease. I knew  I wanted to be able to relax and fully enjoy our wedding day, a day we had patiently awaited for 6 and 1/2 long years. My desire was that everyone who came would sense my ease, and they would be able to relax and enjoy it as well. There is nothing like the tension you feel when you can tell the bride is tense and on edge. So, I wanted to decrease stress by taking care of everything completely before heading to Mobile.

The Wednesday before the wedding on Saturday, I was picking up my veil at a bridal shop, trying it on with my dress, prancing around the shop, and I just happened to glance at the TV. It appeared a tropical weather system was moving toward the Gulf of Mexico, and landfall was predicted for Saturday. "Nahhh..." I told myself. "It's sure to move in another direction. They always do."

By Thursday, the reports were more precise. A tropical storm was headed straight for the Mobile area, and there wasn't a thing in my power I could do to stop it. An unexpected guest would be attending our wedding, and her name. . .

was Arlene.

Hurricane Arlene- the first of the season in 2005, and the first to hit Mobile so early in the season in over 10 years. At that time, we were holding out hope. It was still possible that she would move East, in which case, the outdoor wedding could continue underneath a tent- despite heavy rain. She could even possibly diminish enough by our 4 O'clock exchange of vows, but the likelihood of either case was diminishing, while the storm was brewing. Darn those warm Gulf waters.

Thursday was I guess a foreshadowing of sorts of the waters that were to come. I remember sitting on my Mama's bed and watching the weather channel, tears soaking the sleeves of my T-shirt as I wiped them and watched and watched and wiped them some more in disbelief. "Why? How after all this planning will it all just fall apart- be literally washed away?" The day I had looked forward to since girlhood would not look at all like I had imagined- and nothing like I had planned for the past 8 months. As a matter of fact, two days now 'til the wedding, I didn't know how it would look at all...

Arlene was on her way.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Extra Mile(s)

Well, I am going slap crazy I guess.

Friday night, I had planned to go watch the Sylva Bay Saints (my alma mater) play football at East Rankin Academy. For whatever reason, I was under the impression that East Rankin was in Brandon- right off highway 80.  I should go ahead and self-disclose a little more... um, I played basketball at East Rankin many times in high school and junior high. (But, in my defense, I was never driving.)

So, I had already planned to get there after the game began. I knew I wouldn't make it on time. I didn't plan to. As planned, I went to El Sombrero's in Clinton with some friends, finished up and headed out around 7:15- to hopefully get there around 7:45- before half-time. Heading east on I-20, the yellow lines blurred past and "Money Matters" kept me in deep thought, my imagination chasing metaphorical rabbits between "callers". Then, just before my exit, something told me to check with Mama and make sure I was headed to the right place. Well, thank you for that thought, Lord.

"No, honey. East Rankin is all the way to Pelahatchie!" Mama said. "You know. We used to go there to play basketball," she laughed. Well, I guess I DID know. Once upon a time. But not anymore I suppose. So- I had to make a quick decision. Was I going to stay committed to the course- and go the extra miles? Pelahatchie sounded a few too many miles away- and neither Mama or Daddy (I called him to get more specific directions) could tell me exactly how far. I was already going to be late- and now I would be really late. "Is this even worth it?" I asked myself. "Uggh. I should just turn around and go back home."

But, I had told my sister, who I'm sure had told my 5-year-old niece, whom I did not want to disappoint, that I was coming to meet them at the game. Now I wonder if I would have made such a commitment had I known the distance.

So. I just kept driving.

Daddy wasn't able to tell me exactly where to turn and how far it would be, but I knew the general direction. I knew there would be a Pelahatchie exit off I-20, and I told myself I would just look for the lights of the football field. (Gas stations can throw a person off by the way). So onward I went, determined to keep my commitment and hopeful that I would get to spend some good quality time with Sydney (my niece), see my nephew, Hawk, and show some support to the Saints. I never know how Syd is going to act toward me. Most times, it takes her a while to warm up and "let me in". She may not even want to see me much at all with all the fun things to do at a ballgame, I thought to myself.

Nonetheless, I kept driving.

Pelahatchie exit, back under the Interstate, toward the lights.

A little after 8, I pulled up to park with what seemed like a thousand other cars and looked for the entrance. My sister must have thought I was crazy because just as I was trying to find a gate to enter, she saw me. "Lacy, what are you doing?" We laughed. She was already inside the gate and just happened to be walking to the concession stand, but there was a fence between us. I must have looked so goofy out there trying to find my way in. She then said "Well, if you had called me, I could have saved you gas money because we're already behind 27 to nothing."

As disappointed as I was at the score, and as much as I would like for our team to win, that wasn't what had brought me all the way there. I had made a decision in my mind to come- and I felt  I had committed to Sydney that I would be there to play with her. I wasn't sure, but if she thought I was coming, I didn't want to let her down.

Then, after the game, waiting for her Mama to help feed the football team homemade sandwiches, we had the best time playing. Pretending like I was the nurse and she had a hurt leg, I had to put my watch on her leg as a brace, laughing as I called in for assistance on "her cellphone", eating ice for her medicine- we had a ball. I carried her on my back, played "follow the leader" with her to the concession stand to buy her a ring-pop and a pixy stick, and even taught her the firecracker cheer. We had a good ole time!

Those moments are far too rare these days. So I treasure them. She is growing growing, and soon she won't care to play as much with her Aunt Lacy. But that night, we played and laughed, and time seemed to be multiplied as our laughter lingered and moments slowed down. I slowed down. And I absorbed them.

And I was thankful I had chosen in a split second to keep driving- to go the extra miles. It would have been easy to turn around a drive home. But, without guarantee of how I would be received by Syd, I chose to keep driving. And I'm sure glad I did.

Lord, let me not let moments pass by. Moments to love and to give. Give me strength to hold fast to commitments and to go the extra mile when it is required. You added back to me and graced me with joy that made my journey worthwhile.  Bring this to mind when needed, Father. Amen

And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Matthew 5:41

But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Add To It

2 Peter 1:1-8 (NKJV)
1 Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,
3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,
4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,
7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

 8. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Awesome! Just after posting my blog a few nights ago, "Rotten on the Vine", I woke up the next morning and my Uncle Glenn had sent me this passage in an e-mail.

So how do we keep ourselves from going rotten on the vine? How do we keep from becoming unfruitful? We "add to". After Peter provides a formula filled with "adding to's", he points out that "if these things are yours and abound, you will neither be barrren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord..." It is an "if, then" scenario. If you add to, then you will not be unfruitful.

Speaking of "adding to", I have started a compost pile (to fertilize my garden of course). In this case, I WANT IT TO ROT! And even in the rotting process, I have to constantly be adding to to it. Empty cases of eggshells stay in my refrigerator until I haul them, along with potato peelings and other vegetable scraps, down to the pile to add to it. Every time we mow the grass, we add fresh clippings to the pile. Then, when we rake leaves, they too are added to the pile. Did you know that to create a rotten pile of compost- for the "rottening" to take place- there is actually a formula? Yep- you can't just toss on some leaves and scraps and hope for the best- (I have learned).

According to http://www.howtocompost.org/,
Composting is a dynamic process which will occur quickly or slowly, depending on the process used and the skill with which it is executed. A neglected pile of organic waste will inevitably decompose, but slowly. This has been referred to as "passive composting," because little maintenance is performed. Fast or "active" composting can be completed in two to six weeks. This method requires three key activities; 1) "aeration," by turning the compost pile, 2) moisture, and 3) the proper carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio. Attention to these elements will raise the temperature to around 130=-140=, and ensure rapid decomposition.

The proper carbon to nitrogen ratio, by the way, is 30 to 1, meaning, to every 30 parts carbon, one should add 1 part nitrogen (live stuff). Who knew that making something ROT could be so complex? Even dirt takes work!

Kaleb and his Mama sat on our couch as I told them about this post- giving them my ideas and reading to them about composting. "I know about taking stuff to the pile," Kaleb said. Sylva was grinning. "Yeah- we dumped all our stuff on that pile, but it never made any dirt," she said. Then Kaleb, youngest of 3, who was apparently the all-time "hauler-outer" said (in his intentionally country accent), "Yeah, but we sure added to it, though."

So I too just keep adding to mine. I forget about it sometimes. But when I think about it, I start adding to it again.

It's interesting to me the order in which Peter calls us to "add to". He gives a formula of sorts. Beginning with the foundation of faith. Our faith is where it all begins for us. Christ's sacrifice to redeem us is very real and sufficient. But it is not until we have faith that His justification for us occurs, and His sanctification process begins.
To faith, we are to add virtue: moral goodness or moral vigor. So- the first thing we add is a general moral goodness. Seems basic enough.
To that, we are to add knowledge (learning Truth and who God is and who we are to be in Him). So basically, don't settle for just moral goodness.
To that, self control (the practice and application- actually allowing our knowledge of Him and His word to change us- to apply it to our lives- becoming more like Him, evidenced by controlling our own behavior)
Then- perseverance- continue in the faith and learning and self controlling! Pressing on toward the mark,we are moving toward...
Godliness- actually beginning to act like Him- and look like Him- reflecting Him to others.
And to that, we add brotherly kindness (be sweet)- which, when practiced looks like. . .
Love! (be selfless)

I love this stuff!

Now, I encourage you to read back over the first part of the composting process above.
Take a minute. . .


Lord, let me not be passive and my process be slow. Move me toward godliness and love. Let me be diligent as your word says. Let me always be adding to.

And for those who are interested- again from www.howtocompost.org, below is a list of tips. Enjoy your dirt making!
  1. Gather all grass clippings and green yard waste but be sure to mix with the "brown" materials like leaves and shredded paper to add carbon. You will need both, but if you only add grass clippings your pile will compact and start to stink.
  2. Do not compost meats or pet droppings. Stick with food scraps and yard waste only.
  3. Avoid all pesticides and/or herbicide treated material.
  4. If you add weeds to your pile make sure your pile is good and hot. It should be steaming hot, not just warm otherwise it may not kill the seeds.
  5. Turn your pile as often as you can. Each time you turn it will speed up the process.
  6. Keep your compost damp but not wet. As you add material to your pile make sure that each layer is moist as it is added. During the summer your pile will dry out and the composting process will slow down.
  7. Got too much material to compost? Make a second or third pile. Stop adding material to a pile that is underway and start a new pile. This will insure you get a chance to use the compost this season.
  8. Add compost to your garden a few weeks before you plant. Let the compost have a chance to work into the soil. Try to mix it in and let it sit before you plant.
  9. Bugs, worms and most bugs are ok. No need to go crazy trying to keep bugs out of your compost.
  10. Since the compost process works best at temperature between 120 and 150 degrees composting in the warmer months is easier to do, if this is your first attempt at composting best to try in the summer.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rotten on the vine

Each year since I've built my front-yard garden, a kidney shaped nook- the only spot in our whole yard (front or back) that gets any sun, I plant a few vegetables in hopes of getting enough for myself- and if all goes well, maybe enough to share with a few friends! (ok- maybe just one or two friends- but I would still love to give them!) This year, the soil it was speckled with Japanese eggplant, red peppers, cherry tomatoes, and pole beans. I shopped for specific varieties, soaked seeds til they sprouted; Kaleb even diligently built a charming bamboo trellis for the beans to climb.

It's such an interested process. First is soil preparation. We all know if the soil is bad (rocky, thorny, etc.) nothing will grow. A spiritual lesson in itself. Then there is the planting. I love the planting- requiring such trust and expectation. Then comes the waiting and watching. And how exciting when the first little sprout bursts from the soil- or when a bud appears- promising fruit in the near future! It always amazes me. A seed, plus water, plus dirt, plus sun equals. . . . . . a tomato!

So the early stages of planting and waiting and watching the growth is fun and invigorating- seeing the results of my labor and the miraculous formula (seed+water+dirt+sun) actually working! I am motivated to get on my hands and knees to remove weeds, to water faithfully, and even to research organic ways to get rid of pesky bugs.

Then something happens. It gets hot. I get bored. I don't know what exactly. But just after the fruit (or vegetables) begin growing- after that first "harvest" (which for me was about 19 and 1/2 green beans), I lose steam. When my peppers come out looking like cherry tomatoes and my eggplant stop growing at far less than full size, I become disgruntled.

So here is my confession...

Right now, there are a few beans, several eggplants, and a lot of little tiny rinky-dink red peppers out there hanging on the vine. Sun-scorched and shriveled, most half-grown and faded, vegetables that were never picked. Left there to rot on the vine. I know, Mama, I should be ashamed. I am.

Well, I was disappointed. Between the hot dry days, my lack of fertilizing, and a couple of storms, it just wasn't the best "production". So I neglected to continue cultivating. There were times I could have revived them. There is even a second batch of beans out there right now. But they, like the peppers, are puny, dry and shriveled. Slap my hand, Mammaw. Please, I deserve it. Do I really lose that much gusto between the planting and the harvesting? 

Looking at those vegetables hanging there on the vine, I began to think of the reasons our own fruit- fruits of the Spirit, talents, good works for His glory, are never cultivated, harvested, and shared.

So I'm thinking. . . possible reasons I do not harvest and share my "fruit" (I'll spare you the commentary this time and allow you to draw your own spiritual correlations).

1. It looks so pretty hanging there on the vine- MY vine- for ME to enjoy and look at. It takes a lot of energy to cultivate and grow- "I mean. . . do I really have to pick it? And share it?" I'll just let it stay there and decorate my garden.
2. How do I know it's ready to be picked? I don't trust myself. I don't know that it's even worth picking yet. I'm pretty inexperience at this anyway. What if I pick it and try to give it away and it's not just right yet?
3. What if no one appreciates it or values it as much as I do? I mean, I get pretty excited and can be a little too impressed with myself as I watch it grow. If I share it, I run the risk of it at best not being appreciated and at worst- rejected.
4. Distraction. I'm just too busy- I have other things to do. Things. Things Things. That occupy my mind and time. Sometimes just when it's time for the harvest- to pick and share- I have already moved on to another interest- or another project. (come on Lacy, focus. Finish as strongly as you began).
5. I become lazy. It's not worth the effort anymore. I choose something easier (Kroger) or just do without.
6. If I'm going to share it, I want it to be perfect. If it's not perfect, it's not a good gift.
7. I assume no one will care either way. No one will miss receiving my "fruits".

So these are all the possible reasons I fizzled out- all the reasons we can all lose our focus and vigor in the cultivating and harvesting. I'm sure there are plenty more.

And this is where it gets good. . .
Guess what I just received from a sweet new friend of mine just a few days ago. . .one of the most thoughtful and delightful gifts . . .evidence of her hard work and a true sign of her care and appreciation for me. . .it was a cozy wooden basket heaping full of shiny fresh vegetables! I was so excited! What a blessing. I pictured her planting and watering, picking and packing them. A myriad of colors- green, yellow, red and glossy deep purple. What a wonderful gift!

Ohhh- what had I done with the gifts I had wanted to give? What I had planted, I had not cultivated and what I had watered, I had not harvested.

I arrived at home that day with my basket of juicy ripe vegetables, climbed out of my car and walked right past my little frazzled garden. I walked on in, and much like a child exploring plastic pumpkin candy, I sorted through my goodies. Then, I cleaned, chopped and marinated all of them- squash, zuccini, eggplant, and bell peppers. I tossed them on the grill for a while. . . and boy were they delicious! A reminder. Evidence of cultivation- a reaping of what was sown. A gift given out of love that meant even more to me than what was intended.

Lord, help me produce good fruit. You know what fruit I mean.

And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. Titus 3:14

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wednesday Morning Rain

Lord, I thank you for the rain
Water washing sin and stain
Soothes the bones and eases pain
I drink the morning in

Running clear from sky to ground
Like my heart, the drops they pound
And I hear mercy all around
As weighted branches bend

It gives consent to shed my tears
To cry like thunder at stangling fears
Like rising steam, new strength appears
That smells like hope again

A rain-washed scent the sun breaks through
Warming sky from gray to blue
Mercy making all things new
A fresh new day begins

Isn't it funny how rain somehow gives us permission to be sad? Or to just be where we are. Even moving us to repentance- in essence, a "pouring out" of ourselves.  In a mysterious way, it's like my soul can feel free to join creation in it's grayness as the sky weeps.

And there is no pressure to be particularly happy on a rainy day. The older I get, the more I find enjoyment in such days and having the freedom to "just be". It's rainy days that give us a chance to crawl under the covers and appreciate the coziness of our warm beds, to look out at the rain or storm and then look in at the stillness and feel protected.

Again, the rain leads to thoughts of washing and renewal. And His mercies are new every morning. So a morning rain seems to be double the reminder of His mercies poured out! Making all things new!  
Lamentations 3:22-24

 22It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
 23They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
 24The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"I don't just see the one"

Kaleb's Mama, my mother-in-law, Sweet Sylva Sue (that's what we sometimes call her) absolutely adores her son. And I mean she LOVES him. She prayed for him before he was born that he would be wise beyond his years, and her prayers were truly answered. But no matter how wise- how grown- how mature- he is still her baby. Through 6 and 1/2 years of dating and 6 years of marriage, I can not count the times that we arrived at her house after church on Sunday or after a Friday night ballgame, and she would say "Kaleb, honey, you look tired. You need to get back there and get you some rest." After a while, I started picking at her and saying "I'm tired too!" playing like I wanted her to baby me too. So she did. And we would laugh about it. After that, she began exaggerating her doting over me. But she never stopped it with Kaleb, despite his "eyeing her" (as she says) with those big, brown "I love you, Mama, but I don't need you to tell me when I am tired" eyes.

This past Sunday, we were delighted to get to spend some much needed time with our Sylva (her real name is Sylvia by the way). She joined us for worship at our new church, Hillcrest. We took her to lunch at Lula's on the brick streets, and we headed back to our house for a short visit. As she sat on one end of our reclining couch, her feet propped to match her baby boy at the other end, she got to looking at him. I knew what was coming. Sure enough, "Kaleb, your eyes look tired. You need some rest don't you?" Before he could give her "the look", she added
"Who knows you better than your Mama? Well, maybe Lacy does but. . ." (then she turned to me) "You see, I don't see just the one- the one 28 year old man. I see the 5-year old boy and the 10-year old boy. I see him all the way to now."
Wow- what a neat thought. As she looks at my husband, tall and strong, the man who provides for me and teaches me, she sees him through his ages. She sees her baby, a little boy, a pre-teen. She doesn't just see the one- just the full-grown man. And it made me think of how God must look at us. He doesn't "just see the one" when he looks at us either.

When he looks at me, He sees me before I was born, while he was knitting me together. Then when I was a four-year-old, a purple cow-boy hat wearing ball of energy- that cried and cried those first days of kindergarten, He was there. And when my kindergarten buddy Brock asked me "Where do you go to church?" and I said "I really don't go," and Brock asked, "Then how do you learn about Jesus?" And I wanted Him. I really wanted Him. I knew I wanted to learn about this Jesus. He was there. He watched me swim in the pool, build forts with my neighbors, and when I accepted Him at Bible School in the 5th grade, He was very much there. Stomach aches up all night with Mama, ballgames I won, ballgames I lost, friends that moved away.

Then it hit me. If He looks at me and sees the "little me" all the way up to the me right now- then He also sees the future me- who I will be one day. He knows the roads I have traveled and those I have yet to. How amazing to think of the perspective He has when he gazes on our lives. We are more to Him than who we are in this moment. Though, so often, we are caught up in the present moment, our current circumstances being magnified in our own minds. He, seeing the forest while the tree before us consumes our interest, knows the bigger purpose that circumstantial tree will serve. He is always seeing, always knowing, always viewing us as more than who we are in our "here and now". His omnicience transcends our concept of time and our inability to see outside our immediate surroundings.

He was and is with us, loving us, growing us in His image.

That's 4-year old me on the front left with a broken leg (Easter Egg hunt gone bad). Brock is 3rd from the right on the back row.

Psalm 139
 1 You have searched me, LORD,
   and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
   you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
   you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
   and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
   too lofty for me to attain.
 7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
   and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.
 13 For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
   when I was made in the secret place,
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book
   before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
   How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
   they would outnumber the grains of sand—
   when I awake, I am still with you.
 19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
   Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
   your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
   and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
   I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting.