My brush with death…a snake tale

I unintentionally caused a stir amongst my social media friends today. Well, to be honest, at first it was unintentional and then I may have stirred the pot a little.

I think I gave McDreamy (whoever that is) a run for his money as top Facebook story today.

I have a brother-in-law who HATES snakes. He is not on Instagram but my sister is. I thought by posting on Instagram an actual picture of the snake that Keith would know I was telling the truth about finding a snake in my laundry pile (because everything on Instagram is true!). . . I know. I know. I put way too much thought into impressing my brother-in-law with my snake catching skills.

Let me start off by saying that the picture, the story, and my decision to leave the house for the rest of the day are 100% true. My heart rate is still coming down from it all.

But after reading about 10 comments on my Facebook, I may have stirred the pot a little by intentionally keeping one tiny fact and picture to myself. I didn’t even send the the “whole truth” picture to Joe.

No lies were ever told, but the full truth of the story has not been revealed until now.

Here’s a picture of the snake I found.

IMG_3900Here’s a picture of the dead snake.

IMG_3904And here’s the picture that reveals how small the snake actually was.

IMG_3903The size of the snake is what makes the story that much more funny.

So, because I told bits and pieces today on social media…I thought I would record it here for all to enjoy and for me to come back to someday when I forget the horrifyingly hilarious details of my morning.

It was back to normal at our house this morning. Baby B had returned late last night from Camp Mimi’s house. Our family had enjoyed a toddler free fun-filled week of ‘just the four of us.’ But we were all so thankful to wake up this morning to the sight and sound of our 17 month old making demands by pointing her finger, slamming her chest with the sign for please, all while letting out demanding grunts that said anything but ‘please.’

The first two hours of the a normal school day around our house are like an impressive round of tag team wrestling.

Together Joe and I successfully got the big kids off to school and him off to work (successful does not mean I know if teeth were brushed or homework was completed…we have lowered the bar of success around our house these days…that’s realistic life with a toddler and preteens).

I shut the door after kissing Joe goodbye and turned with a smile staring at my toddler who at this point was demanding another ‘nana,’ after having already eaten an entire banana.

“No, nana” which resulted in this. . .

11182262_10206089309372954_8162264191462567127_nI do not always have the perspective I had this morning. I took the above picture of my crying toddler and posted this comment on Instagram (more as a reminder to me to remember when I don’t have good perspective about mothering a toddler than it was advice to anyone else).

“Coming off the mountaintop experience of farm life at Camp Mimi’s is a cruel form of detox for a toddler. I thank God everyday that my kids have grandparents that love on them and spoil them. I always dreamed of having memories with the grandparents I never got to know in person. The detox of spoiling is worth it all. Life and relationship with those you love is a priceless treasure to celebrate and detox of spoiling is a very small price to pay.”

I really felt that way in that moment. With a skip in my step and joy in my heart, I put the toddler in the pack and play and turned on Daniel the Tiger (please do not judge) and with the best of attitude went to go start a load of towels that needed to be washed…

Confession, so that you understand that it is a rare occasion when I am joyful about laundry…I have heard people say that they love washing all their children’s clothing…that it reminds them of the blessing that they are and that someday I will miss doing so much laundry…I do not typically have these feelings when I do laundry…I will miss a lot of things about these days of my life but I’m pretty sure all the laundry is not in the top ten of things I will miss…proof that I need my above Instagram post reminder more than anyone…my big kids already know how to do their own laundry and I am counting down the days until Baby B can chip in too! It is a rare day that I go to the laundry room with joy in my heart for all that God has given to me.

Back to the snake story…

I turned on the water to fill my top loading washer, and then bent down to pick up the pile of towels that had collected on the laundry room floor. As I began pushing the bundle of towels into the machine, I noticed something that I couldn’t identify…a string? a belt? My mind knew those things didn’t make sense…but I didn’t give my mind long enough to tell my hand what to do…

I reached down and grabbed the unidentifiable object and yanked it up long enough for it to look me in the eyes.

Before I had time to even compute what I had just seen, I dropped the slithering creature in my hand back into the water and slammed the lid shut and took off running to call Joe…as if he could do something from an hour away.

After three attempts of calling, he finally answered.

He is a mental health therapist and usually when he doesn’t answer I know he is in a session. We have a deal that if I call more than twice that it deems I am in an emergency. Snake in washing machine=EMERGENGY, right ladies?

When he answered the phone, I know he was sure someone was dead. I was panicking and not making sense even to myself.

Do I let it drown? How long can snakes live in water? Will it go down the drain and live? How do I get it out? Do I kill it if I get it out or let it go alive in the yard (that’s my biology major mind talking not my rational self talking)? You don’t believe me do you? Hang on I’m getting off the phone and gonna take a picture so you believe me.” Click.

Then it was as if it was me against the python in the washing machine, and I was not going to let it win. The moment reminded me of the time I took on Cujo in my driveway. (If you haven’t read about my brush with death in the face of Cujo…you might get a giggle out of that blog, too)

Tongs. I need tongs. I ran to the kitchen and grabbed my salad tongs out of the drawer. Definitely a ‘no.’ They aren’t long enough and could I ever eat salad from tongs that touched a snake?

Joe’s tongs for the grill.  They are long and the high heat of the grill will surely sanitize any snake germs (a real thought that went through my head)!!! I raced to that drawer and grabbed the grill tongs and a small tub and ran back to the laundry room.

I lifted the lid with high hopes that I would find a dead snake.

But as I reached the tongs into the water, the snake was more than alive. He was on race for his life. I finally grabbed a hold of the python and quickly threw it into the tub I had in my other hand.

Now what?

As I looked at the tiny snake coiled up in the tub I was holding, I immediately burst into a belly laugh.

With my heart rate at about 150 beats per minute, I was cracking up at how such a tiny creature was creating such a fear in me.

I carried the tub outside trying to decide what to do with it. Should I go buy a terrarium or release him into the yard (irrational thoughts of a former biology teacher) or should I kill him?

Before I did anything else I knew I needed a picture to take for Joe so he would believe my story.

I took several pictures and it was only when I began attaching a picture to the text that I noticed how HUGE and LIFE THREATENING the thing looked in the picture, because there was no object in the picture to give perspective.

Don’t get me wrong…my heart was still racing and my skin was still crawling as I continued to take pictures. The tiny thing was opening its mouth at me and sticking out its tongue and it might as well have been a huge python. . .

There was not really a decision to make. The thing must die!

So I grabbed a flower pot and raised it above my head to increase the chances of killing it with one blow.

I won.

I have taken on Cujo and won…this poor excuse for a snake did not stand a chance.

So I apologize to all the husbands who will now be doing the family laundry because I posted the snake picture on social media.  My husband got to be my hero simply by entering the “snake room” to finish the laundry.

I apologize to my husband and all my social media friends for withholding the perspective picture all day.  I didn’t intend to carry it on this long, but I was gone for the evening and am just getting a chance to write out the story to remember.

And I apologize to Jesus. I wish I got as fired up about my love for you as I do about my HATE for snakes.

Now to figure out where I can sleep tonight that is snake proof.  And how I can get away with never doing laundry again for the rest of my life.

Good night friends…may you all have snake free dreams.

To my sweet Sarah…

Today was a first for me.

 I held the title of wedding coordinator. For some reason, I’m not the person people think of to ask when the event involves dresses and flowers and etiquette. 

 For the past few months, Joe and I have been helping a happy couple plan a ceremony and prepare for marriage. 

This morning I was up early praying for the soon to be Mr. and Mrs. Krull and trying to hold back emotions as the memory reels of the bride began turning in my mind. 

 My mind rewound 12 years to teaching Sarah in Sunday School as a 5th grader in Cape Girardeau. Then my thoughts fast forwarded to 6 years ago when God moved this sweet girl from St Louis to Tulsa just for me I think….to provide the best babysitter in the world for our big kids when we were new to Tulsa. 

 And then my thoughts skipped to just last year to the day I dropped sweet Baby B off for her first day in childcare at the church where I work. I knew I would survive those 6 hours because Ms. Sarah was there to snuggle her in my absence. 

 After being married 15 years, I have the perspective of knowing that this important day will soon be a distant memory for Stuart and Sarah.

 As Joe and I were walking out of the hotel last night to go practice his officiating and my coordinating the wedding, we had a little disagreement (how appropriate huh?) ..one of the countless opportunities we have had in our marriage to live out the vows we made to each other on December 18th, 1999. 

 A childhood memory verse, Philippians 4:8, and a list I made about Joe years ago at the recommendation of my mom popped in my head as we worked through the disagreement.

I jotted down this verse (not an easy task for me if you know me and my physical disability story) in the journal I gave to Sarah today. A journal to pack in her bag so next week when this day is just a memory she can begin her own list….a list of things she loves and admires about Stuart. 

 Words I pray Sarah will return to in the days and years to come. Words of affirmation to speak over her husband as they learn to love each other in their new relationship of being husband and wife. 

 My goodness today was perfect. 

Simply beautiful. 

And as I watched my own handsome groom marry Sarah and Stuart I smirked as I thought about our little disagreement last night…because on my list is the fact that he is so darn sweet and good-looking. 

 Sarah in 15 years I pray that your heart still flutters when you look into your husband’s eyes just like mine did today. May the moments that he drives you crazy be redeemed with thoughts of all the things that you love about him on this your wedding day. 

What an honor to be a part of your special day… 

         

Top three things food and clothing pantries do not want this giving season….

Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to an article. The article was titled “10 Things Food Banks Need and Won’t Ask For.”

Since I lead the food and clothing ministry at my church, my friend was interested to know if the article rang true to me.

It’s giving season.

Next week we will “give thanks” for what we have and then turn around and spend the next few weeks giving away our time to Christmas celebrations and giving away money to retailers.

And what I have come to learn first-hand from my job…this season spurs people to give to charitable organizations. Some of the donations are a blessing. Some…not so much.

In light of my friend’s question, I was reminded how much I have learned about giving in the past 2 years of leading a food and clothing ministry.

I used to use a phrase when I donated. Now the phrase makes me cringe.

“Well, if someone doesn’t have _______________ they will appreciate this even though it is _____________.”

Here’s the truth.

Just because someone doesn’t have a coat, it doesn’t mean that a coat with a zipper broken is a huge blessing to them.

Just because someone doesn’t have socks, doesn’t mean that socks with holes in them would make their heart smile.

And for goodness sakes…just because someone doesn’t have shoes for their child, doesn’t mean that they would be proud to put my son’s dirty, worn out shoes on their son’s feet.

Here’s a few things I have learned in my short two years of running a food and clothing ministry….

Top 3 donations in the “Thanks, but No Thanks” category:

1. Boxes of leftover garage sale quarter items. If it doesn’t sell for a quarter at a yard sale, it likely has no value to a donation center. Do your donation center a favor. Find something else to do with your leftover garage sale 25 cent box besides dropping them off at a donation site.

Each week our sorting team wastes valuable time sorting out items that should have been thrown away by the person who donated it.  Just last night I filled a trash bag full of used kid’s meals toys, dirty shirts, shoes with holes in them, and a half used candle.

Rule of thumb when donating leftover yard sale items: Your trash is likely trash to other people too.

2. Expired food. Rusted cans of food. Thanks but no thanks. Great donation centers want to be proud of the quality of the things they offer to guests. Rule of thumb for donating: If you wouldn’t want to feed it to your family, it is likely not something that donation centers would want to offer as food to their guests.

3. Broken anything. Every week we throw out chipped dishes, broken toys, and appliances that don’t work.

I grew up in a preacher’s home. As a child my parents hosted many ministers from around the world into our home for dinner. There are stories that are almost universal. One is the broken piano story. It seems that in the 70s and 80s people used to drop out of tune or broken pianos off at churches as a ‘donation.’ From a young age, I was taught that broken donations are not a blessing at all. Often they seem more like a curse than a blessing.

99 percent of the time…broken = trash.

I would love for our generation to be the tide that turns the mentality on donating. Let’s all agree to not use donation centers as a place to dump off our junk and feel good about ourselves for “donating.” Let’s be honest. A lot of the time donating our stuff is more about getting it off of our hands than giving it away to someone in need.

How about let’s all do this….

Let’s all stop buying junk that we don’t need or use that ends up in our garage sales that ends up in donation centers . Instead let’s start buying things to give to donation centers.

I know some of you are thinking…”I wish I could. We are on a tight budget and just don’t have money to purchase items to give regularly.”

I get it. I have been there. I know what it feels like for there to be more month than money.

So, let me bring truth to your heart that desires to be generous.

Find a donation center near you. Ask them if there is an item that they run short of often that would be within your weekly or monthly budget.

If you can spare a dollar a month…you can donate something valuable.

If your kids have a piggy bank with only 4 quarters in it…they can donate something of worth to donation centers. And as a mom, I highly recommend you not just have your child give the dollar to the donation center. Use it as a tangible lesson. Take them to a dollar store. Have them buy a bottle of shampoo. Or a toothbrush. Or a bar of soap.

Do this every month. Can you imagine if all of our kids grow up thinking it is normal to buy a bar of soap to donate each week? It will be normal to them. And how refreshing in 20 years to have our adult kids keeping donation center shelves full of USEFUL donations.

The article my friend sent me has some good ideas of what most donation centers would love to get as regular donations from people. . .

So, as the giving season approaches, my heart longs to see our generation give….and give well.

My favorite volunteers this summer.  Watching seeds of compassion begin to bud in their hearts is worth getting cussed out.

My favorite volunteers.  Praying we raise a generation of kids who give.  And give well.

My 20 year reunion is next week…and I’ve kept a secret for 20 years…I almost quit high school.

Twenty years ago I walked across the stage of the Marietta High School auditorium to receive my high school diploma.

Next weekend I will be heading to the small Oklahoma town that raised me to gather with a group of people who I lived life with from age 6 to 18. It’s been 20 years since I have seen most of them. Gee whiz. Twenty years can fly by.

Over the years the number in our class fluctuated but for those twelve years of my life I walked my days closely with about 50 classmates.

Together, we sang our hearts out in our elementary school “Cabbage Patch” play.

I can close my eyes and still see “Otis Lee”(Greg) chasing the villain “Lavender McDade” (Laura) across the stage as “Colonel Casey” (Dustin) with his feathered wings is singing “Run, run, run Otis Lee.” The tune is forever etched in my mind.

We watched VHS movies (which was a rather new technology at the time)together every week in Mrs. Owens’ 3rd grade….because Mr. Owens owned the local Video store.

Then there was middle school together. 7th grade. I want to totally erase 7th grade from my memory. I was an awkward tomboy who didn’t fit in with the rest of the girls in my class who were into fashion, make up, and boys.

During those middle school days I became a sort of recluse. Though on the outside I might have seemed popular and well liked because I was a star athlete and president of our class each year of middle school….on the inside I felt all alone.

I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t like the others. Partly because I preferred to read the Bible more than seventeen magazine. Partly because I preferred tennis shoes to high heels. And partly because I was the town’s Baptist preacher’s daughter and wasn’t allowed to go to school dances (truth is…I really didn’t want to go because I didn’t like boys and I didn’t like dancing and I felt like it would be another place I would feel like I didn’t fit in).

Somehow we all made it through middle school…but not without a lot of us scarred for life from those wretched years of ages 12 to 14 that all girls have to survive.

I taught middle school for 5 years and some days all I had for the crying 7th or 8th grade girl that would come to my desk to share their heartbreak with me was “this too shall pass. It seems like a huge deal right now. And it is to you. But hang on sweet girl. Life does get better when the hormones settle and most girls get nicer…most girls…not all girls. And that boy that you are so in love with….promise he’s probably not that great anyway.”

Then there were the four years in high school together. I pulled away even farther. Those who were my close friends in elementary school and middle school moved on to other friends. I withdrew even farther into sports and school work and church activities.

Basketball and running and algebra homework and reading the Bible were my escape. I knew I could do those things well. Maybe I couldn’t do cool well. Maybe I couldn’t do beauty on the outside well (I still hated make up, fashion, and chasing boys). Maybe I didn’t get invited to any parties.

But I could shoot a jump shot like no other. I could run 20 laps around Circle Drive like nobody’s business. I knew more about the Bible than the typical 16 year old. And well I had a fantastic family that I loved being around on Friday and Saturday nights so not being invited to the lake parties didn’t get me down too much.

My junior year the unthinkable happened. In a mid season basketball game, I tore my ACL. My world shattered.

Sports was who I was. It was all I had. I didn’t have boys. I didn’t have fashion. I didn’t have coolness.

My identity was shattered.

I had built a wall around my heart and so I didn’t have close friends who knew the true pain my knee injury caused me. For the first time in my life, at age 17, I went into a deep depression. I felt a loneliness like I had never felt before.

For the next year and a half, I walked the halls of that high school smiling on the outside and trying to encourage everyone else, yet on the inside I was in a very dark place myself….I felt all alone.

I cried out to God in tears every night as I cried myself to sleep. (I am typing this in my local coffee shop and tears are streaming down my face because the pain is still very raw at times)

My parents did all they knew to do. They loved me. Cried with me. Held out hope for me when I had no more.

One day my senior year, I caught wind of some things that were being said by some girls behind my back. That night after a basketball game, someone also told me some of the things some parents of other players were saying about me in the stands during the game.

It was all I could take.

I remember that night like it was yesterday. I had scored 34 points. I had played my heart out. I had spent 3 hours a day for the past 10 months rehabbing my knee so I could get back to the level of playing I had been at before my injury.

I drove home after the game and my mom (like she always did) had grilled cheese and soup waiting on me. I sat down at the bar of that church parsonage where I lived my entire childhood and instead of eating I laid my head down on the counter and cried my eyes out.

My mom just listened. I told her I was going to quit basketball. That in fact I wanted to quit school and just finish my senior yearl from home.

I couldn’t take any more of the arrows of unkind words being slung straight into my heart. I was already battling depression and my heart felt like it was going to break into a million pieces.

I was ready to move on. I wanted a fresh start somewhere where no one knew me.

I don’t remember exactly what changed my mind…but I decided I would press on. I only had a few more months to survive high school.

As I reflect on those days….I get emotional still.

Yet it is amazing what 20 years of perspective can do for someone.

For the past twenty years, I have continued to walk in faith.

Faith that God’s Word is true.

Faith that forgiveness of others is the only true way to live in freedom in this world.

Faith that generates a love of all people…no matter how hard they are to love. No matter how they have hurt me. This brings peace to my soul…a peace that surpasses all understanding.

I’m at peace.

Peace with those who say hurtful things directed at me.

Peace with not fitting in with those around me. (I still don’t fit in with fashionistas or cool people…but I learned to like boys…one boy in particular who’s loved me for 15 years now even when I’ve been unlovable)

I’m thankful.

Thankful for my family and my hometown and my country. Despite the scars, I am blessed to have been raised by an amazing family in a great little small town in this great nation of ours.

Thankful for my childhood.Though there were bumps along the way, I’m thankful for the friends that I walked life with through my childhood. They helped to mold me into the person I am today. The friend I am. The wife I am. The mother I am. The follower of Jesus that I am.

When I think of all the orphans around the world who would give anything to have the childhood I had with a loving family, a safe community to call home, and a school where I got a free education…

I am quickly humbled and full of thanksgiving.

Tonight I laid next to my daughter as I tucked her into to bed. She was writing a Bible verse in her journal. It is a verse she has heard us quote a thousand times because it is a life verse we have spoken over our son.
When I asked her what she was writing down, she told me Joshua 1:9. We started talking about what the verse meant and I asked her if she has ever been discouraged.

And she went on tell describe a couple of situations at school with some other girls.

She’s only in 4th grade. . .I wanted to be able to tell her that it will be all better this week.

Truth is…it won’t.

People will disappoint her for the rest of her life. There will always be mean people in this world. As long as we are human…we will be misunderstood and we will misunderstand others. We will get our feelings hurt, and we will hurt the feeling of others.

The only way to survive is to learn to love and forgive.

I really can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I’ve seen most of the people that I spent my entire childhood with in that small town.

My prayer is that my jeans don’t make me look fat. My wrinkles can be covered with my foundation. My kids don’t embarrass me. And well….much more importantly.

That if ever there was anything that I did or said that left a scar on any of their lives that they too have found the freedom that comes from love and forgiveness.

6-9-2014 11;07;21 AM

I had the honor of addressing the class at graduation.  I promised them I would pray for each of them in the years to come.  I have kept that promise.  Prayer journals are filled with prayers I have prayed over them.

I had the honor of addressing the class at graduation. I promised them I would pray for each of them in the years to come. I have kept that promise. Prayer journals are filled with prayers I have prayed over them.

My jump shot was about the only thing I was sure of back then.

My jump shot was about the only thing I was sure of back then.

Being a third wheel was the story of my junior high, high school, and college life...Thanks Kyle and Toni for making me feel loved at the prom!

Being a third wheel was the story of my junior high, high school, and college life…Thanks Kyle and Toni for making me feel loved at the prom!

"Dr." Mike.  He's one of the few that saw the many tears I shed in that training room.  We both dreamed of life after high school.

“Dr.” Mike. He’s one of the few that saw the many tears I shed in that training room. We both dreamed of life after high school.

Some of my sweet classmates as we held hands and walked out of our last high school class together... I loved my choir buddies.

Some of my sweet classmates as we held hands and walked out of our last high school class together… I loved my choir buddies.

Senior night football game.  My band and cheerleader peeps.

Senior night football game. My band and cheerleader peeps.

These three...Man I love these three.  Countless hours together in that rubber floored gym.

These three…Man I love these three. Countless hours together in that rubber floored gym.  photo credit…the one and only Lawrence A.

That time I got cussed out in Spanish for not helping enough. . .

“She just basically said you are not a nice person,” one of our precious interpreters told me when I asked her what the Spanish speaking guest was telling her.

The volunteer was interpreting for me as I explained to a guest the policies of the food and clothing pantry I supervise at my church.

By the facial expressions, the tone of her voice, and her cutting glances the guest sent my way, I knew my sweet interpreter was leaving out some details of what the guest said about me.

It’s not the first time I have been cussed out in Spanish.

I’ve been in charge of the benevolence ministry of our church for about a year and a half now. Most days I wake up thanking God for choosing me to get to do what I do. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that some days things happen that make question why I even try to help meet people’s needs.

In the past 18 months on my job….I’ve been taken advantage of. I’ve been lied to. Multiple times I have been pushed or tripped by a guest rushing to get in line at a donation table. I’ve watched people still make poor choices after I have offered wisdom. I’ve been blamed for one person never attending our church again. And now I’ve been cussed out for not “helping enough.”

So, why do I keep coming back? Why do I continue to want to help?

I help because it is what the Word of God commands.

I help because I too have lacked hope.

At one point early in our marriage, I remember us being in seminary and going to my piggy bank and counting out change to have the money we needed to put gas in our car to get to work.

I had listened to the claims of popular preachers who made promises that “if you just have enough faith or give enough money God will bless you with more money than you will know what to do with. God will ‘bless your faith and giving’ and you will have the things you want.”

I secretly wished those preachers were right.. After all, we did have tremendous faith. We were giving regularly to our church and other causes…we always had. No matter our financial situation.

I wished there was a guaranteed formula for success as defined by those preachers who drive fancy cars and wear tailored suits.

I remember thinking during those times: What are we doing wrong? Why are we not being ‘blessed?’

After all. We had faith and were giving, PLUS we were doing everything we had been taught in school since we were kids to do to have “the American Dream.” Go to school. Learn Algebra (what a lie from hell….sorry to all my math teacher friends.) Save money. Work hard. The payoff will be a nice house, nice cars, fancy vacations and a happily ever after in this world.

It wasn’t the last time in our 15 years of marriage that the piggy bank savings had to be emptied. It certainly wasn’t the last time I questioned what I was doing wrong in the “formulas for success” that I had learned.

I keep waking up excited to do my job at my church because I have been desperately hopeless. Faith and master’s degrees were not enough to maintain my hope that God saw me in my struggles.

It was during these times that I learned the importance of being humble and admitting I needed help from someone else. . . that I didn’t have all the answers. That maybe the American Dream is not all that it is cracked up to be. That I needed others in my life….that we weren’t intended to live this life out alone. I needed the church to be the church for me.

Our society has bred a mindset in people that having a need and asking for help is a sign of weakness. We are tempted to think that if someone has a need, that they have made mistakes in the equation of attaining the American dream and are paying the consequences.

As I am writing this, I am sitting in a coffee shop with my head phones on listening to music trying to drown out the conversations around me. People sipping their expensive coffees. People living ‘the American Dream.’ When I come to this coffee shop in a rather affluent area of town that doctors and businessman frequent in the mornings, I try not to hear their conversations.

The music is unable to drown it all out.

People counting down the days until Friday or years until retirement. People discussing their problems in their marriages and with their teenage kids. Conversations about cancer, aging parents, and the ‘failing’ government. People living out the phrase, “Another day another dollar. Repeat.”

It is easy to see as I listen to them talk and sip their coffee, that maybe the American Dream isn’t as dreamy as we are told it is as kids.

I indeed was mad after I got cussed out last week. Guests such as that make me throw my hands up and ask myself why we even try to help.

Later that day in the peacefulness of my office, my thoughts were quieted and I was able to understand the pain behind the guest’s words (that I didn’t even understand).

I have not been in her shoes. I don’t know her full story. But I am sure it is similar to many of the guests we serve every Tuesday morning.

People without hope. They have put their faith in a government system. And just as all man made things….America has failed them. . . as great as this country is it is still full of people who feel hopeless. No matter the bank account…many Americans still lack hope in better days to come.

Instead of being angry, I prayed for the guest.  No doubt behind the words are pain I do not understand.  Hurt people hurt people is very true statement.

Guests such as these give benevolence a bad reputation. They make us drive by the homeless person on the street without doing anything for them. We avoid eye contact and pretend we didn’t see them.

Guests who take advantage of the ‘system’ make us hold tight to our own pocket books and leery to give our time to organizations or ministries who provide help to the down and out.

I’m not gonna lie. Being in the middle of helping people who are down and out is messy. Very messy at times. There is risk involved. You risk being lied to. Being taken advantage of. Being cussed out for not doing enough.

But let. Me. Tell. You. The risk is worth it.

Every day I pray that guests such as the one I described do not harden my heart to the many guests we serve that are grateful for everything we do.

We serve immigrants. We serve the homeless. We serve foster parents. We serve the unemployed with college degrees. We serve people with addictions. We serve teenage moms. We serve the elderly. We serve college students.

People thinking they are coming to us to get food and clothing to meet a physical need, but when they leave most of our guests thank us most of all for offering them a listening ear and hope.

This hope comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ. As great as the United States of America is…..the American Dream cannot offer this hope.   Just ask the people sipping expensive coffee in coffee shops every morning. 

Dreams fail us.

Promises from the Word of God do not.

The week after I was cussed out by a guest, I walked in early to set up for another day of serving the community. I was greeted by a middle-aged woman who was trembling in despair.

Though I spoke her language, I still did not fully understand the pain she described.

She too was raised in a different culture than me. Though we both were raised in America, our skin colors are different. All it takes is hearing one story such as hers to know that we do not all have the same chance in this country to attain ‘the American Dream.’

Her story is not mine to tell.

But let. Me. Tell. You. It is because of stories such as hers that I am passionate about helping the poor…no matter the cost to me. No matter the risk. The risk is worth it.

This new friend I have made whose skin color is much darker than mine, who raised her kids on the ‘other side’ of our city, whose story is much different than mine needed hope Tuesday morning. She needed to know that someone cared about her story.

She didn’t need to be coached in achieving the American Dream. She really didn’t ‘need’ our food and clothing.

She needed hope. Even though she knew Jesus, and knew the promises in His word, she needed God’s people to hold out hope for her until she could see the light for herself. She needed the church.

And this Tuesday I watched the church be exactly what the church was designed to do. . . provide hope to the hopeless. I watched the hope found in a relationship with Jesus Christ transform a soul in despair.

I’ve been intending to brush up on my Spanish skills. I have an unopened box of Rosetta Stone in my home office that I bought over a year ago with the intention of being able to understand our guests a little more.

Truth is….I really don’t need to speak someone’s language to know they are in pain and lack hope.

In fact, maybe I’m better off not knowing exactly what some our guests say about me.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

This morning I am posting this on my blog right after I have read the story of the Good Samaritan.  My kids know this story.  We read it to them in picture books before they could read.  They have seen the story acted out many times at church.  This story is on several of the Bible story CDs they play as they fall asleep. 

It occurred to me as I read this parable this morning.  To many people this story is just words on a page or actors on a stage.  My kids desperately need to see this story lived out by the church in their culture.  The arrows in my quiver need me to launch them with more than inspiring stories in a book.  When they think of the Good Samaritan, my desire is that they don’t point to a parable written 2000 years ago.    When they hear the word “Good Samaritan,” they will think of real people like Mr. Jim or Mrs. Cleta not a character in a parable.  My desire is that my little arrows are launched with memories of real life Good Samaritans they have watched be the church to the world around them.

My favorite volunteers this summer.  Watching seeds of compassion begin to bud in their hearts is worth getting cussed out.

My favorite volunteers this summer. Watching seeds of compassion begin to bud in their hearts is worth getting cussed out.

Car seat blow outs, dimples for knuckles, and Middle School

Though it was almost a decade ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a middle school teacher again after a short (or honestly very long) 3 year sabbatical as a stay-at-home momma finishing up my seminary degree.

This time around as a middle school teacher I was mother of a 9 month old little girl and a 2 year old boy.

I had been a stay-at-home momma and seminary student for my first two years of motherhood. Those years are a bit of a blur. A blur I cherish in my heart with lots of incredible memories.

I smile writing that because the incredible memories I would likely not have termed ‘incredible’ at the time. Just yesterday as I was cleaning out my 8-month-old’s car seat after a diaper blow out in car, I remembered an epic ‘car seat blow out’ my now 11-year-old son had as an infant on a 12 hour road trip.

Yesterday, I laughed out loud as I thought about the ‘incredible memory’ of how long it seemed to the next exit on that turnpike. I remember the look on Joe’s face and I know my face had the same look. We were not prepared for this. No one told us about car seat blow outs…or maybe we weren’t listening or read the wrong parenting 101 handbook.

It is an ‘incredible memory’ now.

How we had to drive almost 30 minutes tolerating that smell because we were of course on one of those endless Oklahoma turnpikes with no exits.

How we had to clean that nasty seat out in a potty at a rest stop and kept praying that no one would notice what we were doing and that our baby would not contract some disease from all the germs that were in that bathroom.

How we had to hold our one- year- old for part of the drive instead of having him safely in his seat as the law requires, because his wet car seat was not an option.

There is not a manual to follow for such things in parenthood.

The thought passed through my mind yesterday that if every teenage girl that thinks ‘it would be so fun to have a baby’ had to clean up a car seat blowout…we would have fewer unwed teenage moms in this country.

So there I was almost a decade ago, sitting in a team meeting with two sweet co-teachers who were not only middle school teachers but they were also mothers of middle school boys.

I remember them telling me how quickly the next years would fly and that I would blink and my tantrum throwing 2-year-old would be a middle schooler. They giggled and glanced at each other. I smiled trying to believe them, but really didn’t fully understand.

At that time in my life, it seemed to me that mothers of older children were some sort of secret society. Sometimes I almost felt like they were lying to me and behind closed doors laughing at all of us mothers of littles not telling us young moms the truth.

The days were long. The tantrums were even longer.

I dreamed of the days that he could clean up his on potty accidents, use words to tell me his teeth hurt instead of screaming about it, and could make his own peanut butter and honey sandwiches for lunch.

In those two years, my middle school students were my refuge. Crazy I know. I’m one of those weird ones that love being around middle school kids. I would go home to my two littles at home and think, “The middle school years of parenting will be a breeze compared to this.”

{Can you hear me giggling as I type? What ridiculous thinking! I’ll chalk the thought up to being sleep deprived. I knew better. Afterall, I spent my days with middle schoolers and my nights with toddlers. I often told my middle school students that their behavior was identical to my toddlers at home. My students thought I was kidding. I wasn’t. Middle schoolers are truly just tantrum throwing toddlers in grown up bodies and who have a larger vocabulary…think about it. It’s truth.}

Yesterday it happened.

I dropped my son off for 6th grade orientation. Middle School.

I blinked. My coworkers a decade ago were telling me the truth after all.

Yesterday I walked the hallway of my son’s middle school with my eight-month-old daughter strapped to my chest. It has been a decade since I sat in that team meeting as a middle school teacher and a first time momma of a toddler.

This time around as a mother of an infant I have the gift of a decade of parenting in my tool belt. One of the tools I have in my belt this time around is a decade of perspective. It is definitely the most useful tool I have these days as a momma.

I do something this time around that I didn’t do the first time I was a momma of an infant.

I intentionally stare at my infant daughter’s knuckles every day.

“Dimples for knuckles.” I can’t remember when my other two kids “dimples for knuckles” disappeared, but at some point the boney knuckles replaced the dimples.

As I was driving him to his 6th grade orientation yesterday, my son admitted his nervousness to me about all the changes ahead.

As we drove into the parking lot, he said, “please don’t walk me in momma.”

I had held it together well until I heard those words. I remembered a brave little kindergarten boy saying the same thing and it really did seem that that was just yesterday.

Somewhere along the way I have joined the secret society of moms of older kids who fully understand the “don’t blink” phrase.

Somewhere along the way he learned to go potty by himself.  HALLELUJAH!

This week he showed me a new molar…he cut his 12 year molar on his own without me knowing. PRAISE JESUS FOR WORDS INSTEAD OF SCREAMS WHEN TEETHING!!!!

And these days I clean up a lot of peanut butter and honey messes that he leaves behind when he makes himself a sandwich.

I know now that I will blink and it will be his first day of high school. Then it will be college. And {clears throat and wipes tear} his wedding day.

I get it now. I. get.  it.

So if you see me staring at my infant daughter’s hands a lot. . .you now know what I am doing. I am enjoying her “dimples for knuckles” before I blink.

No caption needed right?

No caption needed right?

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Seriously, whoever thought it was a good idea to feed over 500 6th graders in the same room at the same time…..God bless all the Middle School lunch monitors in the world. You will never be paid your worth.

 

In kindergarten, he would stop and turn and blow me a kiss.

In kindergarten, he would stop and turn and blow me a kiss.

Yesterday, it was a quick glance over the shoulder and a smile.  Praying that he will still do this on his wedding day.  The kiss is for your wife...just please glance over your shoulder and smile at me.  Then...you are hers.

Yesterday, it was a quick glance over the shoulder and a smile. Praying that he will still do this on his wedding day. The kiss is for your wife…just please glance over your shoulder and smile at me. Then…you are hers.

Learning to say “No” to doing ‘big’ things for God.

For many years I have read the classic devotional “My Utmost for His Highest.”

Let me be honest here. Some days I just read the words of Dr. Os (which is what I affectionately call Oswald Chambers) and they don’t penetrate my soul. Just as often happens in my daily quiet times of Bible reading and prayer, this devotional reading can be more of a habit than a spiritual discipline.

And since I’m being truthful…

There are days…wait there have been weeks….okay…there have even been seasons in my life where I got up from my reading and praying as dry as I was when I sat down to read or pray.

Nothing.  Nothing changed in me.  No holy fire from heaven.  My spirit remained thirsty.  My heart remained unsteady.

I have often succumbed to the pressures of this world on women.

The idea that a woman can have it all and still maintain her sanity all while keeping a perfectly clean and trendy house, meeting all of her spouses needs, feeding her children only organic food, and making it to the gym every day.

On top of the pressures of the world, in recent years the Christian culture has lumped another burden on women.

This message is spoken loudly these days from the pulpit, the blogosphere, and around small circles of women gathering in coffee shops.

The pressure to do “big things” for God.

The pressure to raise “world changers.”

The pressure to rescue the orphans.

The pressure to free the sex slaves.

Now don’t get mad at me just yet.  Give me a chance to explain.

I am all about doing big things.  Just ask my husband.  I am a dreamer.  Daily I battle with restless to ‘do’ something more for God.

And nothing would please this momma’s heart more than to someday put my children on a plane to ‘go change the world.’

And those orphans.  I had a heart for the Fatherless way before there was a much needed renewal of this long neglected teaching of the Bible.

So…isn’t all of the pressure “good Christian peer pressure?”

I’m not sure.

As I visit and work with women in the church….I am beginning to think that for many the constant message of “doing big” has had the opposite effect on women.

Instead I have found myself in a generation of women (and I include myself in this) that have grown discontent.

Single women.  Married women.  Divorced women.  Women living in wealth.  Women living in poverty.  Young women.  Older women.  It seems that life’s circumstances are not the driving force behind this discontentment.

Discontentment can often be a good thing. It can lead to aligning one’s wandering heart to the Lord’s.

However, discontentment can become a state of mind that causes us to miss the contentment we should find in the present.

I believe the latter is the sort of discontentment I see in women of this generation.

I think if we are all honest we could admit that we have lived many days wasted in the mindset of discontentment.

If only I could ‘do’ something big like so and so, then I will be contented and satisfied with who I am in Christ.

If only this toddler stage would speed up, then I will have the time and energy to be all that God has designed me to be.

When I get married….when we make more money…when my husband gets out of school…when the kids are out of diapers…when we have our dream home.

Goodness.

All the “if onlys” and “whens” have been the cause of many blessings of ‘today’ to slip right through my fingers.

I am not blaming anyone or anything.

But I do want to plug my ears to all the pressures that are screaming at women to “do” more.

Could we all just raise our hands up in the air and scream loudly

“Enough already!!!”

This is where my daily devotional that I read this morning comes in. This morning Dr. Os’ words were like lavender oil on my soul.

My heart has been restless.  My spirit discontent.  A place I find myself way too often.

“We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing–that He is preparing and equipping us for some extraordinary work in the future. But as we grow in His grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, at this very moment. If we have God’s assurance behind you, the most amazing strength becomes ours, and we learn to sing, glorifying Him even in the ordinary days and ways of life.”

So, I wonder.

I wonder what would happen if we as women could learn ‘to sing and glorify God in the ordinary days and ways of life.’

I have a guess.

I’ll bet that instead of us doing “big things for God,” God begins doing big things through us on ordinary days in ordinary ways.

The big things won’t be planned.  They will sneak up on us and surprise us.

World changers would be raised.

Orphans would be rescued.

Slaves would be freed.

And I’ll put my money on the fact that if we do less and ‘be present in today’ more, then we will find ourselves right in the middle of big things that God is doing.

calendar

I really don’t know how long it has been since I have had a day when there was not a single thing scheduled. A dot free day on my phone. An opportunity for me to put in action just what God spoke to me this morning. I want to learn to embrace the ordinary days and ways of life. The dot free days. I wonder if it is on these days of ‘not doing’ that God does the biggest things.  Summer….I love you.

Elementary School. Done.

Today he finished elementary school. I now believe those people who told me when he was in Kindergarten that I would blink and he would be in middle school….they weren’t lying.

I watched him walk into his elementary school building this morning for the last time. I had to ask him to please turn around and wave at me as he walked away. To my surprise he didn’t hesitate to do what I asked. Thank goodness he’s not too embarrassed to do things like this for his momma….yet.

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Seriously. It was just yesterday that I walked him into his kindergarten class on the first day. He let me walk him in for 3 days and then I was about to get out of the car to walk him in on day 4 and from the backseat I heard him say.

“Momma, I can get to my class by myself today.”

I wasn’t quite sure how to feel. Proud. Sad. Scared.

Those doors are heavy, can he open them himself?

His class is in the back of the school. What if he makes a wrong turn?

My heart raced.

As I watched him walk towards that building by himself that day, he stopped at the stairs and turned and gave me a big smile and blew me a kiss.

DSC_1661

Tears streamed down my face.

My firstborn was carving a new path for me as a momma.

The path that I would learn to walk of letting my son grow wings and begin to learn to fly on his own.

Oh. My. Goodness.

This has been one of the most difficult things for this Type A momma who likes to be in charge and struggles with fear of things I can’t control.

God has used parenting my boy as a way to chisel away at this heart of mine and learn to live out what I believe. . .this beautiful (a momma can say that about her boy), tenderhearted, brave boy is not really mine at all.

I gave him to the Father from the moment I learned of his conception. Every day I must choose to live in this position. . .giving up the control that I want to have over my son and allowing the Holy Spirit to be his Guide, Comforter, and Teacher.

He was strong enough to open that big door by himself.

He didn’t get lost on his way to class.

Six years later…he is the one on safety patrol that was chosen to monitor the Kindergarten bus riders in the cafeteria and then escort them to the bus.

Every day this year I would sit in my car and watch him after school, walking these oh so little Kindergarteners to the bus, and I took mental pictures because it is a memory of him I do not want to forget.

Where did the last six years go?

Honestly…he was just that Kindergartener waving to me from the stairs letting me know he was okay and he could do it on his own.

I’ve been asking him a lot of reflection questions the past few weeks about his time in elementary school.

“Son, what do you think you have learned from being on Safety Patrol this year?”

“Kindergarteners….man they are all like sheep that have gone astray.”

My eyes glazed with tears as I laughed out loud. I love when my boy surprises me with his wit.

I looked at him in pride. Each year I have questioned our decision to have him in public school wondering if we had doomed him to educational mediocrity. . . if we had thrown him out to the wolves to be devoured.

I have dear friends who have chosen different educational paths for their kids…and I know that they too have days that they question the educational decisions that they have make for their kids..

Guilt. Frustration. Fear. The enemy’s tactics to make us question the path the Holy Spirit has each of us on…different paths but all for His glory.

In the past six years of having my son in public school, many times I have felt defeated in the guilt, frustration, and fear.

But in the quiet moments, I hear the still small voice say. “Trust me. I love that boy of ours. I’ve got this. You just press on momma”

As I stood there in the kitchen watching my boy shake his head about the disobedient kindergarteners, I was reminded that indeed God’s grace has covered all the times that I have failed in my parenting and He has been faithful to bless my novice parenting efforts.

I haven’t totally ruined my firstborn child. And this indeed is a miracle.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.     Isaiah 53:6

We have been memorizing some verses together as a family this year. Isaiah 53:6 is one of them.

Kindergarteners after school waiting for a bus. Having to walk on a sidewalk in a straight line. No pushing. No cutting in line. No walking on the grass. And for goodness sake “Get a Kleenex!”

Seriously. I didn’t teach this application to my boy.
Indeed. Kindergarteners (and 30 something year old mommas) are like sheep gone astray.photo

Thank you Holy Spirit for teaching my son.

Thank you Jesus for your grace that covers my parenting failures.

Thank you Father for giving me big arms to rest in peace in on this wild ride of parenting.

Middle School….Here. We. Come. Surely it’s not as bad as they say (can you hear the sarcasm from a former middle school teacher….breathe momma breathe…it’s gonna be alright.)

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This was my favorite picture of his last day of Elementary school. It was raining when I picked him up. Seconds after I took this picture, the wind caught the umbrella and turned it inside out. He started laughing hard and dashed off to the van…soaked to the skin and smiling and laughing all the way. Just what every elementary school boy (I mean middle school boy) should do…see rain as an opportunity to have fun. . .who needs umbrellas.  Thanks but no thanks momma.

And I have to include an epilogue to this entry…

When we first started memorizing Isaiah 53:6, I quoted the verse to the kids and asked them what they thought it meant.

I got a little frustrated with the big girl because I felt like she should surely understand the verse after I explained iniquity. I may or may not have gotten a little firm in my frustration with her not trying to think through what it might mean.

She was quiet for a while. My frustration built. I’ve failed. Does she really not understand the cross, sin, grace? Where have we gone wrong?

Then in her oh so sweet voice she said, “But momma I just don’t get it. Not everyone in the world likes sheep.”

I didn’t get it at first and then Joe started belly laughing.

“We all like sheep. You aren’t pausing at the commas.”

Parenting failure 10,904.

I hugged my girl. Apologized for my frustration with her and let her know how darn cute she is.

Relief. My failure wasn’t in my teaching theology to my kids…I just need to work on pausing at commas. I haven’t totally ruined them…yet.

Tasting the bittersweet in Mother’s Day

Nine years ago on Mother’s Day, I dressed a little baby girl in a handmade white dress for baby dedication Sunday.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. I took the time to make little bows for Baby B’s head and feet to wear with the very same white dress that her big sis wore on her dedication day.

Tears streamed as the bitter sweetness of this day set in as it has in my heart for the past 13 years. . . the first Mother’s Day that I watched friends dedicate babies as I grieved the loss of mine. (I wrote more about this last Mother’s Day when we began telling family and friends about our being pregnant with Baby B)

Mother’s Day would never again be the same for me.

Tears also flowed because making pink bows always brings a rush of emotion as I remember making a special pink bow for my baby niece Daisy to wear.  I never got to hold her since she was born in Thailand, but I was thrilled to make a pink bow for her to be buried in.

Last night I searched for just the right accessory for Baby B to wear to commemorate her 3 siblings and two cousins in heaven.

I wanted something gold.

One of my sweet college roommates lost her baby girl, “Goldie” this year and it will be her first Mother’s Day to taste the bitter sweetness of this day.  I wanted to have my friend on my mind to pray for as I enjoyed the sweetness of my baby girl.  (You can read about her journey here )

I came up short.

Then I remembered a box of gold jewelry that was left over from a garage sale. This costume jewelry belonged to my sweet sister in law’s momma who went to be with Jesus this year.

And just like my Heavenly Father always does, He had a gift for me in that box.

A gold angel pin.

There were only three things left in the box and one of them was a golden angel pin. Are you kidding me? I didn’t even remember seeing that pin before.

Thank you Mrs. Norma. We will all grieve you this Mother’s Day but you left behind a gift and we know you are loving on our babies in heaven.

Oh, and if you read the post that I linked above…my friend that pregnant me hugged last Mother’s Day because she was grieving the loss of her baby son…today I will stand next to her as she will be dedicating her daughter…a baby girl she has adopted.

Bittersweet.  Bittersweet.

Big sister on her dedication day nine years ago...oh how we look young and naive.

Big sister on her dedication day nine years ago…oh how we look young and naive.

Gold pin.  Pink bows.  My sister would be proud that I took the time to accessorize. Most people don't believe it when I tell them the ponytail princess has some mad bow making skills...

Gold pin. Pink bows. My sister would be proud that I took the time to accessorize. Most people don’t believe it when I tell them the ponytail princess has some mad bow making skills…

The April day when I looked death in the face and it change my life forever.

There are certain seasons of my life when I have been brought face to face with the reality that my days here on Earth are numbered. It is during those times in my life that I find myself asking the age old question, “What is life on this big ball of dirt we call Earth all about?”

One of those seasons came 19 years ago during those beautiful early days of April, 1995.

I was a college freshman living in the dorms at my small liberal arts college in a small Arkansas town. Because I was living about 5 hours from home, I didn’t make the drive to south central Oklahoma every weekend.

Basketball season had come to an end in March and this meant for the first time since October, I could actually feel like a sort of ‘normal’ college girl on the weekends.

Since most weekends my closest friends went home, I often found myself going to eat Friday and Saturday dinner in the cafeteria we all loving called “Walt’s” to see who else was actually on campus for the weekend.

My normal Friday night cereal dinner at Walt’s (because Friday nights at Walt’s was…well let’s just say they didn’t spend much of the budget on weekend food) often led to an impromptu trip to Hot Springs with an eclectic group of people to go to a coffee shop and to hang out in the lobby of the Arlington hotel watching the ballroom dancers.

I know. My college life was wild and scandalous.

Give me a little credit. I was a Baptist preacher’s daughter, attending a Baptist university and so for me watching 80 year old people drink liquor and dance on a Friday night was quite scandalous for me in those days.

One April weekend of 1995 was different.

My roommate and my two suite mates were all staying on campus for the weekend and so we decided it would be fun on Saturday to make the hour long trip up interstate 30 to Little Rock and celebrate my suite mate Ami’s 20th birthday….the first one of us to cross out of the teenage years.

I don’t remember much about the day except for what we captured in a few pictures.

I remember loading up in my roommate Gwen’s sporty new to her gold Honda Accord with all the excitement that fills the heart of college kids who are enjoying the days of not having to ask parents permission to make an hour long trip to the city.

I remember a stop at a couple of stores.

We enjoyed a fun time full of laughter eating at the Olive Garden.

I don’t remember many details of that day except for what happened on the drive home.

There was road construction, which meant that for a long stretch of the trip the traffic seemed to be heavier than normal for a Saturday afternoon.

Gwen kept her eyes glued to the road as the four of us talked.

About halfway through the drive, I notice that there were many semi trucks on the highway that April afternoon.  Shortly after this thought a series of events occurred that I will never forget.

Being a Southern Oklahoma girl, I was soaking in the beauty of the pine trees that lined the Arkansas highway for much of the drive…something I was learning that all my native Arkansas friends took for granted.

I was sitting in the back behind the driver’s seat.

We were driving in the right lane.

I looked out the window to my left, and I could hear yet another semi truck coming up in the passing lane. For some reason I looked out the back window and noticed the truck’s speed and the fact that it was creeping dangerously close to the center line.

I remember saying “Gwen” and then about that time everyone in the car looked to the left and saw that the little two door Honda we were in was about to be side swiped by a speeding semi truck.

As most people would do, my sweet roommate, Gwen, looked out her driver’s window and the sight of a semi wheel caused her to turn the steering wheel quickly to the right in hopes of getting us out of the way of the semi that was crossing over into our lane.

The next 5 to 10 seconds of my life are forever ingrained in my mind in slow motion.

The little gold Honda did not stop turning right.

As our car was making a complete circle in the Southbound traffic, I closed my eyes and knew that at some point the car would come to a stop.

As you can imagine the car was full of screaming, while we awaited the inevitable impact.

Ami was sitting next to me in the backseat.

She threw her left arm across my chest. I guess since she was the oldest in the car it was natural for her to throw out the momma arm in attempts to protect me.

As we spun out of control in that car, Ami screamed out “Jesus, Jesus save us.”

Still traveling at 55 miles an hour, just as we were about to make a complete circle in the southbound lane, the wheels of that little Honda came off the ground and sent us airborne towards the median of that interstate.

The car made a half turn in the air and the inevitable impact came.

We crashed into one of those majestic pine trees in the median that I had just minutes before been admiring.

Our screams were interrupted by the loud sound of the crash followed by a silence that brought on a moment of terror.

The next few minutes are a bit surreal.

There I was strapped inside of a car that was now on its side in the middle of an interstate highway.

I remember the initial shock and then the terror of wondering if I was okay.

Was I injured? What about my friends?

Then came the questions.

“Gwen, are you okay?”

“I think so.” I have never been so thrilled to hear my roommate’s voice.

“Susan?”

“There’s some blood on my leg, but it doesn’t look bad.”

Because I was now dangling sideways above Ami, I look down at her and could see that she looked a bit shaken up but was okay.

Within seconds, there were people surrounding our car. Passersby who had seen the accident had pulled over to help.

They peered into the window.

I am sure they expected to find a horrific scene.

Because there was not a way for them to get us out of the car, I can still hear their calming voices assuring us that help was on its way.

When I realized I was okay and might be dangling there for a while, I undid my seat belt and stood on the backseat window that was now lying against the ground. I tried my best not to step on Ami’s head as she still sat in her seat.

Within 10 minutes we heard sirens and the car was surrounded by a team of first responders.

They told us to cover our eyes, and we listened while they broke through the front windshield.

One by one those men lifted the four of us out of the car and told us to sit down until we could be checked out by the EMTs who were on the scene.

The passersby sat next to us and did their best to provide calming words to all of us.

It was 1995 and not many people had mobile phones.

Miraculously one of the people sitting with us did and wanted us to call our parents.

Because all but Gwen’s parents lived hours away, I dialed Gwen’s dad and proceeded to recount the events. I told him that Gwen seemed in shock and the EMTs thought she should ride with them to the nearest hospital, but that the rest of us would be fine riding in the police car.

So that’s what happened. We rode with the police to an ER at the hospital of a small Arkansas town.

Sore necks, sore chest bones, and a few scratches on Gwen and Susan from the partially shattered front windshield.

That’s it.

Gwen’s parents arrived at the hospital to take us back to campus, and we spent the drive recounting the events and asking ourselves the ‘what ifs?

What if this had happened two miles earlier where there were no pine trees in the center media, and we had been launched into the northbound interstate traffic?

What if Ami hadn’t have put on her seat belt? She had mentioned that she never wears a seat belt in the backseat but only strapped it on because she saw me put mine on.

We all spent the next few weeks battling the body pains associated with the wreck and there were many tears as we recounted the scary details of those moments. Riding in a car was quite scary for each of us for a while.

But in those weeks and now years that have followed that crash, countless prayers of thanksgiving have been sent up to heaven for sparing our lives that day.

For some reason that April Saturday was not our time to go.

From what everyone at the scene said….we were lucky girls.

After all, I’ve known several amazing children of God that have had their lives cut short because of accidents.

Why was my life spared?

Why does it seem as I recount this story, that we must have had angels sent down from heaven to protect us?

Those are questions I struggle to answer.

But what I do know is that 19 years later, when my neck occasionally hurts from the injuries I sustained in that wreck…..I am reminded of life.

The pain in my neck is a sign of life.

A sign of a life spared.

Today life is quite different for the four of us college friends.

Over the years we had lost touch with each other, but in my love/hate relationship with Facebook….I have loved that social media allowed us to reconnect.

Ami had another birthday this past weekend.

Even more exiting, after years and years of not being able to have a baby….after having adopted three beautiful boys and raising them to be elementary aged kiddos…

Ami got pregnant a few months after I found out I was pregnant with Baby B.

Sweet Cora was born just a few weeks before Ami’s April birthday.

Thanks to Facebook, tears rolled down my cheeks as I saw my college friend holding the child she had prayed for for so very long.

There I sat holding my own sweet baby girl and looking at the picture of Cora, and I couldn’t help but remember that April day in 1995.  All I could do was lift my eyes to heaven and say, “Thank you Jesus.”

I don’t really know the answer to the “why did God choose to answer Ami’s prayer to save us?”

All I know is that from that day forward, I have been challenged to thank God for life when I am tempted to complain.

When my neck hurts, I try to turn my thoughts to the fact that the pain is actually a sign of the life I have been given that almost got cut short.

This morning when I was tempted to get frustrated at the grains of dirt sticking to my feet after I had just swept the floors yesterday….I was reminded to be thankful for the dirt.

Though I would love for my 11 year old to remember to take off his baseball cleats before he comes into the house, that dirt is actually a sign of life …the life of a little boy who is healthy enough to run and play baseball and I am honored to get to be his momma.

And last night…when baby B was having tummy troubles in the night, and I found myself changing diapers a few times in the night, I turned my thoughts to my two precious friends who in the last few weeks have both had to hold the body of their lifeless babies in their arms just after having had given birth to them…

Those late night diaper changing…well they are a sign of a life I don’t ever want to take for granted.

It took a brush with death to help me truly understand that I am not promised tomorrow and my days here on Earth are indeed numbered.
***Crazy addition to this story….this morning I read this to my sweet Joe in our morning time and tears filled his eyes. This afternoon just before I was about to post what I wrote to my blog, I get a text message from him “I think I just saw someone die in a car wreck” Turns out a small red car in front of him slammed up underneath a big semi truck. Life is fragile people. Let’s handle it with love and grace.

The next week we went back to see the car.  Needless to say, it was an emotional reunion.

The next week we went back to see the car. Needless to say, it was an emotional reunion.

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My beautiful friends who put up with all my late night basketball games and stinky laundry….and who always let me wear my basketball cap.

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The fun before the terror.

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Yep. This is where I spent many a college weekend. You’re jealous. I know.

Happy Birthday, sweet Ami!  That day you taught me to cry out to Jesus and I have been crying out ever since.

Happy Birthday, sweet Ami! That day you taught me to cry out to Jesus and I have been crying out ever since.

I sent this in the mail to my Ami this week.  So humbled that because our lives were spared, we get to share in blessing of being pregnant with our daughters at the same time....we just won't add up how old we will be when they graduate high school!

I sent this in the mail to my Ami this week. So humbled that because our lives were spared, we get to share in blessing of being pregnant with our daughters at the same time….we just won’t add up how old we will be when they graduate high school!

Diapers...one of the constant signs of life I have around my house these days.

Diapers…one of the constant signs of life I have around my house these days.

Dirty kitchen floor...a sign of a life I am thankful for...

Dirty kitchen floor…a sign of a life I am thankful for…

 

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