I Remember May 22

FullSizeRender (56)“He remembers” 105:8

May 22, 2011 would initially be just another a busy Sunday. Getting ready for a busy day of church and ladies fellowships and packing for our move to Joplin and getting ready for a huge sale…but I would not remember all that if it were not for something else that day would bring.

At 5:34 pm an EF-5 tornado, ½- ¾ miles wide wiped out 13 miles of Joplin. It was on the ground for over 22 miles, destroying 7000+ homes and taking 161 lives. Those specifics; I remember.

I remember at 4:30, standing with my kids and their friend in the yard of the house we would close on the very next day. That house was destroyed in the first neighborhood this tornado would touch down. I remember negotiating with my daughter to skip I-Hop and grab Sonic and head back to Carthage. Bill White ushered 30 plus people into the back freezer before the tornado leveled the restaurant. I remember my unusual north route back to Carthage and irritation that I’d missed my exit because I just “really want to get home”; the tornado took its 13 ravaging miles on a southern/middle route of Joplin. I remember the gasp I let out days later, realizing God’s sovereign orchestration of our safety that day.

I remember sitting in my neighbors kitchen at 5:10, celebrating her daughters Keely’s high school graduation. The TV was reporting tornados and her grandparents were concerned about the drive back to Kansas. I remember vaguely listening to the warnings; I am from the Midwest after all!

I remember running across our driveways in torrential hail. I remember I was barely in the door when the frantic phones call from Sarah about there “being no trees”. I remember her repeating it over and over, and how puzzled I was about those missing trees. I remember turning on the TV and searching for the weather Channel.I remember I was so frustrated because I never watch the weather channel and had no idea which one it was! I remember seeing the first camera shots from the hospital, the eery panning of the camera, the panic in the newsman’s voice. I remember, like it was this morning, my sinking feeling because Clint had a 5:00 shift that day. I remember my parents calling and then phone call after phone call from out of town friends.

We had 6 close friends lose their homes that day and I remember the numbness of their faces over the next several months.I remember their ominous silent tears that continually flowed. I remember Clint’s hauntingly sad eyes and his deafening silence because he couldn’t begin to verbalize what he saw in the ER that night.

I remember when I want to forget. I remember when I want to recall. Without even trying, we are people who remember. At the most basic level, we remember because the connections between our brains’ neurons change; each experience primes the brain for the next experience. But most importantly, because we are created in God’s image; we remember because he remembers!

Since God in faithfulness remembers us, we by faith remember God. We remember He is good. We remember His mercy. We remember He loves us deeply. We remember in His sovereignty, he is after His glory.

“He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations” Psalms 105:8

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My Most Excellent Adventure: Waco

IMG_6969First of all; WACO should be on everyones bucket list!

So, on May 17th, 2016 we left on my 55th Birthday/Roadtrip/Bucket-list-most Excellent Adventure.   When I say we, I mean my mom, my daughter-in-law Andrea, 4 of her girls, Claire and Ellie. (Ruth was in Africa and Grace had too many “finish the 6th grade and move to Virginia” social engagements) With the route programed into the cars, stops and IMG_7125a scavenger hunt for the kids planned; we had an A.I.S of 6:00 am. (Best laid plans always need to be flexible and this trip would be no exception…so a 6:30 departure had to do!)

Our first stop was to be the Amish Cheese House in Chouteau, Oklahoma for breakfast. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, because they are not open at 7:00 am. However across the street was the Dutch Pantry, (which in spite of their atmosphere and hospitality) served a great tasting breakfast buffet. Even with the late start we were a little ahead of schedule so baby Ruby’s feeding would happen 30 minutes later, but everyone needed a potty break.

You can not take your first trip to Texas and not stop at the giant Texas star! Well, this was my grand-girls first and stopping for a picture perfect photo OP was a must! Who knows, Texas visitors center may just want to use such a photo for their next brochures…oh, well, Clint always says its like herding cats!

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Next stop Dallas Texas where Melissa Cannon and her family would have lunch for us! How we ended up 2 hours behind schedule, I’ll never know but we finally arrived at the Cannon’s for a delicious lunch and lots of hugs. When I think of how we met the  Cannon family on a beach in San Diego in 2009 I get a beautiful, tangible picture of First Samuel 18:1 and how God actually knits friendships. (And I hope all the kids realize I did not force the obligatory group picture but we were on a really tight schedule!)

FullSizeRender (47)(Melissa gave me two books which later in my trip would be evidence of needed grace: “Fight Back With Joy”, and “When God Doesn’t Fix It”)

Although we we stuffed to the gills, we were told Little Czech Bakery in West, Texas was non-negotiable so we pulled into the unassuming gas station and walked out with boxes filled to the brim with goodies to take to our hotel. It is a sweet tooth’s delight, and the hundreds of pastry’s only slightly overshadow the savory rolls and sandwiches lined up in the glass case. They are particularly noted for its Kolaches and the Jalapeno Sausage with cheese, but the girls also opted for giant frosted cupcakes and pecan rolls. This may have been worth the trip alone! I must also say the folks who worked there were so friendly and welcoming. If you go in, ask for Alex, he’ll make you feel like his best customer!

Twenty minute after Czech we were in Waco. All the littles wanted to do was swim, so Great-Grandma stayed back. We wanted to get to the Waco Farmers Market, which according to the internet was open until 7:00 on Tuesday’s. Evidently, the internet is not accurate on this fact either, but Ruby was ready for dinner so Claire, Ellie and I explored for  Waco Suspension Bridge and the Indian Spring Park Bronze Cattle. The little girls would get to check this park off their Scavenger Hunt the next afternoon.  (Too excited to wait, and only a few blocks away we snuck a peak at tomorrows destination.)

We ate Vietnamese at the Clay Pot (opting not to sit on the floor because they didn’t offer cranes to pull us back up off the floor!) The food was terrific, but they do not offer Crab Rangoon (we confused our Asian food and mom was a little disappointed.) I think we were in bed by 9:45. Tomorrow  was the day we were needing to be extra rested and geared for.  I must admit I was like a kid anticipating Disney,

IMG_7076You can’t eat breakfast in Texas without a Texas shaped waffle.  I highly recommend the Comfort Inn and Suites off I-35 exit 237. They were so hospitable, had our rooms ready, extra keys and directions to some of the favorite Waco destination. Every time we entered, they greeted us with a smile, asked about our day and gushed over my beautiful granddaughters. And you know those special dead bolt locks than can only be locked from the inside.  If some wild phenomenon causes yours to get locked with no one inside…the owner himself comes over with a special tool and unlocks it. He even smile and recommends the best place to get Italian food!IMG_7053

 

Magnolia Market at the Silo’s

Even typing the name excites me.  I will not be able to tell you everything fabulous about the Market, but the hashtag on the back of our shirts should have read: #worthit!  (Andrea designed our shirts to wear for the day, and even with a slight mix-up on sizes; I loved them) From the lovely girls who greeted us and offered to take our pictures with our own phones and cameras (no money making scheme here) to the cashiers at the checkout, we were treated as if we were VIP costumers and the only ones in the store.  I may have shed a tear when I first walked through the doors. (Actually, I did!)IMG_7002Even though it was crowded (but nothing like I’m told it is on the weekends), it was perfect in every way and exactly what I wanted it to be! I didn’t feel it was overpriced and there was plenty of merchandise and a variety of price ranges.  I was on a mission for a cake plate to add to my collection, but once I got there I started to second guess what I was really in the market for.  (If any of you know my first IKEA experiences, you will remember I got so overwhelmed I came home with a year supply of napkins.)  So, I carefully  took my time wandering around, trying not to hurry and make my choices with great care.  I plan on downsizing my plates and entertaining pieces drastically this summer and didn’t want to circumvent my pre-efforts. (and by pre-effort, I mean trying to convince myself of the benefits of less stuff)  I ended up with one beautiful cake plate, Joanne’s awesome leather drop earrings,  an hob-nail vase for Ruth, a knife pig rest, and a few carpenter pencils from Chip’s corner for Clint. In my mind I was decorating the guest house, and I will say I came away with some great ideas. I may need to make a second trip!

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The outside areas of the Silo’s is set up for bored husbands, busy kids, and less than enthusiastic shoppers.  Don’t worry about dragging your hubby or bribing your kids because there is plenty to do to keep everyone happy.  The food trucks offered unique and tasty lunch, the gardens and little fairy house, swings and yard games could have kept us there for even longer, but I had an agenda! I was a little hesitant to say good-bye, so I just said “see you later silos”.

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The next part of the trip we would separate: Ruby Jane would take all the bigs to Harp Design Co., Common Ground Coffee Shop and recommended Junk Stores.  Claire and Ellie would take the littles to check off a few items on their scavenger Hunt and to the Cameron Park Zoo.  I’m not a zoo fan, but the otter slide looked amazing and the girls said it was one of their favorite zoo experiences!

While the littles were off on their own adventure, Ruby Jane enjoyed junking and coffee drinking and sight seeing.  Great-Grandma could not convince the sweet employees at Harp Design Co. to sell us the display candlesticks, (poor Clint and his team can not keep up with the demand) but I did buy a scrap-wood “L” to add to my stair wall. His house is directly next door and I can not imagine why, but all the shades were closed? The coffee drinks at Common Ground were incredible and the atmosphere exciting.  I can imagine how fun it must be to be a Baylor student on a weekend in the Spring and Fall.

On Wednesday evening Ellie wanted Italian so we didn’t try Lula Jane’s or Shorty’s Pizza. Instead we took our hotel owners’ recommendation and drove into another section of

Waco to Baris Fine Italian Cuisine. The outside was a little sketchy (an old Pizza Hut perhaps?) but it was very busy.  We ventured inside. People were bringing in their own bottles of wine and and the aroma of garlic, fresh baked bread and pasta was amazing. They brought out what looked like huge dinner rolls (in shape), but it was to-die-for Italian bread. The pasta was all homemade and the sauces were scrumptious! I thought the prices must be a mistake, kids meals around $3 and Lasagna for $6, but they weren’t, and I fed my gang of eight for around $60 with the tip. Even though we were once again stuffed, we  headed over to Health Camp for ice-cream and shakes. I’d heard Chip say they had the best burgers and homemade soft serve and he was right about the soft serve!

Our last day, which was also my big 55, I had two things on my radar; and the pouring rain

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The girls gave me a card Ruth had painted before she left.

was not one of them! The Dr. Pepper Museum for the littles. and The Spice Market for the bigs. it’s a good thing they were inside and both turned out to be great fun and again, worth the time and money.  The kids whizzed through the museum because they knew the old fashion soda counter was at the end. Vivion loved the “giant dvd” and Ruby Jane loved the idea of getting something from a cup. (Attention: There was no baby drinking DP in the filming of this photo.) I only had a hour to spend in the Spice Market if I was going to stay on schedule. Doable; yes. Ideal; no.  Then we ate downstairs at the delicious and comfortable  Olive Branch Bakery & Cafe. The owner believes that good fellowship always begins with good food and she has truly incorporated this concept into her restaurant. Proportions are big enough to share and prices are comparable to Panera but at Olive Branch they come to your table and take your order, which is one of my favorite things about dining out!

We found Waco to be filled with pleasant and kind people.  Chip and Joanna Gaines are taking great care of their city (Jeremiah 29:7) The businesses that we shopped and restaurants we ate, had a remarkable customer appreciation, service and care that made us feel valued. I would recommend this road trip to anyone…but take me!

Now, dreading the trip home, tired from the fa-la-la & hoop-la, sad that the trip was over (worried that I may not have seen everything at the Silo’s) I could feel my thoughts were not that of the gratitude I’d anticipated.  I was not leaving with the same leap in my heart and delight that I’d left with.  I know the typical let down we feel after an exciting event concludes, but this seemed different.  I could feel slight tension in the air and missing our turn and detouring through OK City didn’t help. Something was nagging at my heart, it’s going to be a busy and strain-filled summer. Ruth is out of the country; Clint’s work has added huge burdens and great cuts;  Claire will be gone for a month in July; there are family health issues; my daughter-in-law sitting just 12″ away from me is facing a huge change and difficult chapter as she and Blake AND those five precious grand-girls are moving 15 1/2 hours away to start medical school. I didn’t want our time to end because that meant reality would have to begin. The rain was making my driving more difficult, I could feel that familiar sorrowful dread that can creep up on me when I am least prepared…

 “If the Lord had not helped me, I would have gone quickly to the land of silence. I said, ‘I am falling’; but your constant love, O Lord, held me up.” Psalms 94:17-19

We arrived home LATE, but safely and my love had left me this giant Birthday card.   I know my feelings follow my faith, and I will look back (eventually) and see the evidence of grace My Excellent Adventure in Waco Texas offered me. Psalms 94 comes to mind and He reminds me that today IS a good day for a good day!IMG_6977

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Fair Claire

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” 1 Peter 3:8claire senior photo 1

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I walked into the preschool classroom and could see Claire was excited to see me. I would be in charge of handing out the snacks and supervising recess duty for her pre-school class. As I finished handing out the last of the snacks, here came her tears. “What could possibly be wrong”, everyone received the same snack the same amount, but something in Claire’s little mind was unfair. Evidentially, when handing out the cookies,
one was broken so I gave the classmate 2 halves, which made it appear to be an extra cookie. You see, Claire likes things fair! I was pleased with her concern for the friend and explained the idea of fractions to her young mind. “Everyone received his or her equitable snack ration.”

As Claire continued growing up, her great amount of concern for others was heartwarming FullSizeRender (40)to this momma. I was proud of the way she wanted to see others do well and be blessed. While playing with her sisters and her friend Lydia, I would often hear her negotiating the distribution of Bratz doll clothing and how many pairs of boots each girl got for their doll. At school, she had a tender heart and was easily a friend to those who others ignored or even teased. She knew everyone needed a fair ration of friends.   As her little dance team walked onto the stage, it was Claire who was concerned that everyone spread out evenly, so that all the dancers could show their skills with equal space to do their twirls. She was the only one out of formation, checking out each dancers placement. She became frustrated when friends seemed to be drawn to others as a “BFF” and became easily angered when friendships weren’t equally matched, one for another. Yes, Claire had a tender heart and a great desire for fairness. It seemed so simple and precious.FullSizeRender (46)

However, I soon began to see the ugly side and false dichotomy of her rationales. She had and inordinate desire for fairness. Most of these attempts ended in her tears and other kids frustrated with her. She made playtime less than enjoyable and most of the time she withdrew and pouted. What seemed like a great concern for others was really just a misguided attempt to make sure she was being well thought of, or taken care of. She had mistaken that something can only be just if it is fair.IMG_6832

Because Claire came to us through foster care, we had the great advantage of getting to know her before we chose her name. We named her Claire which means illustrious: highly distinguished; renowned; famous; glorious; as deeds of works; luminous; bright. We explained that her name was a call to something greater. He gave her deep a concern and compassion for others, so that she would let her life illuminate Jesus’ compassion and concern. Her desire for fairness and equality should illuminate “the famous One in all the earth”. However, she was living in the antonym of her name: inferior, insignificant, unimportant, unknown, unremarkable and it was clearly more about how she felt than a reflection of Jesus.

I struggled for wisdom on how to lead and teach her. I reminded her that no matter how inferior or insignificant she felt; God knew her name! (Isaiah 43:1b) She needed to see, that in a fallen and broken world, there would be injustice, unfairness and selfish people. I showed her in Job  we can see the illustration in the contrast between biblical justice and “fairness”. As I prayed for her, God started showing me my own desire for a “fair” world. He began showing me how self-centered even sacrificial service to others could become. God started letting Claire and I work through these issues, what was really our pity party and sinful desires of self illumination. He allowed our hearts to start examining the motives behind wanting fairness. His Word began showing us compassion and fair desire for our glory will always lead to discouragement. For His glory, we will be light. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves …” Philippians 2:3 (NIV)

In wanting everything to be equal, we really were being discontent; comparing what we had with what we wanted or felt entitled to. Life isn’t fair. Sin has broken this world. Sin has broken people. Sin has broken me. Fair is not what happened when Jesus was crucified. Grace is what happened!

As I began to point Claire to a sense of vision and call in her life with her strong desire for fairness, I was able to remind her of the real purposes for her here in this world. When she feels vulnerable to others mistreatment or lack of equity, she can be satisfied that this was not how Christ sees her. Claire is beautiful, not because of what she gives, how she feels treated or even if she gets an even share. She is beautiful because of Whose she is. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:30-31

Because Claire has a great God given gift for mercy and justice, her life is a beautiful reflection of Jesus. Others will be truly blessed by having Claire in their life. She is a true friend, a kind soul and you can be sure that she will want you to be treated well! She reminds me He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.” Ps. 33:5 I am grateful Claire has struggled in this area. This struggle has been used to remind me of how wonderful it is that we have not received what we deserved. Romans 3:25-26 Reminds me that Christ’s sacrificial death satisfied God’s wrath and I don’t live in the curse of what is “fair”!

“A just balance and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are his work.” Proverbs. 16:11FullSizeRender (39)I  

 

 I look forward to watching this young women follow Jesus in whatever path she takes! I will never truly grasp the immense gift of being chosen to be her mom.

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My Vote

American-Flag--Stock-Photo-patriotic“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare”  Jeremiah 29:7

There is a real sense of sadness tonight. It’s a good thing my “hope is built on nothing less” because I can rejoice that I am only a sojourner in this world. It however does not mitigate the fact that I am grieving what could be great loss, of the good graces we have had in America. I must not let the current events decrease my resolve to seek America’s greatest good.  And that is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

America, for all its faults, still remains a wonderful thing. However, there is a foreboding sense of calamity in where I see our nation heading. There will be far-reaching repercussions  in the destructive decisions being forced into laws. The serious future implications for churches,  Christian organizations and Christians themselves seam bleak, yet we are still privileged with a freedom to vote. The following is the last part of an article from Desiring God from way back in 2004. I pray that my friends will prayerfully and without hopelessness, participate in one of our remaining freedoms ~ our vote.

Tonight I will weep a little, but I will not be overcome! In November I will vote.

Why Vote If You Are Disillusioned?

“Now, if you are dissatisfied today the way things are, why vote? The answer is that if you don’t, you are guilty of the very oversimplification you condemn. There is no escape from responsibility by pointing out the imperfections of leaders. That is the only kind of leaders there will ever be. Our calling in this world is not to wait for the arrival of the perfect, but to pick our way through the thicket of flaws. We would be arrogant to put ourselves above this fray and say, “A curse on both your houses.”

The Lord Jesus does not give us this luxury of disengagement. He says, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Caesar—even pagan Caesar—has his claim on our lives. Why? Because God Almighty, whom we serve above all men, made human governments his way of running the world. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). In a democratic republic like ours that means at least: VOTE.

God has commanded us (as aliens and exiles on the earth): “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7). We are citizens of two kingdoms: the kingdom of God, our ultimate allegiance, and the kingdom of this world. The ambiguities are many. The complexities are great. The possibility of political miscalculation is real. But Christ came into the world to save sinners. Therefore we do not panic at the possibility of error. It is worse to run than to risk. Only a fool replaces the complexity of voting with the simplicity of gloating.”    John Pipercropped-evidenceofgraceheader2.jpg