Seeing A Movie Star

Myrtle Beach 2003

The salty air at Myrtle Beach was thick with cigarette smoke and country music. People were stitched together so tightly that the numerous towels stretched out looked like an old quilt. Empty bags of Doritos littered the sand beside small children sipping on red dye #40. 

As I pulled down the bill of my baseball cap, a young girl caught my eye. Her face was deformed, and her eyes were disproportionate. The left one sagged like melted candle wax down her cheek causing her bright pink, star shaped sunglasses to be crooked and uncertain. Her hair was stringy and body ungainly as she sat propped between two sand pails of sea water. She could not get to the ocean, because her legs were useless and awkwardly tucked underneath her body like a foal not ready to stand, so someone must have brought it to her. Her hands splashed in jerky, graceless motions, and she cooed with delight as it danced and jumped out of the yellow buckets.  

A woman came up and gently pushed her sunglasses back onto her face. A fruitless effort, I thought.  She bent down, and I overheard her convincingly tell the little girl how much she looked like a movie star. The child grunted and snorted excitedly as she bobbed up and down thrilled with the idea herself. I was stunned and moved by their loving rapport. Then the woman slowly kissed the child’s forehead, sat down, and picked up her tattered paperback.

Twenty minutes later, a man came up. He had been in the ocean and shook his wet head to sprinkle water all over the child. She burst open with shock and delight. She spoke for the first time and slurred, “Dar, Dar!!” The man scooped her up as her limp limbs dangled from his arms. “That’s right, Kayla, it’s Dar Dar. Ready to have some fun?” he asked. She flailed about in response with a big crooked grin of gnarled teeth, and I watched him take her down to the water’s edge for a dip. He cradled her in the surf for an hour.

As we packed up at the end of the day, I took one last parting glance at Kayla’s family. I was sad to leave their company. Kayla was having a snack of mashed peas out of a baby food jar. I went over to her mother as she spoon fed her child and said, “Excuse me. I just wanted to say that I think you have a beautiful daughter.” She looked up at me blankly as if I broke her concentration. She then smiled and responded, “Oh, I know.” 

The Nesting Box. My First and Last.

This is a definition from Wikipedia. Emphasis mine

“A nest box is a man-made box provided for animals to nest in. Nest boxes are most frequently utilized for wild birds, in which case they are also called birdhouses. Birdhouses are the most common types of nest boxes as they are small and easy to take care of while attracting many birds. Birdwatchers often use them to lure birds into their private land.”

I purchased a nesting box a few years ago that was made of wood with a clear fiber glass back. The backing had four large round suction cups, so it would adhere to a window. Once secured on the outside of your house, you placed a black sheet of card stock on the inside of the window thus creating the illusion to an unassuming bird that the house is solid on all four sides.

This was in hope that if a bird did decide to nest in your box, the viewer could slide the black flap ever so slightly and peek in to watch the progress of the nest making. Like so….

One morning while the girls and I were doing math, we all three noticed a blue bird go into the bird house. We got excited but did not look in for fear of discouraging it.  As the morning progressed, we watched as the bird diligently brought pine straw and twigs into the nesting box. I could not believe that this was actually going to work.

Days later I checked behind the flap and to my amazement, I found four small eggs tucked into the nest. I was so happy, because I love tiny things. One of my favorite words in the English language is “puppy.” It just gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

As time progressed and the baby birds had hatched, I loved standing by the window during feeding time. I would not look; I’d only listen.

First it was very quiet and then as the mother bird perched on the lip of the bird house opening, the baby birds would begin chirping and peeping like mad.  It just never got old to me.  I guess you could say, I was a proud parent.

One morning when the baby birds were a few days away from ‘fledglings,’, I went for a run. After finishing I sat on my front porch steps to catch my breath. It was a beautiful spring day.

Even with my iPod on, I could hear very disturbing and chaotic noises. I heard what sounded like very loud, innumerous squawks. I took off my headphones and noticed that almost every bird in the neighborhood was in the top of my neighbors tree and completely freaking out. I had never seen such a thing outside of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

I dismissed it, got up, and walked around to the back door. I remember thinking as I walked that someone had left a very, very long black hose dangling off the front porch.  Then it registered. We did not have a black hose.

I turned and to my horror, I saw a 5-foot black snake slithering about 6 feet from where I had been sitting.

 I’m allergic to snakes. Profoundly. They absolutely terrify me.

Immediately, I flashed back to hanging up my cute little nesting box for the first time. My husband said prophetically, “You know Carrie….you’re not going to like it when you find a black snake crawling up that window.” I was shocked. Appalled. Mortified. Who had ever heard of such a thing??!!! Besides a snake CAN’T climb a window.

I panicked and ran to the back door making such a ruckus that the snake shimmied off the porch. I pounded on the door in tears trying to get my girls to open it.  Once inside, I dropped down to the floor shaking and out of breath.

I called my husband, who happened to be all the way across town.

“You HAVE to come home!! Now!!” I screamed.”It’s coming after the babies!”

Once I explained the situation, he hurried home.

My husband and I sat on the front porch discussing our options. He told me how ecologically unsound it would be to kill such a helpful snake. Black snakes are known to eat rodents and poisonous snakes. We have small children, and a dog. Plus copperhead snakes have been seen in the neighborhood.

I sat there exhausted and embarrassed by my outburst. He said, “You know Carrie, you have got to get a hold of yourself and this irrational fear.”

He went on to talk about the meeting he had to leave to come home and help me. As he spoke, I nodded. “I know,” I said. “You are right. My fear is ridicu..,” I stopped.

I stopped talking because I heard something. I distinctly heard a slithering, swishing sound. I turned and saw the snake coming back around the side of the house moving straight towards us through the pine straw. “FORGET this,” I said with my flight instinct kicking in.

I jumped up, ran inside the house, and locked the front door…. leaving my poor husband outside.  He threw my daughter’s bicycle helmet at the snake.   It was undeterred. Then he shooed it away with a broom.  It went around the corner and then under the house.  What a nightmare.

That evening we decided to take the girls out for ice cream to “debrief” the afternoon.  With our DQ Blizzard’s, we sat around the table discussing the day’s events. They were fine overall but had never seen me that unhinged.

I began the discussion by saying, “Girls, Mommy was a little worked up today.”

My oldest interrupted and said, “No Mom, you were hysterical.

Really, there was nowhere to go after that. Except to bed.

The next morning, I woke up earlier than normal. I showered and got ready for the day, very refreshed and determined to strive for emotional stability. As I hit the stairs, I froze. I stopped and thought to myself, “The snake is in the nesting box.”

I just knew it deep down inside of my ‘knower.’ The house was very quiet because the girls were still sleeping, and my husband was already at work. I was stood there for a moment.

I slowly went down stairs, taking them one at at time. I went up to the flap of the bird house but was afraid to look. I was afraid to move it aside. It is hard to describe that type of feeling. Knowing something is true, without having any proof. I moved aside the black square. Pressed up against my window was a thick ribbon of black, nasty scales.

The snake had come back in the night and eaten the four blue birds. I stood there in shock, not really believing what I was seeing.  I looked out the window and there was the mother or father bird. It was hovering right outside the entrance to the bird house with a worm in its mouth. It would not go in but would not fly away.

I got very angry. I envisioned hacking into the snake with a garden hoe like a crazy person. I saw all of the little birdies hopping out whole and unharmed like the seven little goats swallowed by the wolf in Brother Grimm’s fairy tale.  But who was I kidding? There was no way I could get close enough to a snake without suffering from cardiac arrest.

My husband came home and took care of it for me.  Again, we decided not to kill it. He was going to take the nesting box down the street and toss it into the woods. Just when he was about to leave, two older gentlemen walking in the neighborhood advised him against it.

“I just killed two copperheads in my yard yesterday,” one said. So, my husband set it free. Which is a whole other story.

I threw away the nesting box and vowed never again to have anything but bird feeders in my yard. I mean feeders that the birds eat from and are not eaten from.

It took me a few months, but I finally made it back into the bird store. I wanted to tell the staff that the nesting boxes needed a surgeon general’s warning label. I needed to confess to someone that I felt like I had just opened an “all you can eat” bird buffet on the side of my house and was riddled with guilt.

I pulled one of the workers aside and told him my story. He was kind and patient in his listening. When I finished he enlightened me that lots of people were finding snakes in their bird houses due to the severity of the drought in Charlotte.

He said optimistically, “Next time you can purchase a “Predator Guard” for your box, and we’ll happily attach it for you.”

“A predator guard?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes. You attach this to the entrance of the bird house so that snakes and raccoons can’t get in,” he said while holding up a wiry, prickly cap.

A Predator Guard. What a concept.

The Incident

Friday night, I washed my van. It was far from exciting which is always my preference when it comes to a drive through car wash. I did the preparatory routine things. I took down my radio antenna and made sure the windows and sunroof were tightly closed. I made sure my car was in neutral.

With all of these methodical, precautionary measures you would think I’d sail through this with ease, like most normal people. But this particular chore causes me to break out in ticks and hives. It is still very stressful for me to submit to a car wash. This stems from the traumatic experience we refer to as “The Incident.”

Two springs ago, the pollen was out of control. There was a thick layer of yellow film on everything outside. It got so bad that when I got in and out of my van, I could taste it and feel it gumming up my contacts. I’d had enough, so I went to the car wash near to my house.

When I pulled up to the gas station by my house, I became confused. I’d never seen a car wash like this one before. Usually you just pull in, and it does its thing. But this one had a guard rail for my left tires to slide through. Between the rails were wheels and a conveyor belt. For someone who is spatially challenged, this did not bode well.

I watched others handle this with ease, and so I gained confidence. Plus there were detailed instructions that any elementary student could follow.

As I threaded the railing with my tires and coasted up to the control box, I rolled down my window and typed in my wash code. That was where I went wrong.

Recently my mini van was in a fickle phase of deciding if the driver’s side window would roll up or not. For the past 3 months, it had been kind and willing, which lulled me into a complacent stupor. Into an arrogant bliss.  Into an overconfident guise.

What happened next?

My van was in neutral, the conveyor belt began pulling my van towards the mouth of the car wash, and my window would not roll up.

I panicked as we crept forward. Words were yelled. Names were condemned. For some reason, opening the door felt like a good place to start. I planted my left leg outside the car as if it were an anchor. With my right leg I pressed down on the brake and just held on, trembling.

After the first minute of slowly inching forward, my right leg began to ache from the tension of my body being split down the middle. I was never good at gymnastics. As a matter of fact, every time I did a cartwheel the entire gym class stopped to gawk and then laugh. But, oh if they could see me now. Doing a split in all my middle aged glory.

I felt the wheels underneath the conveyor belt stuttering and slipping not understanding the meaning of my resistance. It fought hard as it was programmed to do, and I so did I.

My two girls were in the back of the van near tears.

“Mom, what’s happening!” they yelled.

“Not now!” I hollered.

Finally, I told them to get out of the van and run into the grass. They did not hesitate in abandoning me, grabbing their Harry Potter books as they ran away.

That was when I heard it.

I heard honking of horns and the yelling voices. I looked over my left shoulder and saw an entire line of cars backed up behind me with the same idea I had only 30 minutes earlier.

“What are you doing!!??” they screamed.

“Hurry up, lady!!” they commanded.

Seriously?  “

My WINDOW won’t roll UP!! For the love of all that is holy! STOP yelling at me!!” I shouted.

They continued to yell and honk. I yelled back all the while playing tug of war with the belts under my tires. Then I lost it, and yelled at the window, “In the name of JESUS, roll UP!!!”


Another minute gone, and I actually considered letting up on the brake. I had visions of soapy water shooting in through the window with me crouched down in the driver’s seat. I saw the long, gangly wash bands reaching into my window like the tentacles of a squid trying to slap me around. But what finally did it was seeing my face blown into deformity by the wind created by the galactic dryer. The one that sounds like a 747 plane taking off.  I began to cry.

Finally an attendant ran out to help me. She pushed on one side of my window and I pulled on the other side. We strained together as the front of my van inched into the entrance of the car wash. My right brake leg trembling back and forth like Elvis Presley. “If I have to go, you’re coming with me, lady,” I thought to myself.

We pulled, cajoled, and begged my defiant window. Then all of a sudden as innocently as it began, the belts and motors ceased. I had fought and wrestled my way through an entire car wash cycle. And won.

I sat back in the seat,  my right leg traumatized and flopping uncontrollably. My arms were burning from bracing myself against the steering wheel.

While catching my breath, I tried one more time with the electric window. It rolled right up. The gas attendant, and I just stared at each other. She kindly gave me another code since there were 8 cars behind me who would not be deterred and of course, there was the issue of my van still needing a wash.

My girls got back into their seats. The helpful attendant punched in the new code, and we went through the car wash cycle.

She Does Not Know It

This is “BC.”

She is the fun-loving daughter of some friend’s of ours. BC is about 18 months old, but she doesn’t know it. So, we have not told her. That is why she is riding my 9 year old daughter’s razor scooter. Since she had seen my daughter zooming around the cul-de-sac, BC naturally thought she could as well. And ride it, she did with the help of her mom. She laughed and smiled the entire time because that is how she rolls.

See what I mean…

On this bright morning when they stopped by our house on their daily stroll, I sat on my front porch snapping shots of her and marveling at the grace of God. Not because BC likes to razor scooter or because she makes me laugh, but because she is even here at all. Children are a gift. There is no doubt about that. But for two people who had little to no hope of having any, BC is simply an answer to our prayers. And she doesn’t know it.

Caroline’s parents had a very difficult time carrying a baby to full term.  The day of their appointment to hear the heartbeat of their first unborn child is a moment cemented in time. They were full of excitement and anticipation as any new, budding parents only to leave the office with shattered dreams and hopes when no pulse could be found. It was when they both felt like this process would be forever tainted with fear and doubt.  But, they kept trying. Trying to have a baby and trying to keep the embers of hope for a child at least smoldering upon their hearth.

But even those were extinguished after my friend later had an unexpected ectopic pregnancy rupture late one night that found them both in the hospital not knowing if she was going to live. The physical healing from that took a long time, several months. But the toll that it took on their spirit was devastating.

Not only were they afraid to begin trying for a child because of the trauma of the second miscarriage.  They were now more afraid of allowing themselves to  hope because due to the rupture, they were working with half a reproductive system.

That October when they got pregnant a third time, something alarming happened. I was cleaning up when my doorbell rang.  I opened the front door to find my friend in desperate, heart wrenching tears.  She had just come from the doctor and learned that this pregnancy was another ectopic that had attached itself to the ruptured fallopian tube.  The doctor told her that this signified that her viable tube was not fully functioning.  To put it simply, they had just moved from the category of  ‘a possibility’ to now being on the side of the paper that read ‘highly unlikely.’

I remember that fall and winter. It was cold and dark for my friends and for us as we walked with them through their disappointment, grief, and hopelessness. Around February, my friend pulled me aside and asked if some of us wouldn’t mind coming together for a prayer time as they began to embark on trying once again to get pregnant. A hand full of us met in their home as a community desperate to have their prayers heard by the living God. Some of us were admittedly very doubtful, but it just felt right being together and simply asking. Honestly, at that point it was all that we could do.

One of my favorite verses in the NLT is psalm 116:1. It says,  “I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as i have breath.” That night for me was about asking for mercy for our friends. I love the idea of God being gentle and kind enough to bend down to listen to His children who are small and helpless without Him. That night, I  remember specifically saying that if He heard our prayers and gave them a child….we would give Him all of the glory.

Two months later, they found out they were expecting. My friends were still afraid to get excited since they had been in this place three other times before. But that was alright, because we were hoping enough for the both them.  As the months began to trickle by uneventfully, a quiet joy began bubbling inside of me. Though I was afraid to say it out loud, I kept seeing a little girl with curly red hair that belonged to them.

And then it happened.

One night around our dinner table, our friends allowed themselves to begin dreaming aloud about their Christmas baby girl. That moment still brings tears to my eyes, because it takes courage for us all to hope and dream in the face of potential disappointment and heartbreak.

Yet we are told in Isaiah 51 that “The Lord will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.”

But honestly never in our wildest dreams could we have thought that their ‘wilderness’ would blossom quite like this…..

“Look mom and dad, no hands!”

I like watching baby Caroline. She is full of spunk and life not unlike many toddlers her age. I do not know what God has in store for her in the future. It really need not be anything ‘spectacular.’ For now she serves as a reminder to this young woman that God is real and listens to the heart cries of His children.  Because sometimes, she doesn’t know it.

***roll on, baby caroline. roll on.:)

Learning to Be at Home with Yourself

We have a large florescent light in our kitchen. It’s hideous. It’s awful, and my husband loves it.

He says its because he needs to be able to see when he cooks. I get that.  I hate it, because it makes it so you can see everything when he cooks.

Every spot of dirt, every chipped plate, every stain, and every botched paint mishap is displayed for the entire world to see. I find it interesting that every time I am angry or deeply disappointed, I envision myself taking the broom and shoving it up into the light over and over again like a crazy person trying to churn butter over her head. It makes me feel better.

It’s not too much of a stretch for me to see that it’s not the light that I hate. It is what the light exposes that makes me cringe. It spotlights the parts of my home that I’m trying to hide. The pieces that I’m trying to keep in shadows, so they don’t seem so unsightly.  I think we all have things in our home that we want to change, fix, or replace.

The problem is when our fear of those things being seen keeps us from wanting to invite people over.  I have learned that it is when we have the courage to be seen, chips and stains included, that we can truly be at rest in our homes. Truly be at rest with others. And truly be at rest with ourselves.

It has taken me a long time to enjoy having people over. In the past there was always so much stress involved in entertaining. For me, it wasn’t enough to just throw a party or make a dinner.  My anxiety would kick in and all of the sudden a list of projects would begin growing in my mind that HAD to be done in order for things to be acceptable.

I painted my foyer, garage, and sanded my front door in order to host a friend’s graduation party once. I’ve pressure washed a deck and screened in porch floor for a baby shower that I hosted for another friend.

I know that projects aren’t bad in and of themselves, and it’s nice to have motivation for accomplishing things. But, it’s when the fury and rush of checking off my to do list has no room for being derailed that I have the courage to ask the bigger questions.

What is it about me that I’m so afraid for people to see? What is it that I need to be ‘perfect’ in order to invite people in?

The reason I’m thinking about this is because the other day, I had two different sets of people in my home back to back.  One was planned for dinner but the other was spontaneous.

I received a text from one of my best friend’s asking if she and her kids could come over for the afternoon to play. I confess, I did think about how that would throw off my preparations for my dinner guests and how the visit would compound the mess I would need to straighten up with less time afforded to me. So, I did what I always do and asked for a moment to think.

I sat and thought to myself then realized that both sets of people love me. Not only do they love me, but I believe them in their sentiment. Both sets of people have seen me at my worst, under the ‘florescent light’ of life and accept me anyway.  I can be at rest with them and myself. It was going to be ok.

Instead of being jittery because there were dirty dishes in the sink, crumbs and dirt all over my kitchen floor, Webkins stuffed animals and silly bands ALL over my living room floor…. oh, and sofa cushions remade into a castle for King Sparky and Queen Blacky (more stuffed animals), I sat at the kitchen table with my friend and caught up on life. We laughed and even talked about deep matters of the heart.

I am so thankful for her as I realized that it was from her that I have really learned what it means to be hospitable. She’s the one who taught me the beauty of inviting people in when life is not perfect. You can go into her house at any time and you will not find it spic and span. But what you will discover is someone who will offer you a drink, ask you to sit down, and will be completely present in the moment of sharing relationship. I never thought that I would have come so far and be able to return the gesture. To her, to others, and to myself.

Hospitality is more about just being kind and inviting than it is having the right table settings and environment in which to entertain. It’s about thinking of others more than you do yourself. And it’s about resting in who you were made to be. I still get panicked when my husband wants to have people over on a whim.  I still have my mental check list of what’s ‘acceptable’ for people to see before I say ‘yes.’ But as I grow more at home with myself, the list gets shorter and shorter.

No one Likes A Critic

I understand that no one enjoys a high-pitched noise. You know what I’m talking about…. kid’s squealing, fingers down a chalk board, utensils scraping on a plate, a fire engine on its way to a trauma, or even a tea kettle gone ballistic. I understand that it’s physically painful for some.

BUT I’d like for someone to tell me why I get this while practicing my violin……

It’s not as though I’ve asked her for her opinion.

Yet even when there are two rooms between us and a couple of doors, AND she is outside, there’s this….

We’ve discussed it…she and I. I’ve told her the differences between what is encouraging vs. discouraging. We have gone over how no one likes a super critical nature. And yet, she still insists….

next step…. charm school.

The West Wing and A Picture of Ruby Bridges

My girls and I recently returned home from a trip to Washington, D.C. where we visited my sister and her fiancé. Having our excursion on the calendar for a few months, I had plenty of time to ponder all that I wanted to see with in our allotted days. If you have ever been to our nation’s capital, you can appreciate the scheduling puzzle it presents.

As I filled the spots with tangible tours, I left one space open for the possibility of a west wing tour at The White House provided by an inside connection through my sister’s fiancé. It was going to be a game time decision, so I tried not to get my hopes up. I was very excited at the opportunity even though I have never been confused for someone who has had any interest in politics or government.

My longing to see the West Wing went beyond mere bragging rights. I feel as though my mind has been renewed in the last few years in its ability to grasp, comprehend, and process information. For too many years, my brain did not work properly which left me out of the beautiful world of learning and discovery. After studying American History for two years with my children, anything concrete to go with my book learning felt sacred.

We met our guide on a rainy Saturday afternoon and he graciously confirmed that there was room on the tour for all three of us. There was a possibility of only having two spots, so I was prepared to send my girls off for a tour of a lifetime. My good fortune still did not register when the guard handed me my ‘official’ badge, and we entered through a back gate reserved solely for the West Wing.

There would be no pictures once we entered the building, so our guide kindly snapped this of us with the President of the United States Seal behind us.
(Don’t judge. It was rainy and 60*:)

We first got to stick our head into the White House dining hall which is staffed by the Navy. As I looked around having passed by the President’s personal elevator and back door into where he eats lunch, I still had a difficult time grasping the reality of where I was. Usually my Saturdays are filled with soccer games and college football.

We walked down the hallway and headed upstairs. All along the walls were recent pictures of the President, his family, and staff taken by the White House photographer. Some were official in nature, but others were very pedestrian and personal.

My oldest and I were standing before a picture of the President taking a jump shot over one of his staff members. His shirt was pulled up exposing his navel. I leaned and whispered to my girl, “How many people do you think can say they have seen the President’s belly button?” She turned around and said, “I was thinking the EXACT same thing.”

We walked along looking at the other photographs. There was talk in our small tour of names and job titles that I did not recognize. I was beginning to feel very out-of-place in my ignorance when we came to a photo I could connect with.

The President and his wife were standing together in a field at dusk. The lighting was amazing as they looked down at something. The mood in the image was very still and quiet.  Our guide motioned others to the picture and said that it was recently taken at the Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania.

We moved outside to the Rose Garden. This was when I officially began to ‘freak out,’ because I could recognize things from watching outdoor press conferences on TV. Our guide pointed to the different spots around the yard. For instance, he said, “That’s where the helicopter lands.” Or he pointed to a swing set and said, “That’s where the girls play right outside the Oval Office window.”

It has always interested me a bit that my girls are the same age as the President’s, but this put an entirely different spin on how different lives could be but also share undeniable similarities. The Obama family’s personal sacrifice became more real as I walked around where they lived life.

We went inside for the moment I had been waiting for but as the tour walked toward the Oval Office, I stopped dead in my tracks. In the adjacent room hung a picture by Normal Rockwell.

“That’s Ruby Bridges,” I said.

Our guide came over to me. “Yes, The President loves this picture. It’s on loan from the Gallery.”

I learned about her story years ago while student teaching. I remember introducing my 2nd grade class to the very brave 6-year-old girl who was the first African-American to integrate into a white elementary school in New Orleans. People were so outraged that they refused to send their children to school and the staff would not teach her. So, for a year, the system brought in a teacher from Boston who taught Ruby as if the entire classroom was full.

I shared what I knew of her story and our guide responded by telling us that the President had just brought Ruby into the West Wing to meet her and see the picture that he chose to inspire him each day. He then pointed out how the tomato at the bottom of the painting was shaped like a snail. It was to represent how change is very slow. Also, he showed us how the smashed tomato markings on the wall were painted in the form of an eagle flapping its wings to symbolize victory and courage.

You can see the video of their time together here. It’s VERY cool.

I am so thankful to have had this little glimpse into the life of the President. I saw that though we disagree on some issues, he is still a man, a husband, and a father. I also love that we both share the same appreciation and admiration for a little girl who had big courage.  I often tell my girls about how she would stop on the corner on her way to school and pray for all of the people who hated her. What a great picture for us all.

Pray Without Ceasing: A New Perspective from Harriet Tubman

Today was the first time in three years that I mopped my kitchen floor. “I” being the operative word.

Three autumns ago when life was hard pressed on every side, my husband traded services with a local businessman who owned a cleaning service. Every other week, they came and cleaned my house from top to bottom. Even down to the last service two weeks ago, I would walk through the door and sing a song from the musical “Oliver” that I learned while performing in our 5th grade school production. Amending the word food for clean.

“Clean, glor’E’ous Clean!!!”

My girls would wander off, and I would bask in the blessing that was NEVER lost on me.

Well, the professional cleaning well has dried up, and I am back to cleaning my own home.

Thankfully, life is different now. It is no less busy, but I am in a much better place emotionally than I was then. Also my children are at an age where they need and are able to take an active part in the process. So, I have tried to have a positive outlook being very, very grateful for the gift that I received when I desperately needed it.  Though understandably, it has required lots of mental gymnastics to overcome my inner grump.

Even at Target this past Friday I was in line to pay for cleaning products when a man in front of me said rather rhetorically, “So, I guess you are cleaning a lot this weekend? Heh Hehee”

“Yes,” I smiled, “We let go of our cleaning service last week, so I’m back to cleaning my house.”

“Well,” he said, “Life’s too short to spend your weekend cleaning.”

To which I replied, “Get behind me, Satan.”

Knowing I would wake up this morning to begin these new additions to our already busy routine, I received inspiration and encouragement last night from a very unlikely but timely source.

Before bedtime, the girls and I finished up a read aloud called Courage to Run: A Story Based on the Life of Harriet Tubman. I was reading the epilogue when I came across in her own words how she managed all of the tasks set before her.

I may tape these words as they are to my kitchen window along with my other favorite gems that help remind me to look up more and look inward less.

It was PERFECT for today, and really for any of the days to come.

Harriet Tubman:

“‘Pears like, I prayed all de time,” she said, “about my work, eberywhere; I was always talking to de Lord. When I wen to the horse-trough to wash my face, and took up de water in my hands, I said, ‘Oh, Lord, wash me, make me clean.’ When I took up de towel to wipe my face and hands, I cried, ‘Oh, Lord, for Jesus’ sake, wipe away all my sins!’ When I took up de broom and began to sweep, I groaned, ‘Oh, Lord, whatsoebber sin dere be in my heart, sweep it out, Lord, clar and clean….'”

The Beauty of a Mediator

Yesterday, Holly and I were set to enjoy some ‘catch up’ time on my screened in porch. Our kids were gearing up for a game of capture the flag and what better way to extend a summer send off than outside time with special friends.

Before we could nestle into ‘how are you doing?, her daughter came in a said frantically, “A boy is screaming for help outside!”  We looked at each other dubiously, both thinking this was a joke. When we stepped onto the front porch, we didn’t hear anything.

Then, it rang out. “Somebody HELP me!!!”

Shielded behind our big tree, a young man laid in my neighbor’s yard. With his bike strewn onto the concrete, he rolled from side to side in the grass clutching his foot. I did not recognize him though many kids use our cul-de-sac as a dead-end to cruise around on various wheeled contraptions.

We ran over to him and it was not long until his friend and sister, also on bikes, joined us. The boy did not want to be touched or helped; his toe had a nasty cut and was bleeding.  In absolute hysterics, he screamed that he could not feel his leg.

The sister called her mom and then handed me the phone as if it were the final round of hot potato.

It did not take long for it to register where this boys pain was truly coming from. He was terrified, because he had disobeyed his mom. He was biking without shoes and had not stayed in his own neighborhood.

There I was caught between a scared little boy and a very angry mother with nothing between us but an iphone.

I told her my name and explained the situation.

“Where are you, anyway! What is he doing there!!?” she fumed. As if I had been the destination.

I laughed internally at the uncomfortable situation I found myself in while telling her how to get to my house. I then explained calmly how all of the neighborhood streets were connected like an anthill and it would be easy for her kids to find their way here without using main roads. She hung up.

While waiting, we offered the boy some water. He had yet to make eye contact with us so we settled on making small talk with his sister. She told us that they had just moved to the city two weeks ago. More data.

The phone rang again and the boy was given the phone. Still laying on the ground, he said repeatedly and frantically,  “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” He was hurt but mostly he was in deep trouble. In exasperation he stuck the phone back in my hand while his mom was in mid-sentence.


“Hi. It’s me again,” I said.

“Is this (insert her daughter’s name)!!!???”

“No,” I said calmly. “This is the woman who found your son.”

I do not know what it was about that sentence, but it  brought sanity to the situation. Somehow it finally got quiet.

“Listen,” she said. “They were not supposed to leave the neighborhood, and I told them to wear shoes. They completely disobeyed me. We just moved here.”

“I understand,” I said. “That is very frustrating when kids do that.”

“What is wrong with him anyway!?” she asked.

I walked away to get some privacy. “Well, he’s cut up his big toe pretty bad. He won’t let me clean it. He also says that he cannot feel his leg. I don’t see any bruising or swelling. Honestly, I think he is just terribly afraid and in shock.”

She was quiet.

She told me that she was close and would be there in minutes. I hung up the phone and walked back to the boy. What a pickle he was in. He was caught between her anger, which frankly was merited in part, and his own fear at being caught in disobedience.

Two weeks ago, my husband and I were listening to a program hosted by Michael Horton on our drive to the beach. I was half asleep, literally curled up in the seat with my pillow and my exhaustion, when I heard Michael Horton say, “The hellishness of hell is not the absence of God. It is the presence of God without a mediator.”

That woke me up. Instantly.  I sat up and wrote down the quote, and it has lingered with me ever since. Being on the receiving end of someone’s wrath is a horrible thing, especially when you are defenseless. I thought of this as I watched a little boy squirm and writhe not from the pain of a bike injury, but from the reckoning that was to come.

When the mom pulled up, he was already saying that he was sorry. Over and over again. She brought some first aid but quickly saw these were not band-aid wounds. She sat before him at the crossroads of her own anger and her son’s pain. I wondered which direction she would choose.

Which direction will I choose the next time my child’s foolishness reaps such consequences?

She helped him up and he apologized again. She finally took a deep breath and said, “You don’t need to apologize anymore.” Her voice had gentled and she had found compassion. “This is just a consequence of a bad decision, and I hope you will learn from it. Let’s go get you taken care of for now.”

She chose mercy, at least for the moment in front of us. She braced up her son as he hobbled to the car. As they drove away, I thought how hard it is to extend mercy when you are in the right. What mom is not angered and exasperated by a child’s willful disobedience? I equally know the temptation for retribution and “I told you so’s.” But the truth is, neither are hardly helpful.

When I heard the Michael Horton quote two weeks ago, I knew it was important. I knew then that I wanted to put it on Facebook or blog about it, but had yet to have the gumption or the time.  And quite frankly, I lacked the words to describe what it stirred up inside of me.

Now I have a picture of the beauty of a mediator. I know that Christ does not use an I phone when standing between my sin and my Heavenly Father’s perfect nature. But I do know, through Christ’s own bleeding wounds and atonement for my disobedience, I do not have to fear the reckoning that is to come.

To God Be the Glory.

The Day I Lied

The summer between my junior and senior year of high school, several of my friends and I got on a chartered bus and headed out west to Frontier Ranch. This Young Life camp is located in Buena Vista, Colorado and was built 14,197 ft. up on the side of Mt. Princeton.

I had never seen the Rockies, and they did not disappoint.

One afternoon our cabin along with two others had a scheduled afternoon of beginner repelling. As we walked up to the activity, trying to go unnoticed, we realized that we were going to pay for our tardiness.  My friends and I were at the very end of the repelling line behind 40 other campers. They were all looking up at a mountain face that was at least two stories high to try and take in the demonstration. I was so far back that I could not even hear what was being said.

We sat down and settled in for a very long wait. About 20 minutes into our stint, a young guy walked up. He asked our little group if anyone had been repelling before. We looked at each other, not saying anything. Then as if on cue, two of my friends and I raised our hands. He looked at us and said, “Great! Follow me.”

Thus began our hike further up the mountain.

As we tried to keep up with our long, legged guide, I asked my friend if she had ever repelled before.

“Nope,” she said.

“You?” she asked.

“No, and now we’ve teamed up with Grizzly Adams,” I said, getting very nervous.

“It’ll be fine,” she said, “besides how much higher can he possibly climb?”

Much higher in fact. I think all in all, we hiked up the mountain for about 30 minutes giving me plenty of time to assess the situation. My inner monologue went something like this….

“How hard could repelling be, really? I may have never repelled, but I have seen someone repel before. That’s almost the same thing. Besides I drive past the fireman’s training center all the time which has a practice climbing tower on the grounds.”

By the time we reached the top, I was practically an expert.

He parked us at the peak and asked who wanted to go first. Though I was now a professional, I did not want to be the first professional.

One of my friends volunteered and began putting on her gear. I took notes. My other friend went next.  Watching her my confidence grew, because she was not really an athlete like myself. What I did not realize at the time but found out once I looked over the cliff was that she may have not been an athlete, but she also was not afraid of heights. I on the other hand am terrified of heights.

I started to panic.  I remained composed externally, because if they could do it surely, I could. The guy helped me with my harness and gave me a helmet. He clipped me in and asked me if I was ready.

I began to shake as I backed up to the edge of the cliff. I bent my knees, looked over my shoulder, and then at the young man. I could not move.

He was kind and said, “All you have to do is lean back.”

“Lean back,” I repeated.

“Just so we are clear, are you aware that you’re asking me to lean back off a mountain?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “completely aware.”

I started to tear up.

He said, “What is your name?”

Now, I got really scared. I was afraid to be outed for lying about my non repelling history on a Young Life retreat. I feared I had inconvenienced him, and he was going to have to accompany me on my walk of shame back down the mountain.

“Carrie. My name is Carrie,” I said.

“Look at me,” he said very seriously.

I looked him in the eye waiting for my reprimand.

Then he said, “My name is Chris. It will catch, Carrie I promise you.”

Then He said, “You can do this. Just trust the rope.”

I leaned back and for two very long seconds, I free fell. My eyes got so big with shock and terror,  I was sure they were going to shoot out of their sockets and hit Chris square in the face.

Then it caught, and the rope pulled tight.

“See,” he smiled. “You did it.”

I sat back for a moment gathering myself and catching my breath as I hung off the side of Mt. Princeton.

I thanked him and started to make my way down. I was actaully repelling which felt very natural and fluid.   It took me a lot longer to get down than I thought it would, and I remember thinking  “Wow. I really hate this.” I wasn’t grumpy about it; it was just a statement of fact.

It surprised me when my feet planted firmly on solid ground. I unhooked myself and had never felt happier or taller.  A small portion of me felt really empowered, as if I could do anything.