Tag Archives: Friendship

The Chaff

We stayed home from church today because I wasn’t feeling all that great, so I took the down time to keep ruthlessly purging our old boxes and baskets and all the THINGS that come from over twenty years of marriage, a cross country move, four kids, and a homeschool.

I’m not sure what I loved more, the fact that I can send my man child out to the fire pit to burn all the unnecessaries, freeing me from the burden of storing all that paper; finding the photos Matt sent me when he first settled in this new land to scout it out and find a job before sending for me (the only photos I’d ever seen like that before were in magazines and now my husband was in them! – a marvel to my 24-year old flatlander self); or the poem I had printed off and tucked away in my special “Mama” file, one a girlfriend emailed me years ago. I can’t even remember the occasion, but it spoke to my heart today in a way that I didn’t even know my heart needed spoken to, and was an answer to a prayer I hadn’t even yet been able to utter aloud.

I share with you in the hopes that you’ll love it too. That you have this kind of a friend. And that if you don’t yet have one, that this will help you to be one.

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But Oh! the blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject;
with whom one’s deepest as well as one’s most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely.


Oh, the comfort -the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person- having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together;


certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness,

blow the rest away.

-Author Unknown

Unexpected

In a season that catches by surprise, I’ve come to anticipate the unexpected.

Four kids fill this house and this calendar and these rooms…

and the minds and the lives and the hearts of their parents.

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Critters live and critters die, and sometimes it comes by way of sudden chirping from the woods when a nest of nine stumbles and weaves behind mama turkey, and sometimes it comes by way of the quiet death of a loud guinea or the noble fight and fall of a beloved pony.

“Moment by moment” round here is never an exaggeration.

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But what’s never expected is the cold stare from one who was once a warm friend.

What catches by surprise and catches in the throat are the words stuck that stream through quiet moments and that are outlined with bold strokes of anger and frustration but mostly just scream Why?? When?? I thought we were friends??

And a rejection like that can make a mama pull in and pull close and focus on just the ones around her, the ones she knows for sure love her.

Making friends never gets easier does it?

And down deep, isn’t there always that little girl who lives inside of us? That first grader in a room full of new classmates who’s standing there awkward when she realizes she’s tied the back of her dress up into her waistband while she shifts from foot to foot at the front of the classroom with her underwear and tights all exposed to the world?

Don’t the bruises get blacker when a soul gets older?

Unexpected.

And when the demands are so great a big gal feels small and sometimes has a hard time breathing let alone doing anything extra, a mama can only just bear down and push through the cramp and know she’s doing what she was meant to do in this moment: deliver these babies out into the world.

She’ll keep pushing and she’ll keep grunting and she’ll try not to swear even though she might yell out during the especially hard parts.

She didn’t know it’d be like this over a dozen years after they were born.

Unexpected.

And sometimes just the day to day can be enough to make us keep things shy and reserved and holding the heart close to the chest and the real feelings tight in the pocket.

Enough of the keeping it tight can make us keep it closed and before we know it, we’ve holed ourselves up while we tell ourselves we’re just in a quiet season of bearing down.

And then the real unexpected…

The exceptional unexpected.

The beautiful unexpected.

The unexpected gift of the unexpected time of an unexpected dinner with a couple from church, two souls just ahead on the sidewalk, and all the unexpected tears and laughter that come from that kind of unexpected encounter.

How the path we’re walking is so very familiar to them.

How the struggles we wrestle are ones they’ve conquered.

How the unexpected keeps on into the empty nest years.

How the unexpected keeps on…

My heart carries the day this month that we drove to the place where we sailed to the spot…

that gate where three seas meet, -just past the sanctuary for mariners- and the wind blew fierce and the waves pounded hard and how could I not feel God hold me there in that spot where warm tears of praise slipped down cold cheeks of wonder?

Unexpected.

The whales of September came by surprise and Native founders sailed those waters on kayaks and I sailed them with my children who stood bravely against the gusts and they braced themselves to the threat and they laughed into the wind because they are young and they trust their father and their mother, but they especially trust the One who made the skies.

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The joy we’ve had this month can be lost in the hard of this month and the hard of lost friendship and the hard of this life…

but when I focus on the good…when I fix my eyes on the pure…the hard isn’t so hard and the good is pure joy.

The unexpected moments from the unexpected trip that grew my babies and grew my mama and that grew me.

The unexpected victories that taught us that sometimes a person will win when they practice hard but that sometimes even hard practice won’t win, and that that’s okay too.

The unexpected setbacks that taught us that sometimes a plan needs a bit more time and a bit more stitching before it becomes a whole quilt.

The unexpected friends that came with what could’ve been a tight and tough competition but instead turned into a tight and tender time.

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All the unexpected.

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How the unexpected keeps on…

And then, just as a mama might start to come out of her September shell and decide rejection won’t keep her because she’s already accepted by the One who made her and Who holds her…

a routine night at church brings the unexpected, a gift, a sweet out-of-the-blue message and warm watery eyes from a new friend who is trailing just behind on the parenting sidewalk, and she might think it a small gift…

but it is bigger than that.

It makes me think of you she tells me.

And I tear up some because I don’t know her that well yet but still she thought of me, and by thinking of me she didn’t reject me, and by not rejecting me she reminds me that even when the world is cold and some people are cold, we really are each other’s keeper and we needn’t be cold back because if we are…if we close ourselves off and make ourselves cold…

we won’t ever make this planet warmer.

How the unexpected keeps on…

So I squeeze her once because her gift is so precious.

I stare at it for a second and see how perfect it is and how sweet the words are, and she smiles and I smile and then I squeeze her again because I’m so touched at her gift and how it is straight from her heart.

And so very unexpected.

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I delight myself in You
Captivated by Your beauty
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You
God, I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You
I delight myself in You
In the Glory of Your Presence
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You
And God I run into Your arms
Unashamed because of mercy
I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed by You
~Big Daddy Weave

Beau’s Birch

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It’s only been twenty-four hours since he left us but I know this for sure: our farm, and our hearts…

They’ll never be the same.

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She wanted a pony but thought we probably couldn’t have one. She’s always been so conscious of what things cost the family.

My thoughtful girl.

We had the minis…everyone was learning horsemanship. We had friends and lessons where she could ride big horses whenever she wanted.

But one night she said something at prayers that made her Daddy’s eyes water.

God please help me be happy for other people who have their own horses so that I won’t always just want one for myself.

And my husband whispered later that night…

We’re gonna get that girl a pony.

We brought Beau home after a friend told us he’d be a great match for our girl. He was so big compared to our minis, he was a Clydesdale on the barnyard. It made my head spin when I first walked him.

He’d been a Pony Club pony. He had such good manners. His girl had trained him well but she needed a bigger horse to do the kind of horse activities she wanted to do, her mama said. Her legs were getting too long.

That mama cried when we pulled out with him in our trailer. That pony had seen her little girl grow up.

And when my husband walked up to my girl with that pony and gave her the lead rope, she cried too. She couldn’t believe she was a little girl who had her very own horse.

It was the happiest day we’ve ever had on our little farm.

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Beau went from being a fancy pony to a farm pony, and while secretly this mama thought maybe our farm wasn’t fancy enough and that maybe a fancy pony is meant to be a fancy pony forever, a horse friend that knew him in both lives said “No. He fits here. I can see it. He’s relaxed. He loves this farm.”

So Beau was our fancy farm pony.

And my girl said, See that patch of brown right there on his flank Mama? That color right there is my favorite color in the whole world.”

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He came out of his first winter here a little thinner and weaker after a bag of bad feed had us learning how to give a horse a shot, and our vet came to put his vet hands on him for us and he told us Beau was just fine and that sometimes a horse just doesn’t winter very easily, but that we’d learn exactly what he needs as we got to know him better. Just our love and a little medicine will have him back to his big old self in no time.

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We had the love and we had the medicine, and we got him on a feed that was better for his body. He went to a horse camp with my girl that spring, and even though she learned that sometimes the circles of horse folks can be harsh and assume the worst of a person by the size of their horse, my girl and her pony had a great time at that camp learning new things about each other and they grew in trust and they grew in skills…

And our vet was right.

In no time at all he was back to his big old self.

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Over years, my girl’s legs grew a little longer, and Beau grew a little older and they were partners and they were friends. On our barnyard, he was the big boss of the herd and even as herd boss, he was sweet. The minis doted on him, and in the dusk, they’d find shelter under his tall-to-them flanks. Twice a day my girl would feed and water the horses and  because she was horse manager on the farm, she knew them well.

She knew that she liked them to go in order when the farrier came:  biggest to littlest.

She knew that Beau didn’t like it when his minis were away from him, even for a minute.

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She knew when her body was growing too big for a pony.

She knew that even though riding him may not be an option, she could still teach him and learn from him, so she decided that together, they’d start training to drive a cart.

She knew he would pick it up easily.

She knew how awesome it was that he didn’t even flinch when she started walking behind him with her long reins and teaching him Gee and Haw and driving him all summer all over the round pen and the yard and up the driveway.

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She knew what a great teacher he would be for her younger sister and little brother and started teaching them how to work a pony in the round pen.

She knew that the biggest mini was a little like a toddler and that the littlest mini was like a friend feeling left out, and she knew that Beau would peek over the pony wall of the stall every morning to wait for his girl to come out and say hi.

She knew that he was gentle and that he was kind.

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And she knew him well enough to know that something was wrong when she saw him standing weak at feed time, and she texted me immediately and got me coming home and on the phone with the vet. We got a shot in him right away, gave him his own room in the barn, and in the morning Doc came out and said colic was working on our boy. Told us to use our hands and our medicine to help him feel better.

He pepped up a bit midweek and his minis were glad to have him back with them in the big pen where he went right back to bossing and big-brothering them to whinnies.

His downturn was a surprise and before we could even celebrate that he’d been improving, we were camped out in the barn with him tucked into his blanket and us tucked into our Carharrts, him looking at us with big brown eyes puzzled at having his whole family sleeping in the barn in lawn chairs.

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The little heater for ice fishing kept people and pony from freezing, and he stood on all four feet and drank water and nibbled hay and the doc said keep doing what you’re doing because that’s what’s keeping him here. He put a tube in our pony that night and gave him oil in his tummy to help coat things and protect him from the environmental toxin he suspected our boy had in his system. Our extra warm winter…our very early spring thaw…it’s messed with the soil and plant life this year and horses in high numbers are colicking all over he said.

But I told myself that our pony was strong and he’d be okay every time I put my hands on him and I’d pray to God, the one who created horses. Father please help us keep him strong enough to heal and we’ll keep on loving this pony all his days.

Our pony’s girl, my girl, she’d be dozing through the middle-of-the-night hours, tucked into the little pallet bed she’d made out of pillows and sleeping bags all folded up into the garden cart attached to the four-wheeler over in the corner barn.

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We played the radio soft and she told us to keep it on the country station because that’s what he liked the best.

His same low nicker every time he’d see his girl was like music on the heart.

Shock after the nasal tube panicked him and I had Doc on speed dial while Matt set up flood lights over the paddock and neighbors came and friends brought stethoscopes and we monitored his heart rate as he sweat his panic out and mouth-breathed and coughed up blood clots like pudding. I never would’ve thought he was going to make it through the night but each time he coughed, he’d settle a bit more, and then at 2 a.m., he coughed up one last clot and calmed.

The doc set aside his morning and came to see him and said from the sounds of his night, he was surprised to come out and not see a dead pony. But our boy was on all fours and blinking his big brown eyes softly at Doc, and if it weren’t for his heart rate still being high and the bloodstains on the straw and on the gates and on his nose, no one would ever guess our little pony had been on death’s door just seven hours before.

We took him out into the sun and he napped like he always does on spring days.

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We wondered if we’d know when it was time. Doc said his heart rate needed to come down and if it didn’t, we’d probably know which way things were going to go by noon or so. But noon came and went and Beau stood with his face in the sun and my husband said God can heal ponies too and if Doc said it’ll take 36 hours for that oil to kick in, well, we’ll give him every minute of that 36 hours to get better because it’s not fair to Beau if we don’t, and that’s our job as his people, to give him every chance he has to fight.

We kept a little bit of hay and a lot of water in front of him and we encouraged him to lay down and rest a bit, but he insisted on doing what he normally does, take the occasional sugar cube from his girl and kick his back leg in some, all while blinking a napping blink and bobbing his head lazy like in the sunshine with his minis slinking around him and stealing bits of his hay.

His heart rate came down some when he was in the sun. So for two whole days of daytime hours, he lived with his sweet face pointing south in our front yard, the Alaskan spring sun warming his white blaze and black forelock while his kids and his minis and his chickens went around him…next to him…under him…with him…

We slept in the barn again for the third night and even though his 36-hour mark had come and gone, our boy was still not showing signs of being in big distress. We still felt like if we cut his time short and opted to euthanize now, we would be giving up on him since he was still fighting so quietly and valiantly.

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But there was no doubt that he was starting to weaken.

When a call to an equine vet with a clinic four hours away through the mountains gave us disbelief that our pony was still standing after almost three days with a heart rate that would’ve killed any other horse after just one day, we wondered if maybe we should load our little boy up for some big city care.

We consulted with our vet and another vet closer to home, and she showered us with words of love and kindness, having been through this with her own animals and knowing all too well the pain of trying to decide when it’s time to relieve our animal friends of their burden of illness. She confirmed what we were feeling: yes an elevated heart rate indicates trouble; he was definitely a sick boy. But being a pony, his heart rate would be a little higher than a full-sized horse, and without a baseline on him, we didn’t know if he normally ran a little higher regularly, and most of all, if he is still standing on all four feet and seemed peaceful enough to fight it out, why not give him every chance we could to let him do that?

When making a game plan for that night and weighing our options -euthanization, continuing to sit vigil, trying to load him quickly and haul him up north for specialized care- my thoughtful girl thought about it, then came to me and said she’d like to keep her pony at home where he’d feel safe and not have to be scared on top of being sick. His minis are here. The ride would be long and scary for him and she couldn’t ride in the trailer to help him not be scared, and he might not be able to stand that long and he wouldn’t want to lay down.

This is his home Mama.

One more night -even though we all knew he was getting on time to run out of time- we put on our layers and we boiled water for tea and we went to the store for another small box of sugar cubes and we put needles in our pockets for his shots and we freshened the clipboard full of our times and our notes about our boy and all his round-the-clock care.

Every walk, every pet, every shot, every movement…every moment…

Even my horse-scorning big boy who delights in telling his little sister how much he doesn’t like horses, he slept in the barn and he hauled water and he held her hand when we prayed and it’s different when it’s your little sister’s horse and shouldn’t a whole family hold out hope for one little pony?

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My husband led us in prayer at every turn and we’d bow our heads and we’d cry our tears and we’d ask God to help Beau. To help him in his brave and courageous fight. To help him poop. To help his heart rate come down. To help his little  body heal. To help our hands help him.

I came back to the barn from a house trip with hot coffee and tea at sunrise that third morning and there, right there over the barn was a huge arc-shaped cloud. I stood in the driveway and wondered if it might look a little bit like a white fluffy rainbow. It had that wispy cotton candy texture to it that the kids told me is called mare’s mane.

It took me a minute to realize that a shape was at the base of the arc and that if you looked just hard enough, and a little tear-stained and barn-weary enough, it could almost look like a little horse coming down to a perfect landing from a beautiful and arcing jump.

A fancy-pony jump.

And I knew when I saw it that it would be Beau’s last morning here on our farm.

He showed us that morning that his strong and courageous little body was growing tired of standing on all four feet and that our hands weren’t going to be able to help him win this one and that it was time for us to call the vet out.

Doc didn’t even have time to get heading our way. Not even a half hour later we were all cheering Beau gently and encouraging him through our tears to go ahead and lie down when we could see he’d decided it was finally time to get off his strong little feet.

He died minutes later, at 8 a.m. on Monday morning, and it was the saddest day we’ve ever had on our little farm.

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Farm kids are tough but farm kids grieve and my littlest daughter brought Kleenex and my baby asked Why? Just why? and my menfolk let unashamed tears run down their faces and we all cried together and mourned the beautiful creature that God had sent our way. We loved that pony.

My girl asked her daddy if we could lay him to rest on our new land, a piece of simple north road we bought last year just a quarter mile away, a chunk of our future, a homestead we plan to settle in the upcoming months.

So the same Daddy that bought his girl a pony brought home a tractor to bury that pony. She chose a beautiful clearing under a tall birch, and while he dug, we watched and we fetched logs when he’d get stuck and we rested and we loved.

We were exhausted and we were sad and we were thankful…all at the same time.

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Our girl’s fancy farm pony taught us so much in our four short years with him.

He taught us that being fancy was a good thing.

And he taught us that being farmy was a good thing too.

He taught us that friends come in all sizes and species and that sometimes friendship doesn’t look the way everyone else thinks it should look.

He taught us that a low rumble of recognition is a gift to be treasured.

He taught us to pay close attention because not everyone speaks loudly.

He taught us that good training is also a good teacher.

He taught us that true friendships adapt.

He taught us that a quiet fight is a strong fight.

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I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the shock of what happened this past weekend on our farm.

I don’t know if the trauma of caring for an animal so closely that literally every moment is filled with them, -their breathing, their movements, their improvements, their subtle decline- and then watching the life leave the eyes of that animal as it falls to the ground after standing so bravely in hope is something I’ll ever be able to fully process.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to walk outside like I did this morning and not cry in grief when I see reminders of him on every inch of our barnyard. This morning it was the indent in the thick bed of straw that was the same size and shape of a miniature horse and was situated in the exact spot where Beau’s handsome head fell when he died.

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I don’t know if I will.

The grief is so deep, this saying goodbye too soon to a friend of your heart…when you didn’t even know they were going to leave.

My daughter, -exhausted and processing our weekend like her pony did, stoickly, when I told our flower-bringing friend that the whole barnyard has shifted on end with the loss of one little-but-mighty pony- she said “Mama, it’s kind of like the universe. Everything effects everything else. One little change makes the whole universe different.”

Yes baby.

That’s exactly what it’s like.

One little pony…and the loss of him…

It makes the whole universe different.

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And it’s only been twenty-four hours since he left us but I know this for sure: our farm, and our hearts…

They’ll never be the same.

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 Then thundered the horses’ hooves—
    galloping, galloping go his mighty steeds.

Judges 5:22

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 In loving memory of Beau, a brave and strong and courageous pony.

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A Few Hours with Them

Maybe it was the Christmas decorations that were strewn about…organized disassembly…boxes of deco stacked…a reminder that yet another year has passed…

Maybe it was the talk I had with my kids on the drive over about how life is messy and love is messy and health doesn’t always work like it should, and bodies and minds aren’t always strong…

Maybe it was the sight of a law enforcement co-worker from not so long ago being wheeled around the corner, his strong chest that once carried Kevlar, weaker but still carrying courage …

Maybe it was the beautiful and stoic face of the matriarch figure, walking her strong and determined legs down the hall toward her car to drive home in dark alone, but not before hugging me while I cried with her and listened to her tell me of her beloved, a stroke bringing in the new year and adding to his daily struggle to remember…

Maybe it was the fresh news of a beloved sister losing her daddy just that afternoon…

Maybe it was the old faces I carry daily in my heart of all the elderly in the State of Michigan that smiled proudly and humbly into my 19-year old eyes as I hauled their government box of food to their tidy and inexpensive sedans, shaking their hands during my first job in a line of many that taught me love and compassion for society’s overlooked…

Maybe it was just that I so wish my girls would know my GrannyCakes who left us all too early…

Maybe it was that the elderly man sitting quietly in the green chair at the end of the hall tonight was the spitting image of my Grandaddy the last time I saw him when he was in a place just like this and his smile and his gaunt figure still laid fresh my spirit when we all celebrated his life over pizza while choking back sobs because we knew that his final home there among our country’s heroes would be our family’s final meeting place and that when, 24 hours after flying back home at the end of our years-ago trip, I wasn’t surprised to get a phone call that he’d passed peacefully in his sleep, the smells of his loved ones still on the flannel shirt he’d worn  at that last family reunion.

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Maybe it was the trauma of a hundred little stresses of this past month pressing down and flowing out the corners of my heart.

Maybe it was the knowing that through all the anxiety and all the loss and all the heartbreak and all the tears…

… that faith in the One who holds it all…

…really will hold it all.

Or maybe it was just them.

The sweet, sweet and precious souls that filled the tables of the meeting place where the kids -my own kids and my 4-H kids- all met together and learned how to make cute little packages of art and scent and love.

Maybe it was just them that filled my heart and left me still…

…and left me wanting to watch it all and hug them all and love them all…

all in the two short hours we had with them.

Maybe it was just them that filled the place of grandparents and great-grandparents and homesteads and communities and those-that-have-gone-before.

Maybe it was just them.

This bridging of decades and disabilities and genes and generations.

These kids.

These seniors.

These ones who are new.

These ones who have gone before.

These ones our world could just forget.

These ones who bring knowing and wisdom and innocence and love…

and in bringing all that they bring weakness and they bring strength and they bring what life really is.

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Seventeen club members and at least fifteen residents sat side-by-side, and they put their hands together and made beauty and because they did…

bridges were built over decades and friendships were unfolded over minutes.

And when my precious girl who has such a heart for young and those who are weaker and especially those who are aged…

…when she sat down next to that fragile white-haired beauty who once farmed and who still has work in her hands, my throat made the ugly-cry and I had to choke it off lest I just start sobbing and not stop for the ones who were fighting the fact…

…that ugly fact that it’s all just ending too soon.

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When my children, these four I drive home, when they talk for hours about the joy and they bubble over to their daddy at home the delight the night brought them and how they can’t wait to go be part of the lives of the new friends they’ve made, I want to sob still because while there are new friendships forming, there are endings that come too soon, and this beautiful nest of a place reminds me of that and it leaves me still, and it leaves me remembering.

The endings can be so beautiful.

But the endings…

the endings,

they always come too soon.

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For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:5

Fountains and Drains and Project Renovation

So today was day two of Project Room Renovation, which meant it was Ceiling Day. I lined my little work crew of four out on their various chores and set myself to the task of making our ceiling pretty.

As I cut in the edge of the ceiling with my perfect Apple Core white and my fancy new angled brush, out of nowhere it hit me. Like it was right there in my ear, I heard the criticism she gave of my last painting job, years ago telling me what a mess I’d made of it, how unevenly my paint was at the line where the wall met the ceiling.

I’d worked hard on that paint.

I had a toddler and a baby in the house when I’d painted that wall and it was my favorite wall in the house.

Until she said that.

I know she loved me and she probably had no idea how her words would affect me, but after hearing her say that my eyes wanted to always drift to the sloppy lines that I’d just learned had ruined the whole job.

And today my mind started to do the same.

My hand shook as I tried to make the edging perfect.

There were drips.

There were smudges.

And pretty soon it started to look sloppy and pretty soon my heart did too and then there I was…a wrought out mama up on my son’s wobbly little red step-stool remembering all the criticism, all the words negative, said from this friend over the years who didn’t even get it how her saying these things “in love” hurt, and I know it shouldn’t bother me…and I know I should focus on all the positive things she said instead…and I know we’re supposed to take every thought captive…

…but don’t words sometimes just stick to a soul?

So when I took a little break today and stumbled across some wisdom right there on a good friend’s Facebook page, it stuck to my soul too.

She said “Be a fountain not a drain.”

There it was.

Right there was the reason I’d been standing on the stool agonizing over the crispness of the paint on my ceiling.

I’d allowed the words of another to be a drain on my self-image and in doing so, it was a drain on my heart.

By allowing the draining words from one friend be so big, I’d made the fountain words of another friend small.

 

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The fountain friend who always had kind words and got watery loving eyes when she’d come visit and sit and rest with me and make me forget the piles of dishes and the topply bookcases and the soccer ball-sized tufts of dog hair and the unmatched anything.

I’d forgotten how she always made me feel that it wasn’t the furniture in a home, or the messes in a home, but the people in a home that made a house a home.

I’d forgotten how much she loved it here and by loving it here she helped me love it like I should.

In the busy of raising babies and toddlers, in my thirst for a perfect home, she’d come, and with her words over our coffees, she’d turn on a sweet fountain and before I knew it, I’d be refreshed and reminded that the perfect home I longed for was the one right where I lived.

Who am I a fountain for?

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (Proverbs 16:24)

My words can point others to God, and toward the best that He has for them, or they can do just the opposite.

Who, even without meaning to, have I hurt, or made feel less than worthy, with my words?

On Day One of Project Room Renovation, I’d taken on a duty usually reserved for my husband. Trying to complete PRR while he’s at work has been tricky, especially so when it came time to do the job he always loves to do: clean brushes.

We clean brushes in the tub. And after three brushes, a couple rollers and several trays (my work crew LOVES to paint!) I found myself trying to wash tools in a milky white bath of paint water.

The drain was plugged.

So I did what any brave and courageous wife would do.

I decided to save the nasty for my husband to fix when he got home from work.

And then I remembered how hard he’d been working all week and that my goal was to not bother him with any aspect of this project, so I did what any REALLY brave and courageous wife would do.

I unclogged the drain.

I’m able to speak about it now, but yesterday, as I dug through the things of nightmares, -things stuck to hair that could only have been shed from a sort of septic monster- I was sure that the only speaking I’d be able to conjure would be to apologize to my poor husband who has so bravely attended to this macabre duty for twenty years and has never once thrown up, cried in self-pity, or screamed in horror.

I’m a tough ol’ broad who can weather a LOT of gross stuff in life, (I’m a mama to four AND we live on a farm) but dealing with that drain took a lot out of me.

My words can keep someone stuck. Or my words can help someone grow.

I can love someone all I want but if my words don’t build, if my words don’t refresh, if my words don’t tell them YOU ARE PRECIOUS and YOU ARE IMPORTANT and YOU ARE GOOD and YOU ARE ENOUGH and JESUS LOVES YOU…

…even the strongest of us will be weakened by a drain.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

I have the power to build with my words.

You have the power to build, to be a fountain.

Our mouth, our words, they have the power of life and death. (Prov. 18:21) How are we using them?

How many I Love You’s does it take to unclog a drain?

How careless can we be, especially with those we know well, those we love the most? Yes, we all need to be able to take some harsh words now and then. But does that give us a license to just open up and let loose with our mouth the first things that come to our minds?

That kind of showering is a drain.

And drains get stuffed up. Drains stick. Drains are an ugly, stinky mess to unclog. The backflow of a drain can cause a quagmire.

And quagmires can be hard on a soul.

But the other kind of showering?

The tender kind and the encouragement kind and the yeah, it’s a mess but I love you and you’re more important than any old mess anyway and it’s gonna be okay kind?

That kind of showering will shower right on over a soul and speak life. Those kinds of words will fountain up and make us want to take our not-even-close-to-perfect lines and go on and use the water from one fountain to water another…with our strengthening …with our positive…with our gentle…

…with our love.

I want to be that kind of friend.

I want to be that kind of fountain.

 ~Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees.~  Job 4:4

 

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Father may we speak words of life to others. May we be a fountain for hearts everywhere. And may we forgive others when they are not. Help us remember that you are the one who really sees us, knows us and loves us and that until we are with you, we will sometimes fail, and others will fail us too, and we won’t always build with our words. But help us Lord, to keep trying always. Help us to be builders. Help us to be like you.

In Christ’s Name, Amen.

© This Crazy Little Farm

 

{{Photo credits: Wikipedia}}

 

 

 

Rhonda and Granny Cakes

The South. They were both from the South.

Maybe that’s why I like her so much. Probably why we get along so well, feel like we’re related. That easy, southern, love- ya-no-matter-what personality.

I wash potatoes in my girlfriend’s sink, looking out her little window. Her lovelies, pretty crystals hanging from fishing line dangling dainty, hover over the sill.

Her sink makes me smile. It reminds me of my grandmother’s sink.

Grannycakes.

Grannycake’s house. Rhonda’s house.

If houses were shirts, theirs both fit perfectly. Like the favorite Saturday cozy you put on before you make breakfast. The one that, when you wear it, people see you, not the shirt, because the shirt is nothing fancy, just a shirt. But you’re in it and it makes them see just you. All you, without the razzle dazzle. You love that shirt. It’s cozy. It fits. It doesn’t pinch. It’s so…comfortable. It’s a perfect, be-your-normal-old-everyday-Saturday morning-self-because-this-is-who-I-am-when-no-one-is-looking kind of shirt.

Grannycakes’ house was like that. Rhonda’s house is like that. Two homes, same cloth. Being at Rhonda’s house fits me just the way being at Grannycakes’ house did.

Rhonda’s sink is much newer. Prettier, modern in its granite feel. Grannycakes’ sink was steel, a double sided, mid-70’s setup, that had just to the right of it, a dingey yellow drainboard resting on a towel. Her large meat mallet, a monster chunk of wood, always sat to the left, right under the towel rack. A red and white dipper tipped on its side, forever rested just behind the little sprayer. She wasn’t a scrupulous house keeper so there was always a bit of grime around the edges of her sink…a coat of dust on her window sill…friendly cobwebs hanging small under the little lamp that lit up that corner of her kitchen.

Stacked up next to today’s sparkling kitchens that are fit for a restaurant with their mammoth steel appliances, miles of white, and marble countertops that go on for acres, Grannycakes’ kitchen might have looked dark, small, dirty.

But even seeing the grime, the counter tops usually sticky with Jif, the crumbs that formed their line behind the small appliance congregation… it never felt dirty. It felt cozy and familiar, a background upon which the past was being painted.

It felt like love.

On a map, I don’t think West Virginia and South Carolina are exactly neighbors. And their accents don’t match. But somehow, as I scrub potatoes, I’m pretty sure Grannycakes and Rhonda are both from the same place.

ImageA place where yonder and piller and mash it and y’all roll off lips in way that’s natural and easy and not contrived and never forced.

A place where someone stopping over in the afternoon isn’t a nuisance but a good thing and usually involves putting one more plate at the table or sitting on the porch swing in the back yard sipping sweet tea and making slow about the garden and the neighbors up the road and how to make the perfect pot roast.

A place where people are important, not things or money or looking a certain way or sounding a certain way or being anything other than what God made you to be.

A place where it’s more important to feed people than it is to eat.

A place where a hug will always take priority over rushing off to the next best thing.

A place where a kind chat with the clerk at the grocery store will never be replaced by getting the first spot in line in order to hurry on through.

That’s the place they’re both from and as I spend the weekend in my precious friend’s home, keeping the lights on and her old dogs company while she delights in a big family adventure… leaves her familiar…hunts frogs…listens to the ocean with her babies and her husband, I am overwhelmed at how much of my grandmother’s home is here within these walls.

It’s here in the cupboards stuffed to the brim with goodies, treats for the people who pass through her kitchen, and through her life.

It’s here in the piles of blankets on each bed, layer upon layer of warmth for all who may rest their head under this roof.

It’s here in the knick knacks, hints of back-home to remind her of where her roots are.

It’s here in the pictures, every room holding faces of loved ones, treasured times, cherished souls.

It’s here in the drawers, the cabinets…utensils…dishes…spoons…knives…favorite tools…tools she sometimes uses…tools she might need some day…tools that were passed down…

It’s here in the peace that comes after the day settles. Quiet, house noises and water pipes the only ones talking, whispering to the background rhythm of dog snores. The walls ooze love. And function. Operation. And provision and care and growth and time… and memories.

And it feels like Grannycakes.

And it feels like Rhonda.

And it feels like all women who love their families and each other. Who care for their communities and for one another and who take care of each other, who take care of one another’s children.

Who care more about people than kitchens and their kitchen shows just how much they care about people.

It feels like a Saturday shirt.

It feels like a painting, the background the past…and the future too.

It feels like love.

And it feels like home.

Standing in the Presence and…The Ugly Cry

I’m not a big crier.

Unless you count that one time when I was about halfway through my first pregnancy and couldn’t sleep so I decided to stay up late and watch Beaches. You know, Bette Midler…Atlantic City…her best friend dies Beaches?

I found myself sitting in the dark in front of the TV that night with a roll of toilet paper next to me, most of it in torn-off clumps all around my fat lap, shocked and surprised by the body racking sobs that had overtaken me.

I’m not talking just a good cry here. I’m talking snot flowing, spit flying, teeth bared, I can’t breathe kinda sobs. I didn’t know what came over me! That had n-e-v-e-r happened before.

I was later informed by my bff, it’s what’s called…

…The Ugly Cry.

(For the record, there is a counterpart to The Ugly Cry called The Ugly Laugh. It looks much the same but there is usually table pounding involved.)



I don’t not-cry in attempts to be stoic, or strong, or studly, or because I hate crying. It’s none of those things. My heart isn’t hard and I’m touched deeply and moved by life’s tender moments and love to talk and write about them all openly and honestly. Without tears.

Unless…

…unless it’s one of those moments where I just know I’m standing in the presence of God.

Now, I could write pages on that one little sentence alone couldn’t I? How do you know when you’re standing in the presence of God? As a child of God, isn’t He always standing with you? Or for that matter, how can God stand anywhere?

All good questions, and we could talk long about them theologically, but I think you know what I mean.

Those times when it’s been ages since I’ve made a point to dig into the Word and I open it, determined to read today, but scared that He’ll have given up on my wandering heart. And there, right there on the page where I last left off, are words that speak so tender to my heart it could only be that the Author wrote them just that morning while I waited for the coffee to brew.

Or the day when I didn’t even realize I was needing some extra guidance from Him, but pulling out of the driveway that dark morning to go meet a little horse I suspected belonged on our farm, I was shocked to flip on the radio right in the middle of an hour-long interview with a woman who spoke about horses and Jesus and the power of one to bring us closer to the other and how these animals have a way of bringing out the best in us and bringing us closer to Him.meandcharlottespring

Or when I’m at church and the praise team starts a song my heart knows from childhood and it’s almost like I’m standing in the old, light blue chapel with Granny Cakes again, her loud, off-key voice belting out the song after hearing just the first note while her large-print hymnbook rests, unopened, on the pew next to her. She sang so much louder in church than she did at her kitchen sink. I’d wish she had one of those soft, soprano sing songy voices like other grandmothers had and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized, she held the tune for the whole group of fifteen. She knew all the songs and she sang them as loud as she could and she loved the Lord she sang her heart out to and she didn’t care what she sounded like and now, as a grown woman I’d give all the money I had to stand next to her in church again and hear her beautiful voice sing.

Those are the moments I’m talking about.

Those are the moments when tears will come.

Because even though He’s always there, it’s in those moments you know He’s there. It’s in those moments you feel He’s there. And it brings forth tears straight up out of your heart that you didn’t even know were there.

So yesterday when I didn’t want to go to church…when I wanted to let the blankets keep me warm and keep me wrapped and keep me isolated from the movements of the morning and the people of the day…

…doesn’t a soul just get tired sometimes? And doesn’t the road just seem long sometimes? And even when it seems like it should be so easy, can’t it get hard sometimes?…

…I went anyway.

Because my little people need me to.

Because my husband said we were.

Because even tired in the body and weak in the spirit and weary with the weather and burdened with the everydayness…

He says get up.

He says even when you’re tired, especially when you’re tired, when you seek me with all your heart, you WILL find me.

He says I am with you. And I will strengthen you.

When we want to isolate isn’t that when we need to stand in the presence the most?

So awkward and bumbling, I go, walking through the movements, bringing what I can to Him, my kids, my smile, my out of sorts, my weak.

The songs can sometimes be the same, those poems up there on the screen and the organ starts up and the preacher starts singing and then I’m ten again and Granny Cakes is in my ear except it’s not her, it’s our dear Mrs. K who teaches the babies like my Granny Cakes did and who loves Jesus with all her heart like my Granny Cakes did and who sings loud for Him just like my Granny Cakes did.

That sweet voice in my ear makes the tears come and my knees buckle and here out of the blue comes The Ugly Cry because how could I have almost missed this today?

My husband brings Kleenex and my boy holds his Mama’s hand strong and the tears just trickle on down as I was brought Nearer, Nearer to the cross where Thou hast died.

I stood in the presence and all I could do was cry.

He was with me.

And in that moment my faith grew a little stronger.

The deacon, that man who is a little like me and has tears when He stands in the presence, well he talks about the goodness of the Lord and brings us righteous Good News.

And the friends that were in a car wreck two days ago, cracking ribs and crunching their big truck right up there on a stretch of road known for killing people, they walk in and people in their seats cry quiet happy…we have them with us still.

And the preacher talks about hard things that make him want to cry but when you speak in front of a crowd, you have to work hard not to because up there it could go real quick to The Ugly Cry.

And I might’ve yearned for my blankets to keep me safe, but this…

…this is what really covers me. I needed to be here. These people need me. And I need them.

Even when it seems like I just want to stay home and give up the familiar, routine, every-week-for-years-now Sunday morning steps, God gave these people to me and they are the ones that help me walk toward the joy when I’m having a hard time finding it on my own.

I’ll stand in His presence and they’ll help hold me up and I’ll help hold them up and together, tears and mess and mistakes and all…

…we’ll grow a little stronger.images

My husband’s big strong arm. My boy’s getting-bigger strong hand. Mrs. K’s strong voice and stronger hugs. The strong laugh from across the room. The strong smiles of all those who might be a little like me today, feeling outside the circle, tired out with the time of year…the time of month…this time of life. When I’d rather stay home, let my blankets protect, let the familiar of my house keep my insecurities safe, they’ll come too and stand with me in His presence and I’ll stand with them and when we’re the weakest aren’t we really the strongest?

When we’re weak and weary and burdened and we come to Him, won’t He give us rest?

When I take His yoke and learn from Him, doesn’t He prove that He is gentle, and humble in heart?

Won’t I find rest for my soul?

He says it all right there in red in that eleventh chapter of Matthew’s book. He told us true and spoke it into the generations.

It’s easy. And it’s light.

When we stand together…

…no, sometimes we won’t want to…

When we stand with Him…

…yes, our knees might occasionally buckle …

While it might be hard…

…you’ll probably find yourself hit with The Ugly Cry once in a while…

Don’t we need to though?

Stand in the presence?

To sing. To pray. To learn. To lean. To grow.

To be weak.

Together.

Because when we’re weak…

…that’s when really…

…we’re strong.

“‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’. (Jesus)
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…
For when I am weak, then I am strong.”(Paul)
2 Corinthians 12:9-10