Country Living

Rileigh

Our rescue dog, Rileigh.

I am living the country life these days.

Typing that sentence has me sitting here contemplating my life choices.

How did I get here?

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s really beautiful out here. I wake up to birds chirping and last week I saw a bunny hopping across the expanse of the yard.  I’ve seen gorgeous sunrises and breathtaking sunsets. I could almost convince myself that I am a country girl.

Almost.

But, then reality slaps me in the face when I pick up my phone to hop on the Wi Fi.  It seems country life is void of internet.  I can hear you chuckling at my fate.  Some of you may even be thinking how good it might be to have limited access to the internet for a time.  Well, let me shake you out of your dream state, life without internet is, well, like living in a bubble with no communication in or out.

Sounds appealing?

Then you’re living in the wrong country.

Maybe the wrong century.

In case you’re wondering where I am, I am living with my dad and his wife out where the wild flowers grow rampant.  They’ve been wonderful to us and treated us with such kindness.  They don’t seem to mind one bit that they can’t check their bank account or pay their Discover bill any time they want.  Internet is nothing more than a luxury for folks who live in “town.”

So, in order to get on the internet for any length of time or to download something that has more than ten words, we take drastic measures.

There’s a coffee shop about two miles up the road and they have internet.  Wonderful, glorious internet.  We frequent this place.  We’re regulars now; they know us by name.  I have a standing order.  I don’t know what we would do without them.

Do I sound desperate?

This is me, internet-less me.

Once in a while we forget something that needs internet and the coffee shop is closed. We drive up there and sit in our car in hopes to catch the magical cyber powers in the parking lot.   We’ve discovered there’s a van that likes to do the same thing.  Last week, my husband and I realized we needed to get online after the shop had closed and we panicked.

“We have to get up there before the van does,” he said.

“Is this really what we’ve come to?” I thought.

We quickly loaded up in our pajamas and slippers, you can get away with that in the country too, by the way.  Who even am I?

Thankfully, we beat the van.  It’s not that we couldn’t park in another spot in the parking lot, but we wanted the prime spot closest to the router just on the other side of the wall.

And there we sat, in our PJ’s, in the dark. The only light was our computer screens.

And, you guessed it, the van drove up just a few minutes after we arrived.

We beat him or her or whoever drives the dark navy van.

Victory.

I’ve been doing all sorts of things out here since I’m currently not working.  I just finished helping hoist a lawn mower up so daddy could put on a tire.  I sit outside on the swing often since there’s no fence and two dogs who have to go to the bathroom frequently.  Our rescue puppy thinks it’s my responsibility to throw the ball so she can chase it every time we walk out the door together.

Life is slower.

I know this pace has been good for me, but I would be lying if I said it has been easy. I’m a get up and go kind of girl and I’m living in a slowdown and have some sweet tea kind of world.

Only I don’t drink sweet tea.

I’m asking the Lord what He wants me to learn through all of this.

There has to be a lesson, right??

Oh, and did I mention I’m picking up dog poo poo with a shovel and tossing it to in the very back of the yard?

I don’t know myself anymore.

All of these inconveniences have me ruffled and next thing you know we’ll be raising chickens.

But even in the midst of all the differences and changes I don’t want to miss a single moment of this life.

I get to live with my daddy and spend time around the dinner table most nights talking and breaking bread together.  Well, we don’t actually break bread since he’s diabetic, but you get the idea.

I help in the kitchen and we’ve eaten like kings and queens since we’ve been in the country.

I feel I owe my own family an apology because we’ve NEVER eaten this good.

I walk barefoot through the grass and stare out the window at the rain.

Maybe my soul needs this time to learn to slow down and be content in “whatever the circumstances,” as Paul says in scripture. (Phil. 4:11, see below)

As we march up to Father’s Day this Sunday, I want to publically thank my dad for sharing his home and his life with us.  We come as a package deal of three adults and two dogs.

He’s never once complained.

Not once.

He’s told us we’re welcome to stay as long as we want.  Secretly I wonder if he really means that, I mean, we are #extra.  I thought I might joke with him and tell him we love it so much we’re staying forever.  But then I remember we have no internet and realize it’s really not funny.

I’m so very thankful to him and his wife for taking us in and loving us well.

Goodness, how the world needs to feel some of this…good old country love.

The kind that comes with a beat up ball cap and a fishing pole.

Tonight we’re having hamburgers on the grill, we’ll sit out on the swing while daddy cooks the meat and the dogs will run around under our feet while we sip tea, unsweet that is.  We’ll listen to the crickets sing and hope the stars come out for wishing.

And beat off the horse flies.

Then, my husband and I will get in the car and head to the coffee shop so we can check our email.

Probably in our pajamas and high fiving each other if we beat the van.

 

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” 

Philippians 4:11-13

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What’s Next

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The most magical place on earth. 

It’s been a while since we’ve spoken.  So much has happened I find myself at a loss of where to start.  It’s like those moving sidewalks at the airport, you know the ones that help you to take two or three steps for every one unassisted by the moving belt.

I feel like I’m walking beside it wanting to get on but I’m not quite sure how without lunging forward or backward and falling on my face.

But, because I can’t go another day without talking to you I’m going to take the chance and jump on, let the body parts fall where they may.

What I’m trying to say is it’s hard to bounce back into the stream of life when you’ve been out of step for a while.  It feels intimidating.

But, here is my best attempt to catch you up on things.

The last thing I shared was how difficult it was to pack all of my earthly belongings into small boxes and put them into a storage facility.  All the memories and organizing and purging had me an emotional mess to say the least.  Since then, we’ve sold our home of twelve years, moved in with my dad and gone on a much needed family vacation.

Wow, that last sentence was quite a mouthful.

Our house sold much quicker than anyone expected and for that we are so grateful.  But, with the sudden sell comes a whole new set of problems.  Good problems, but problems nonetheless.  Things like, “what do we do now?”  start to resonate through your mind at an alarming volume.

Thanks to my dad for opening his home to us for a while.  He and his wife have been so gracious and patient.  We come with baggage, two dogs.  One practically a puppy and the other with one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel.

I cried my eyes out throughout the whole packing a purging process.  We sold our dining room table, the one our kids sat around growing up.  I stood at the window as it was loaded on the back of a truck and pulled out of the driveway.

That was hard.

People ask me why it was so difficult and I guess I would answer it was like saying goodbye to a member of the family.  SO MUCH LIFE happened around the rectangle stained piece of wood.  It was like an old friend.

I put a price tag on it and sold it to the first bidder.

I felt like I’d betrayed someone who’d been nothing but faithful to me. I know, I know, I can hear you say it, “it was just a table.”  Yes, that’s true, but it also stood as a symbol, a reminder, of our younger years.  Like the ending of a chapter, one I was really invested in.

So, I cried.

And then, I let it go.

Multiply that experience by one hundred and you’ll get a pretty good idea of how packing the house went.

But, one million boxes later aaannnddd we finished!

Our vacation was so wonderful.  It was hard to come back to reality.  Can I live in Disney?  I think the most magical place on earth would be perfect right about now.  It was hotter than hades and the crowds were merciless but I had my three grown children with me and I’m just not sure it gets any better.

Well, that should about catch you all up, minus a few hundred unimportant details.

Now, we turn our hearts and minds toward what’s next and I find myself quoting scripture over and over to calm my heart.  Some might even say “chanting” God’s Word to help me cope.

Let me start by saying what’s next has to come after I get through saying good bye to what is.  I’ve never considered myself a small town girl, but the people of this little community have become such a part of my heart it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

I am a kaleidoscope of emotions.

I really want to learn something through this time of enormous change.  I want to pick through all the emotions and find the lesson.  More than how to pack and label a box so you’ll know what the heck is in it when you unload it off the truck.  Here’s a little helpful hint, be sure you label the side of the box as well as the top because you’ll never know what’s in them when they’re stacked on top of each other a mile high.

Trust me on this.

You’re welcome.

Also, I’m learning to let go of my need to know what’s coming next.  Notice I said learning, I have a long way to go.  White knuckling everything has become bad habit and I didn’t realize how bad it was until things began to change and I couldn’t hold onto it all.

I was terrified.

Something special happened recently and it was obvious the Lord’s hand was all over it.

I listen to the Bible app most mornings, this year I’m doing the Bible chronologically.  A few days ago as the narrator was reading Psalm 112 I felt the impression of the Holy Spirit in my heart.  I knew instinctively this Psalm was for me.  Later, I looked it up and read it in its entirety as though God was speaking directly to me and not written by a King long ago.  Verse seven nearly jumped off the page, “She does not fear bad news, she confidently trusts the Lord to care for her.”

Woah.  I needed, no I NEED that promise.

That’s the verse I’m chanting.

I don’t want to be afraid.  I want to walk in peace.  Is it possible I can walk in my fear with the intent of breaking down the hold it has on my heart?  Maybe peace isn’t a destination but a process. Something for you and me to chew on as we sip our coffee this morning.

I’ve decided to memorize the whole chapter.  This is a big deal as I’m not great at memory verses.  I’m more of a “well it says in the Bible somewhere…”  But, to walk into “what’s next” for me, for us, I’m going to need more than vague references, I am going to need confidence…confidence the Lord will care for me.

So, what is next?

We’re starting to have more of an idea as we look for places to live and pray diligently for a church family.

We visited the city we’ve decided to drop some roots in…can’t wait to tell you all about it.

Packing My Life Away

Packing Pic

Still in the middle of selling our house.

The inspector has come.

The appraiser has come.

The termite guy comes next week.

What I need now is a good psychiatrist.

Maybe she’ll come next week too.

I told my realtor selling a house is not for the faint of heart, she readily agreed.

We’ve packed up belongings that hold more memories than my heart can bear.  I cry at the least little thing these days. For example, we pulled out an old box from our overly packed garage, which I am sure is a fire hazard, by the way.  In this box were little scarves and small gloves with matching hats.  They were neatly packed just the way I’d left them fifteen years ago when we loaded up all our earthly belongings and headed south from Iowa.

Each and every glove, hat, and scarf I touched brought back a collage of memories. Squeals of running and catching snowflakes. Rolling a snowball until it was big enough to be a snowman. Red cheeks and runny noses; proof we’d been making the most of a snowy winter. I closed my eyes and I could see small faces sitting around our modest table sipping hot chocolate cooled by too many marshmallows.

How was I supposed to pack this stuff up in a black garbage bag and give it to Goodwill?!?!

A time capsule of our life, how could I cast it aside? Ugh!  Packing is hard.

“Get excited,” friends tell me. “Don’t look back, keep going forward,” I tell myself. But no matter which way I look I see life coming and going like a train passing. I think I understand mid-life crisis. It’s the slow realization that YOUR LIFE is MORE than half gone.  I’m not trying to be dismal and I’m certainly not trying to be a negative nanny.

I am trying to tell you I AM IN MID LIFE CRISIS AND I AM NOT OKAY.

Send help.  Preferably with a cheese tray. Okay, so that may be a little bit exaggerative, but you get my point.

The Bible says we get three score and ten years on this earth. You know what that means?  If you do, kudos, I didn’t know until a couple years ago.  What’s up with “score” anyway? Three score and ten actually means, in Bible language, about seventy years. We get about seventy years, some of us will get more, some less. But seventy is the average.

I’ve spent a long time thinking over how I want to spend this next half of my life. I’ve always said I want to make a difference, I want to leave a legacy.  But, that’s hard to see right now amidst the boxes crowding my view.

These next few weeks are going to be crazy as we continue to pack our lives into cardboard and haul it across the country. But, in the middle of it all, I want to continue to ask the Lord what is next for me.

I quit my beloved job of thirteen years, well, I still have a week or so of training my replacement ahead. But, for all practical purposes, I’m unemployed. First time since I can remember.

So many endings. Can somebody send help?!

I don’t know, bring coffee or donuts or something to help me cope with all of this change. And if you do bring those donuts or coffee, please say a prayer for me and my family on your way.

I’m not quite ready to be excited about all of this because I’m constantly looking back.

That’s what packing does for you, it forces you to remember and in the remembering we’re reminded of God’s abounding goodness, even if it does lead us to tears.

So maybe there’s a little good in the chaos of it all.

Thankfully, because I’ve lived a number of my days already, I KNOW the Lord is walking down memory lane with me.  He sees my tears, the Bible tells me he saves them in a bottle.  Isn’t that sweet? I love the idea of his mercy over me. He knows the loss I’ve suffered over the last four and half years, and now a major life change.

And, even though I have no idea what’s next, I KNOW I’m not alone.

I have one thousand boxes and the Lord Jesus right by my side.

“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.”   Psalm 56:8

Open Heart

Hospital pic

Pictures you take when you spend countess hours in a waiting room.

I love surprises.

Well, I love the kind that involve flowers and/or travel.

Honestly, it doesn’t have to cost money.  A good surprise could be cleaning out my car or washing the dishes before I can get to them.

Or chocolate, always chocolate.

What I don’t like are surprises that involve a hospital stay.

And that’s exactly what happened just a few days ago.

It’s no secret how much I love my daddy.  I’ve written about him several times over the last few years.  He was heroic in Mom’s last days and has fought to really LIVE the days that followed.

It’s also no secret he’s battled some health issues, but you’d never know it by his positive attitude.

It was an ordinary Tuesday, a day I would normally be at work.  Dad was scheduled for a heart cath after some abnormalities showed up on his stress test.  True to his nature, he didn’t think it was a big deal, he was already planning to eat at Cheddar’s following the procedure.

Something baked, of course, since he has to watch his blood sugar.

We were sitting in the sterile space divided only by a curtain on either side, waiting for the nurse to escort him back to the exam room.  We, as in me, my dad, and his wife, we were shooting the breeze and talking about my recent gallivant to New Orleans.  Dad was cool as a cucumber and I was fidgety as a field mouse.

I don’t like “procedures.”

Especially on my only living parent.

A few minutes after one in the afternoon and it was finally his turn.  I kissed him on the cheek and told him I would be praying for him and headed for the waiting room.

I also don’t like “waiting rooms,” for obvious reasons.

I took the opportunity to return some phone calls and text messages, hoping to take my mind off what was happening not too many yards away behind the gray double doors

After about an hour, the doctor emerged.  By then we’d all made our way back to the waiting room.

He began to tell us in language I didn’t understand about Daddy’s heart, all I remember for the life of me was his last sentence.  “I plan to keep him. He needs open heart surgery immediately.”

Wait, what!?!

Weren’t we just talking about going to Cheddar’s??

You could’ve heard a pin drop.  Our nervous chatter turned to silence.

Open heart surgery?

My throat went dry and I couldn’t swallow.

The moments that followed felt surreal: we peppered the doctor with questions, we paced the room, cried and made more phone calls to family and friends.

I hated every minute of it.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with Dad in a room overlooking the parking lot.  We drank lots of bad coffee and attempted conversation.

Honestly, no one really felt like talking.

That night before open heart surgery has got to be near the top of my “worst nights ever” list.  Leaving the hospital knowing in a few short hours my dad would endure traumatic, invasive surgery kept me awake until the wee hours of the morning.

And then it was time to get up and be back at the hospital.

We had to be there REALLY early if we wanted to see him before he went back behind those dreaded gray doors, and, of course, we did.

One thing we understood from the doctor was daddy had a diseased artery, one of the main ones.  It was diseased from one end to the other and they weren’t sure they’d be able to bypass it, it was just too far gone.  Something about “no place to attach the new artery.”

The second bypass should be a piece of cake.

Except a piece of cake didn’t sound so good once the doctor finished telling us all that was involved.

Until you’ve been in a situation like this, you really don’t understand the gravity of what the family is going through…not to mention the patient.

My sympathy has turned to empathy.

Again, that cold March morning, when most were just rising from bed, we sat again in sterile make-shift room with curtains for walls and waited for daddy’s turn.  You know, when you’re sitting there looking at someone you love so much, the reality you may not see them again squeezes your heart like a wrench bearing down on a pipe fitting.

Mortality becomes very real.

Of course, you speak none of this, you just sit there and crack uncomfortable jokes and shiver, but not just because it’s cold.

Doctor after nurse after anesthesiologist came by to introduce themselves and we all nodded and thanked them for what we prayed would be a successful surgery.

I keenly remember the moment we were asked to leave.

Daddy was lying in the bed with all sorts of apparatuses attached to him and several nurses lined either side of the bed, ready to roll him back.

All I could think were the words he’d spoken a few minutes earlier…

“You know, I don’t usually get scared for medical stuff, but I’m scared.”

My heart shattered.

Daddy was scared and there was NOTHING any of us could do but reassure him he was in God’s hands and promise to be there when he woke up.

As I was walking away, I stopped to look back, I just needed another moment to snap a picture in my mind.

I never wanted to forget, you know…just in case.

A tear slipped down my cheek, I willed the rest into submission.

I turned and headed for the waiting room where a small crowd of friends and family waited.

An hour or so later, a nurse called to tell us all was going well.  She did this every hour for the duration of the surgery.  Every time the phone rang, we held our breath.

Finally, after more cups of bad coffee and shallow chit chat the doctor entered the waiting room.  He signaled for us to join him in a smaller room off to the side.  I hadn’t seen any other doctor who came into the waiting room do this so, of course, fear gripped my heart.

I know what the Bible says about fear.

We shouldn’t live in it.

But, I also know God understands the heart.

There is a price for love.

The price takes you to fiery pit of hell and back.

I understand this all too well.

But it’s worth it.

Standing in the smaller room off to the side, our family stood waiting for the physician to tell us the outcome.

I knew the next few words could alter my world, so I stood firmly on both feet to keep me grounded.

Then he spoke, “The surgery went well, both bypasses were successful and the diseased artery wasn’t nearly as bad as we thought.”

I felt the air return to my lungs.

All of us, including the doctor and his assistant, were all smiles at this point.

Daddy was going to be okay.

We nearly skipped over to tell extended family and friends who were waiting on pins and needles.

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the surgery and daddy is recovering nicely.  He still has a long road ahead, but, hey, we’re happy he’s here on the road.

And he is too.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget these events.

I want to leave them here in black and white as a testimony to future me.

Future me who may doubt God’s provision.

So future me will always remember…

the day God healed a broken heart.

Priceless

House Pic

This week has been an emotional roller coaster ride.  It seems like I’ve been on this “ride” for a long time, anybody know how to get off?

I honestly feel since my mom was diagnosed with the disease that took her life, I haven’t been able to catch my breath.  One life-changing event after another has kept me white knuckling the seat in front of me.

This has to be the longest roller coaster ride in history.

In these four years, Mom went to heaven, my kids left the nest one by one, my husband started working for a new company and now…

(Insert suspenseful music here.)

We’re moving.

And I don’t mean moving across town, I mean moving to a different zip code.

There is a “For Sale” sign in my yard as a constant reminder that this isn’t a joke.

Let me back up a bit and explain how we got here.

We moved here twelve years ago for a second time.  Yes, I said a second time. We had come a year earlier to stay with my parents while my husband started flight school.  After a long year with my husband in school in Florida and the kids and me in lower Alabama, we knew we had to make a change.

So off the kids and I went to Florida thinking we would live down there for a while.

It didn’t take long for me to realize with a traveling husband, I needed and wanted the help of my family. So in 2006 we drove our Penske truck into the small town where we now live, and called it home for the indefinite future.  We knew we would probably have to leave this town one day; but not for a long while. The thing is, this place is not real accessible to a big airport and because of that we have sweated many a day and night while my husband tried to get to work.

Most people get in their car and drive to the office.

Not us, my husband wakes up in the wee hours of the morning, drives an hour and a half to the nearest airport, waits in hopes to get a seat on the next flight to his “base.”  If he’s lucky he’ll catch the first flight out.  He’s been based in New York, Chicago, Dallas and Miami so far.

To give you some perspective, I work five minutes from my house.  How about you?

Whoever said the life of a pilot is the “high life,” must have meant it literally.

It has been hard.

But, we’ve managed and for good reason.  Having family near and small, award winning schools has made all of the hardship worthwhile.

And now, here we are, twelve lightning fast years later.

We are empty nesters with two dogs and a lot of square footage.

Only the grace of Jesus can help you cope when life brings more change than you thought was bearable.

And now we must face another change.

My sweet husband has commuted all of these years with little or no complaint and now it’s time to position ourselves closer to an airport big enough to offer more flight options.  We’ve talked about this day over the years, but nothing really prepares you for its arrival.

My emotions are so mixed up, my heart must look like tie dye.

When we bought this house it wasn’t because we couldn’t resist its charm or because we loved the layout or even because it was so close to all the places we frequented, even though all of those things were true.

We bought it because it’s what we could afford.

We didn’t have a big budget, but we did have three kids and a dog.  We were tired of renting and, well, it just made sense.

And maybe we were a little desperate.

It’s funny how time works magic.

When we moved in, we literally dragged our stuff across the street.  The house we were renting was a stone’s throw from this one.  At the time I thought I didn’t need to pack up everything in boxes, we were only moving a hundred feet, after all.

Boy, was I wrong!

We made countless trips across the yard, the pavement and then another yard with handfuls and baskets full of stuff.  It took me weeks and weeks, months to get everything squared away. One of my sweetest memories is my mom walking those hundred yards with us, over and over.  She helped lay contact paper in the kitchen cabinets and basically kept me from having a meltdown more than once.

It was the most unorganized, ridiculous move-in day ever.

Looking back, the only thing I would change about it is my attitude.  I would laugh more.  It’s only stuff.  These days, I care less and less about the stuff. I think often about the people from that move-in day.  It was mostly family and a few friends.  Some aren’t here anymore, I wish I’d realized how things were going to change; I’m sure I would’ve been a lot less temperamental.

Sometimes I’ll walk into my kitchen, open the cabinet and stare at the contact paper liner. I remember mom kneeling on the floor trying hard to reach the very back so the whole shelf would be covered.

I never had the heart to remove it, so it will sit faithfully on the shelf for the next person to stack their countless dishes.

People tease me because I get easily attached to things.  Not because of any earthly value but because there is usually a story that goes along with it.

A memory.  A little time capsule of my life held in a trinket or a kitchen cabinet.

I’ve watched my kids grow up inside these walls.

We’ve had late nights, early mornings, temper tantrums, praise and worship services, Bible study and youth events all inside these now freshly painted rooms.

If these walls could tell our story you might hear how my husband and I came home after leaving our oldest child and only daughter in a large town to attend college, we cried the entire way.   When we dropped our middle child off for higher education, we sat on his bed that night and cried like babies.  There were many nights when my youngest and I would sit on the couch and watch a movie together or cry again because grandma was sick and then gone.

The day the last child left, the silence of these walls was deafening.

But, they stood, nonetheless, faithful and strong even as I crumbled day after day inside of them.

You might hear stories of triumph when we were championing life.

And stories of defeat when we’d failed yet again.

I can still walk down the hall and hear the laughter and chatter of little children.

Leaving this place is not going to be easy.

I will leave a part of my heart and soul here, right inside these walls. You don’t just walk away from over a decade of memories without shedding some tears.

So, what’s next?

So many have asked.

Well, at this point we will wait for the right person to buy our house and then we will be heading north to a little town called Charlotte, NC, you may have heard of it?  Charlotte or somewhere thereabouts.

There is a BIG airport and my husband can get up every day and drive to work like the rest of us.

After thirteen years of commuting this will be a welcome relief.

It will mean more time for each other and that makes me so happy.

I’ve learned a little something in my forty something years on the planet:  take time for your people, love them well and spend all the time you can with them.

One day, you will be left with only memories.

Memories of contact paper and messy moves.

But, oh, how thankful you’ll be you were willing to move across continents (literally and figuratively) for the sake of love.

No regrets here, just a “For Sale” sign and a heart so full it just might burst.

But, for right now, here in my reality, it’s time get up and clean the kitchen.   Someone is coming by to view the house.

Hope they’ll see how much joy lived here.

Now that I think about it, this home, it is worth way more to me now than when we first moved in.

As a matter of fact, it might just be priceless.