Author Archives: Cassandra

About Cassandra

Writing's a bit like cutting off a slice of your heart, setting it on your prettiest napkin then laying it out on the kitchen table for the world to dissect. And I can't imagine ever not doing it. I love Jesus, my big strong husband, the four kids God gave us, the people He puts in our path and the critters on this crazy little farm. It's my heart's delight and drive to write down the days as I journey with them all.

Weeks and Years

Sometimes a week’ll come at ya and it just won’t quit and you’ll get to the end of it feeling a bit pummeled about the head and neck and then when you think it’s all done, news will come that could near knock you to your knees but you remember…

You remember that no matter the stress…no matter the criticism…no matter the silence from those who should be speaking…no matter the juggling…the struggling…

You’ll remember that there are people in this world who are connected to you in a way that no one else will ever be and that all good things will someday run out their course and that the only thing to sometimes do is hold those people close, so close in your heart, and thank our Creator for making them and bringing them into your life and into this world where they shine and shine.

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When the day pulls and tugs and your sighs bring sadness and your heart wants to stiffen and you yearn to hear all the words unsaid…

you remember all the months and all the years of a friendship building and how is it that when it finally reaches that comfortable peace of old friends who have been knowing one another well, seeing the heart even through distance…

how is it that so soon…too soon…how is it that it’s nearing the time when generations change and the young ones become old?

How is it?

Wasn’t it just yesterday when I brought my firstborn to her and we awkwardly made our way through such unfamiliar friendship and mothership joy and in her strong way she showed me how she used to stroke her babies on the forehead with her fingertips until they’d sleep peacefully?

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How is it that the very same yowling baby brought dinner home tonight for his family and does he know that she was the one that put that in his daddy who then taught our boy so well?

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Wasn’t it just a season ago that  I first observed her inward steeliness and confidence and watched her quietly from a distance, wondering what it must be like to carry life so stoickly within, before I boldly and shaking, secretly took a little piece of her grit for myself and admiringly made it my own when I made my last name the same as hers on that day I married her baby?

How is it that the same grit I learned from her helps me love that man and listen to him in a way I never would’ve had the patience for if I hadn’t have watched her love him first and that because she taught me that, I am blessed in ways unfathomable?

10252178_10204930069912418_167760168140901940_n Wasn’t it just hours ago that she traveled the continent to see the life that boy had made for himself?

Wasn’t it just last week that we sat in peace and we talked about the mountains so patient and we had understanding and we became friends?

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Wasn’t it?

Wasn’t it just yesterday when I learned from her that you don’t have to agree…to love,  and that sometimes just accepting someone is the start to years of growing and understanding and friendship?

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Wasn’t it all just yesterday?

So when the week pummels and your friends might not always act like your friends and the demands pile up and the days run too short for all the tasks, and the season may not look like what you thought it would…

Remember the ones who gave you the time you needed to become their friend and who let you grow until you became their family.

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Remember that sometimes the week doesn’t always go right but that love always does and it is worth every second and every minute and every mile and every year because one day the years will taper and you’ll sit with them in your hands and in your lap and drawn on your heart…

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and you’ll yearn for more time…

and you’ll wonder how all these weeks and all these years went so very fast.

 

When Daddy Has Girls

13700026_10207354848010355_4509519964525493000_n“Rainy day for the kids huh? That’s good for my boy…workin all day out in the rain.”

“Sis was out in it too, Honey. It’s good for both of them.”

“Yeah, probably. I’m glad they’re both working…

I guess for her I’d just like it better if it was sunshiny and warmer.”

❤️

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One Little Word

My husband with his beautiful heart reminded me yesterday of the story of the adulteress that Jesus stood up for…and wrote in the sand for…and forgave.

I wrote this piece with her in mind, and for someone else that I know needs to hear this today, even though I don’t know her yet.  

I wrote it for my best friend who is brave and touched His cloak and has never looked back.

And I wrote it for me too.

Because sometimes we need to be reminded of who we were,

who we are, and who we are not.

~

There it is, that one little word.

That one little word, and here comes a flood of shame.

Sorrow.

Darkness.

Anger.

And it’s funny – but really it’s sad –  how slow we are to learn but how fast we are to run, and how easy is it to hide our past so deeply that even we forget it; – tucking it all into the suitcase of Once Was – while, with our hopeful smiles we cover the label there on the front that says SHAME.

How we can hide for a long time the load our heart once carried.

Until one little word reminds us.

One little glimpse at a girl who might look like one of my girls, or your girls…or any of our girls, but who definitely looks like a younger me…

and if I didn’t love that younger me then, how could anyone?

If I didn’t stick up for her and show her how to care for herself and be strong…

why would anyone else?

How could she do that to herself?

How could she allow those things to happen?

How could she stoop so low?

How could God ever love her?

Oh!

But there He is…

beautiful and bent over in front of your stooped over self…

and He’s scribbling in the sand…and what is it that He’s writing?

Maybe a word…maybe just a few letters…there He goes writing it out there for the whole world to see…right there in front of all of them…those who would love to let you know how low you are.

And you know what you’ve done. You live with what you’ve done. Your voice joins them, maybe even the loudest of all, while they keep reminding you of how stooped down and degraded you look.

The whole group of them saying it.

That’s all your ears hear anymore.

But He doesn’t join them. He’s not saying their words.

These words He puts down…He wrote these words just for you.

Maybe His scribbles were bigger than the ones your ears and heart and self-confidence have been hearing for so long.

Maybe that word from His hand was heavier than the weight of shame you’ve been carrying,

and then when they all walked away because His one little word exposed the ugly truth of it all,

maybe their voices and their echoes trailed off with them…

and now you can start to stand up a bit taller…

because then…

only Jesus was left.

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You split the sea so I could walk right through it

My fears were drowned in perfect love

You rescued me so I could stand and sing

I am a child of God.

And as you started to stand…started to look up…maybe that’s when He reached down on high and took hold of you and drew you out of the deep waters…and maybe that’s when  you put your hand in the hand that stilled the waters, and when you did He calmed your shame and He didn’t condemn you but instead He told you to leave your life of sin and He gently took hold of you and He said Follow me.

Maybe it hasn’t happened just yet, but it will because He stands at your door and knocks, and He’s standing there now…but it’s a gentle knock, not loud and demanding or kicking down the door of our heart like the others do.

He’s won’t demean you.

He won’t play games with you.

He won’t use you.

He won’t hurt you.

He doesn’t want you for His selfish purposes.

He won’t leave you laying there vulnerable, yearning, hoping this time for something that isn’t there.

He won’t ask you to harden your heart and put a shell of sarcasm and jokes around it to help protect from the pain…the want…the rejection…the lonliness.

He won’t.

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He’ll embrace you like you’ve never ever been embraced before and He won’t ever let go and He will wipe those tears that will finally come as He softens you and He will lift you off the bed of filth and sin and He will make you never want to be in that place again and He will cradle your heart and He will be tender with that delicate side you’ve been hiding and He will show you exactly how beautiful and treasured and valuable you are because you are His child and He made you and He loves you and wants you to be free.

He will give you pictures of the things He wants to do in your life and He will show you  how you can change the world for good when you let Him shine through you.

He will walk with you through the hard times instead of walking away and causing hard times.

He will talk kindly and straight to you – through you – instead of whispering behind your back to others about all the things you’ve done.

He will show you goodness.

He will show you your goodness.

He will show you His goodness.

He will show you true goodness and you won’t ever want to let it go even though sometimes it may feel scary and unfamiliar.

He won’t leave when He’s done.

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Because when He’s done is only after you’ve walked with Him and talked with Him all your years, and you’ve clung to that old rugged cross all your days, and you’ve praised with all your breath that up from the grave He arose…

until one day you’re with Him in person and He’ll hug you long and tell you how glad He is that you’re home and He’ll say you did good girl. Now stay with me forever.

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So you grab that hand with the holes, that hand that stilled the water,

and don’t you let anyone tell you not to, not even your scared self who might want to mock and scoff.

He can take your laughter and your fears and He’ll still be there so go on and let Him take hold and calm your seas and take your shame and let Him grow you.

And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Ephesians 2:22

You are redeemed. He already bought you honey.

You’re HIS girl.

Let Him build you into who He made you to be.

Listen to HIS words. Read them as often as you can. Put them in your pocket and up in your heart and when your ears want to hear the nasty words, remember His letters in the sand and sing and make music in your heart to the Lord or if all you’ve got is a deep cry and groaning of your soul, He understands that too.

Remember the words He wrote for you.

Hold onto them like they are your life itself because they are.

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And then…

when you’re a little stronger and you’ve learned to stand straight, and you’re learning this thing He calls victory and you hear Him say

Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering…

you might see someone who is still stooped low.

So you will be able to tell her.

That she is worthy.

That she is loved.

That she is valuable.

That she can leave her life of sin.

That she is forgiven.

That she can stand up straight now.

That she can be healed.

That she is free.

You’ll be able to show her the words He wrote for her.

And you’ll be able to point her to Him.

~

 

Author’s Note:

If you are the girl that needed this piece today, I love you and I want you to reach for the light of the Lord who bought your freedom and who will break your chains.  If you carry shame, please know He took that shame upon Himself so that you can live life free from sin and full of His spirit.

Fight your way out. Let Him fight for you too. Because He will. I promise you. He did for me and I fight every day to remember that He fought for me and fights for me still, and that I belong to Him.

That fight is worth it. With every breath in me, I promise you the fight is worth it.

Written into this piece are many scriptures, song, and lyrics. I list them below because I know sometimes we need something positive to focus on while we pull ourselves up, but the best thing for you to do is to get with Jesus Himself through prayer, confess your sins to Him, put it all on His cross and ask Him to help you give and live your life to Him and to turn it around. Then find a loving brother or sister in Christ and let them show you how to put your hand in His and how to keep it there all your days. 

If it’s you that I wrote this piece for, I love you so much.

Jesus loves you even more. Don’t spend one more day of your precious life without Him.

Love, Cassy

Into marvelous light I’m running, Out of darkness, out of shame. By the cross you are the truth, You are the life, you are the way

My dead heart now is beating, My deepest stains now clean. Your breath fills up my lungs. Now I’m free. Now I’m free!  

~Marvelous Light, Charlie Hall

~

References within “One Little Word”:

Scriptures:

-Jesus Forgives an Adulteress Woman: John 8:1-11

-2 Samuel 22:17 He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.

-Luke 18:22 “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow me.”

-Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

-Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.

-Romans 8:26 For we do not know what to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

-Mark 5:34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Songs & Hymns:

-No Longer Slaves, Bethel Music

-Put Your Hand in the Hand, Anne Murray

-In the Garden, written by C. Austin Miles

-The Old Rugged Cross, written by George Bennard

-Christ Arose, written by Robert Lowry

-Wonderful Words of Life, written by Phillip Bliss

-Marvelous Light, Charlie Hall

~

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19

 

Sounds of Silence

    My boy sent me this piece that he wrote last month as a sample for the online writing course he is taking for 10th grade Composition this year. I hadn’t read it before today. 

I gasped when today, for the first time I read it.   

Sometimes we get glimpses of who our children really are…the person God designed when He formed them…and today, in my Inbox, I got a glimpse.

I got an oil painting/photograph/portrait/photocopy/lithograph/everyday YES of who my boy is, and who I see when I think of him as a grown man…

…and it took my breath away.

He said I could share it on my blog.

I passed off their writing instruction this year to an online coach and when they show their hearts…their minds…their writing…I beam, and I nod, and I sigh.

And sometimes…times like today…I cry quietly a little while my breath catches in my throat and I put it up in my heart and add it to the picture I see when I see them grown.

And just like my husband said when he read this…it is so beautiful.

I had to share it.

Sometimes they write our story.

And it is so beautiful. 

The Sounds of Silence

by Colton Rankin    

     Looking down the trail with the pack heavy on my back, I set off into the forest. The birds singing, and sound of small critters rustling around in the undergrowth are all familiar to my ears. As I go deeper and deeper in, the noises seem to get louder, but I start to relax knowing that with each step I am being carried away from the hustle and bustle of civilization. I reach a small creek and listen to the water flowing over the rocks. I pick up a smooth flat stone and run my fingers over it. And I wonder how long it took for the constant flow of water to wear down roughness of its surface.

     I did not bring my watch, or phone, but I guess it is noonish. I pause to look at my map. I am aiming to camp by a small lake. As I rest I hear the sounds of geese passing over me. Winter is coming, the animals are moving away from the cold harshness of it. Only the strong stay. I may not be migrating to get away from winter, but to get away from the same thing day in, day out. To live and experience something new. Let my senses take control, taste, see, feel, smell, and hear everything more vividly than before.

     I make to the lake with daylight to spare. I set camp, my tent, and sleeping bag. I gather wood for a fire. The view of the lake with forests and clearings set against a background of sky scraping mountains is breath taking. As I watch, trout start to rise on the lake, sucking in the insects that sit on the water. I grab my fishing pole and head down to the shore. I cast out and when the lure touches the water a fish inhales it. I set the hook, the fish leaps out of the water. It fights as hard as it can, but since it is only eight inches its struggle was short. I hold the small trout as it gulps for air. Easing the hook out of its mouth, I place it back in the water. As it swims out of my hand I feel the muscles along its body moving thought the water. And just like that, he is gone. Ever since I started fishing I released the first one I caught. Sometimes I released them all, but even if I was after fish to eat, I release the first one.

     I fish for a little more and catch a few more fish for my dinner. Fishing has a way of stopping time. Because when I looked up from my third fish, it was getting dark quickly. I got my fire started and the fish cooking. It was getting cold, so I put on coat, as the smell of cooking fish seemed to fill the woods.

     I sat outside my tent and ate the trout which just a little bit ago were swimming in the lake. And as I ate, a pair of loons started to call back and forth. An owl joined in hooting every so often. A pack of wolves somewhere on a faraway ridge howled at the full moon that was rising above the mountains. My campfire cracked and popped as it casted it light around. Not a single car horn, loud speaker, or persons voice could be heard. All the sounds of the wild are normally drowned out by the noise we create. We never hear them, they are silent while we fill the air noise and more noise. So, I sat, and I listened to the sounds that few can and are willing to hear, the sounds of silence.

He came close and kissed him and Isaac smelled the smell of his clothes. Finally, he blessed him,

“Ahhh. The smell of my son
    is like the smell of the open country
    blessed by God.”

Genesis 27:27, The Message

 

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By His wounds…

Seven hundred years before Jesus, this was written.
And whatever version of the original you read, it says it still, the truth remains, they esteemed, -and we esteem- him not.
I have literally sheared sheep. I have literally led a lamb to slaughter.
 
They trust. They are quiet. They follow.
They just surrender and they go.  
 
The STRENGTH it took GOD’S SON to LET that happen to Him…
to allow it…
 
Can you even imagine? 
 
Bridled strength.
Obedient strength.
 
Trusting strength.
And the whole story seemed like too much. Until I read it. And studied it.
 
Then I believed it.
And I have believed it every day since.
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I am one of the black sheep.
He took up my cause.
He died for my sins.
By His stripes I am healed.
 
Is that you, too?
 
“Have courage, daughter,” He said. “Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that moment. Matthew 9:22.
“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
 
Isaiah 53
Who believes what we’ve heard and seen?
    Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?
The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
    a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
    nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
    a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
    We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
    our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
    that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
    that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
    Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
    We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
    on him, on him.
He was beaten, he was tortured,
    but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
    and like a sheep being sheared,
    he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
    and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
    beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
    threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
    or said one word that wasn’t true.
Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
    to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
    so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
    And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.
Out of that terrible travail of soul,
    he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
    will make many “righteous ones,”
    as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
    the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
    because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
    he took up the cause of all the black sheep.
He is risen. He is indeed risen.
 
And by His wounds we are healed.
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When I Get Where I’m Going

Our world lost an amazing woman yesterday.

And today a blizzard came to Alaska.

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The blizzard would be pretty unremarkable -this is Alaska- unless it wasn’t March and we weren’t all feeling the pull of spring.

And the world losing an amazing woman could be pretty unremarkable too except that it’s not, and cancer comes and shocks us with the surprise of death every time.

Just when we’re all feeling the pull of life.

We’re supposed to LIVE and this cancer is a scourge and it takes too many, and even losing one is too many so when the blizzard comes and we see cars in the ditch, -so many we stop counting- my teen driver says as only teen boys can…

WHOAH.

The car in the other lane slid like a Matchbox up the little plastic flexi-ramp of our 70s track and it just left the road and came down in the ditch, -the kind of ditch Alaska is so famous for; deep, steep, and hidden- and it lands like a cotton ball on a powder puff, complete with the powder cloud of snow puffing up all around it.

DUDE.

And we can almost get so busy we forget when the world loses a precious soul, but when I hopped out to make sure the car’s occupants were okay, she is still on my mind.

The car’s occupants were precious souls too, and it turns out they knew me (I so love a small town). I have my man-boy pull our truck off the dangerous curve and get us going on the way to Algebra class while I call the next-door fire department to come check on them as they wait for the tow truck I tracked down, and I call the road department for sand all before we’re five miles down the road.

So when it comes on the radio and I think of her again -so many times in these past twenty-four hours…

what’s it like when we get to where we’re going?

When we see our Maker’s face?

When we shed the sins and struggles?

When we cry only happy tears?

When we stand forever in the light of His amazing grace?

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And last week we said good-bye to Billy and the world still rocks from our loss and Heaven’s gain. He was such a big name behind that big heart and big legacy, but on my little messy road, on the path through my blizzard…

…how many times has my little-name self landed in the ditch?

And how many times has someone stopped to pull me out?

She did.

When I was young, a pup yet, she took me under her arm, -her arm that was small but willed by her strong drive and strong love to make it work even when it was born not wanting to- and she saw who I was to become and she loved me like I already was where I was going.

And because she did, I got there.

So many others did too.

Love like that, laughter like that -even in the messy- it pushes us and grows us and fuels us even when the road is sloppy and the ditches are deep.

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After Brad and Dolly sang, I had a minute to think while my boy drove us on, and I had a smile at the thought of her laughing her way right on up to the One who gave her that laugh, that sound of pure joy.

And then I marveled at how life works because how, on this very same day, could another friend celebrate healing after finishing her last treatment? How could joy and praise mingle up with loss, all at the same time, all from the same disease?

I didn’t get to marvel too long because then Alan came on and it wasn’t Chattahoochee -that song that will forever and always bring her and the old jukebox in the break room to my mind and my heart- but it was Neon Rainbow or Itty Bitty or one of his lesser-known-but equally-beloved songs and I can hear her say

I’m restless. Let’s take a break.

And I see her toe tap and her pant leg sways over the curve of her dressy flats, and then she’s throwing her head back and laughing at something the guys on the forklifts say while Alan gives way to Randy and then Trisha and they come on all tinny and familiar and fill all the minutes and all these years.

I haven’t heard that laugh in over a decade, but I will never forget it all my days because there are so many who will miss it all their days.

She taught me so much and she formed me so much and this world won’t ever be the same.

And later that night, I text the driver of the car in the ditch to see if they made it home. We talked and talked and she wouldn’t have been able to get up out of that ditch had we not come by.

Sometimes a ditch can be so steep.

Sometimes we just need a friend to come along and help us up.

And sometimes those friends line the curved and twisted road of our heart and we won’t ever forget them because if it weren’t for them, we would never have gotten to where we were going.

The blizzard slowed and our new friends got home safely and the day calmed and I still can’t imagine a world without her in it.

But I can hear her say I’m restless. Let’s take a break…

then throw her head back and laugh while she taps her toe.

That sound of pure love and warmth…

Peace.

Joy.

And I can’t wait to see her when I get where I’m going.

~

In memory of Chuck (Sharla) Mitchell. The best boss I ever had; cherished wife, mother, grandmother, sister. Friend to many. And to me. 

3/7/18

 

Taking the Sickness South

This piece is dedicated to the people of Lousiville. From Chef, who made the thick and hearty chicken broth on my first day of sickness…to Ms. Vickie who loves me and all my babies, and gave them all sweet nicknames and taught us how to shine our boots the southern way…to my sweet cousin I hadn’t seen in decades and who drove and gave up her weeknight just to spend an hour with us… and all the folks in between: you have all taught this band of northerners what the phrase “Southern Hospitality” means. Even though most of my time was spent in my hotel room, it was a beautiful trip because of you. Thank you. 

So I took my kids -my own kids and my 4-H kids- South for their big competition and it was all they ever wanted and all they had been looking forward to, and two days after we got there, I got sick.

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Now, you have to understand somethin’ bout this Mama. If I ever tell you I got sick, I got sick. Having a mind that tends toward worst-case-scenarios, I’m in the business of intentally down playing any illness that may strike me. I constantly talk myself out of being sick so that I don’t end up seeming sicker that I really am. Plus, other than the wonky thyroid, I’m very seldom sick. I had to go back and look up the last time I was sick, because that was the time I was so sick I had to write a blog piece about it.

I was SICK y’all.

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And now, this time, I was that sick again. Except this time, I was 5,000 miles from home, I was trip coach to my team and chaperones who were on their dream journey to a national competition, I didn’t have a car, I was bunking up with my two teenagers, and I was stuck in a hotel room with windows that DON’T OPEN.

It was sheer pain, hell, and knarliness for six straight days and the worst of it was, I wanted to TALK! I got to be coach for the first Alaska team of our type to EVER grace these competitions and I had coaches to meet and new friends to make! Nope, by Day 3, once the fevers, chills, and body aches had subsided, so had my voice.

By the time my second kiddo fell, I was tired and feeble enough from the long days of illness to have several quiet spells of crying at the unfairness of traveling all this way just for my big boy to not be able to attend the banquet that would tell him how he and his team did, or to only get to do half of the fun tours we had planned that would show us around this huge city most of my team had never seen.

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By the time I had the hotel shuttle man, Eddie the Awesome hustle our hineys over to the Kroger -did you know you can see a nurse at the Kroger now?- where I spent $400 for a nice man in scrubs to tickle our nostrils and tell me the kids were still showing for Influenza while my boogies were clean and that really the best thing for us was just to rest up in our hotel room, (if I’d had a voice I would have laughed hysterically, as it was, he just got a deadpan stare.) I was a mad mess of mama coach mixed in with irritation, surrender, and resolve when we left. No more tears, we just needed to get through the rest of the trip and infect the least amount of people we could and try not to take any souvenirs of the Influenza Type A type home.

My team moms took the reins and 3/4 of the team still got to see the sights. My kids all rocked it and worked through the sickness (one started to fall on the day of the last competition, bringing the team sickness ratio to 2:3) and they celebrated that, as the contest’s obvious Underdog, they succeeded in NOT taking the title of last place. We all laughed at the differences between livestock people and chicken people. We made a group decision to skip out on the official dinner in order to go gather round the tables that had become so familiar at the hotel restaurant so we could be homey and enjoy our last meal in Kentucky together just us, as a team. They leaned in to my whisper voice and I smiled at their accomplishments and the good that comes even when things go much much differently than you’d anticipated.

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And then, on the way home, our week flown much, much too fast and yet dreadfully slow at the same time, my team girls were strewn all about the airport chairs, legs akimbo and having conversations teens have when they talk as if they are the only ones in the whole world, and one said to the other as they laughed over junk food….

man that’s so sick.

And they just laughed and laughed and glowed the glow of youth when they’re just happy and perfect and content and everything is perfect and cool -sick- in their world. 

We took our sickness south. 

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We didn’t win by any means. Not even close. Heck, out of 19 teams, we didn’t even place in the top ten. Second-to-last is farrr from winning.

And on a scale of one to ten, with one being Small Fry Farms and ten being Big Ag, we learned that here in Alaska, we’re barely on the paper. 

I had folks tell me that all the big states had qualifiers to even go to their state competition and that by the time their kids got to Nationals, they’d been competing at the national skill level for years.

We had folks tell us that Alaska would lose.

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But we didn’t lose and do you know why?

Because we went.

We put our little Ag big state on the map of national livestock contests and we showed them that we want to be part of things too.

We met people over the course of our six days that’d we’ll remember forever and we gave out smiles and we gave out hugs to folks who won’t soon forget us.

We took all of the love of our community, and all the well wishes and financial support of our sponsors, and we put it in our pockets and we put it on our shirts and we put it in our hearts and my kids were brave and they went.

And everywhere we’d go, out of all the teams, it was Alaska that got the biggest applause.

Not because we won, but because we showed up.

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Because it’s pretty dang cool that a little band of everyday Joes from a land so far away that it’s barely on the map would drive three hours to take three different planes for a whole day of flying to go to a land to play on a playground with kids who are so used to the playground equipment it feels like their backyard tree fort, while the faraway kids are just seeing the playground for the first time.

That’s what the clapping said. That’s what the questions asked and what the smiles spoke. And everywhere we went in our new southern city, we were bombarded with questions like Alaskans always are when they go Outside, but at the end of it, after all the questions and all the learning, what my kids heard from their peers, these kids who grow up Ag, was

We’re glad you came. It’s good that you’re here.

Half of us missed the events and tours we had scheduled.

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I became more familiar with a hotel room that I ever want to be again.

I wish our group would’ve been able to spend more time together.

We weren’t 100%.

But as we came home, I realized that the magnitude and the excitement of what we had done hadn’t been changed just because we got influenza or even because we hadn’t won.

Nothing had changed at all.

We still put Alaska on the map.

We showed folks that we care enough to show up.

We saw so much.

We learned SO MUCH.

Team, you smiled at your accomplishments instead of seeing your lack of winning as losing.

You were the Underdog but you were brave.

You were brave.

And that, my kids, is SO sick.

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