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.