Friday, March 14, 2014


“You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” Paulo Coelho

I love this quote, not because it encourages risky behavior, but because it challenges me to get in the game...the game of life.  Living life with God is risky at its core, because sometimes He asks us to do things that walk us right out there on that thin, shaky little limb, and sometimes it's right in front of everyone whose opinions we care deeply about.  There are no guarantees the result will be a win and it is likely what happens next will include failure.  But what if?  What IF that great big risky thing God is asking of you results in lives being forever transformed?  Is it worth the risk of miserable failure?  Sit down, kiddos, and let me tell you a story.

It began back in about 1993.   I was a young mom with six little children.  The oldest was 13 and the youngest was 2.  My husband and I had just taken a risk.  A big one.  We bought a huge, five bedroom older house way out in the country on 90 acres of land.  At the time we had a nice salary, and could easily handle the payments. We wanted our children to experience living in the country, and since we home schooled, the rural life lent itself well to our goal of providing our own needs and exposing our kids to rural life. We didn't take into account that the septic tank (who knew WHAT a septic tank WAS?) was built for two people, not eight, and that inside that great house lurked a series of unfortunate, costly repairs.  Neither did we know that my husband's stable place of business would acquire a new manager who would fire the entire senior sales staff within one year of our house and land purchase.  

For the next six years, we hung onto our house, our sanity, and our marriage by the skin of our teeth and the ability of my husband to turn our land into a profit-making venture.  In the meantime, our children lived the life of which we had dreamed. They adventured, they explored, they built, they caught, they learned. They experienced the thrill of having first a 1,000 pound longhorn steer and then a buffalo loose on our land.  They experienced waking up to a yard full of escaped emus.  They learned which snakes were poisonous and how to avoid chigger bites.  They built their own fort, high up in an old oak tree, complete with booby traps and a clever communication system.  They helped their dad cut and burn lots and lots of trees, and witnessed the miracle of thousands of monarch butterflies hovering in our 100 year old oaks. They tried to ride the old lame nag we rescued from a glue factory.  They helped their momma plant and reap a huge garden.  They fished and shot at turtles in the pond,went on day-long explores, and looked for crawdads in the stream. And they met Laura. 

We were attending a church with Laura's relatives, whom we barely knew. When they learned we had once taken in a rebellious, pregnant teenage girl, albeit for only three weeks, they called us on the phone and asked us a big, very risky question.  Would we be willing to take in their 15 year old cousin from Minnesota who was making very bad decisions about drugs, alcohol, and friends?  After all, it would be hard for the street gang to find her at a house way out in the country in Texas, right? And we home schooled, so she wouldn't be out of our sight for a moment. The police had told her parents that if she was not sent far, far away, her life and safety would be at risk and that she would be dead or in prison within the year.  Her parents had already taken extreme measures by boarding up the windows in Laura's room and had taken to sleeping on the floor outside her door in an attempt to keep her away from bad influences. She still managed to escape them.  We thought, we prayed, and we answered yes. I still don't know why we did, except we sensed that this was God's provision for Laura.  We really had no idea what this was going to look like. Would she hate us?  Would she escape and run back to Minnesota?  Would she corrupt our innocent little children? Would she kill herself?  

Within a few days, her parents, with the cooperation of local police and the school she occasionally attended, surprised her in the hallway of her school, threw a coat over her head, and whisked her out to their car and got on an airplane bound for the Lone Star State.  I try to imagine her dismay as the rental car drove miles and miles away from the airport down a country highway and then down a very long, isolated driveway.  There on the front porch stood the Brady Bunch, with smiling, expectant faces.  We watched as she exited the car, head and shoulders slumped, lifeless, unstyled hair falling in her face. The boys' clothing and combat boots completed the picture.  I remember there being very little communication from her that day or in the week ahead.  There was much begging and crying the next day as her parents left to head back to Minnesota, leaving their oldest daughter in the hands of a family they had never met.  Talk about courage and selflessness.  Talk about risky decisions.  Sometimes all you have left is to risk.

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This is a picture from the day Laura came.  In case you can't guess, Laura is on the far left, and her sister is on the couch.  The other three are mine.

We became wardens.  Loving, caring, but very watchful wardens.  Laura had no access to a telephone, and her only activities were going to church with us and to a ballet class with our daughter, where she was forced to sit and watch ballet under other parents' watchful eyes until I came to pick them up. Even so, our telephone rang in the middle of the night and a teenage boys' voice asked for Laura. My husband, ever the protector, calmly explained to the young man that when you live in the country like we did, if you hear noises at night, you shoot first and ask questions later.  That was the first and only call from the gang, whose loyalty, after all, went only so far.

Then a beautiful thing happened.  Laura began having headaches and stomach aches.  Or so she said. They were so bad that she needed to go back home or she might die.  Not wanting her to die, I made an appointment with our family doctor, who got the down-low before our appointment.  As he gently began questioning Laura about her ailments, he looked directly into her eyes and asked, "So, Laura, Becky tells me you've lived on the streets.  I would guess that you are pretty street smart, then, right?  If that's the case, and you want to go back to that life so much, why haven't you used your street smarts to escape and get back home?  Do you know what I think?  I think you have found a really safe place where you can be a teenage girl again and where the pressure is off.  I think you know that this is where you need to be right now."  The tears began to fall and the first few bricks came tumbling down.

Next came the after-dinner dance parties in the kitchen with six adoring little faces smiling and laughing with her.  Then came a trip to Express to buy some new clothes, courtesy of a check from her mother.  Was that a glimmer of happiness on her face as she saw her fashionable reflection in the mirror? Slowly, slowly, her hair became styled, and when I walked in on her and our 11 year old daughter trying on makeup in her bathroom, I knew I was witnessing a transformation from the inside out. 

Somewhere in the months that followed,  what I saw on the outside started happening on the inside.  It is a true miracle, in my opinion more a miracle than a dead man raised, to see a heart soften and change, to see a hardened, dark face become a place where smiles and laughter lived.  She reveled in her new brothers and sister.  She loved to stop and talk to cows.  She had a blast at the China Spring Rattlesnake Sacking Contest.  She even ate rattlesnake.  She took to Texas like a duck to a june bug.

Did "stuff" happen?  Of course! There were bad attitudes to deal with, my kids learned who Puff Daddy and Snoop Dog were (and probably some other things I don't know about), and  I was spread pretty thin with the drama of a rebellious teenage girl who initially didn't want to be there.  Was the risk worth it? A thousand times Yes! Laura eventually returned home to her family, and after a few missteps, made a 360 degree turn.  She married her high school sweetheart a few years later.  We traveled to Minnesota for the wedding.  My two oldest children were in her wedding, and Chris and I were so blessed to be "Honorary Foster Parents."  Laura is now is the stunningly beautiful and Godly mother of three children whom she home schools. She and her family are strong Christians and follow God with all their hearts. Our God is a Redeemer!

Could God have used another method, individual or family to accomplish the same results?  Of course, He could have.  But OUR family would have missed out on the incredible blessing of knowing Laura and her family and watching her transformation from caterpillar to butterfly.  Risk is risky, and there can be big downsides, but you have to take risks if you want to really live.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

If I Have to Tell You Again...!

“If I Have to Tell You Again…!”

I have found HEB and Walmart to be the perfect venues for observing all the parental attitudes and practices that make me shudder and fear for the future of our nation.   Here are some examples of parenting styles and what I believe will be end result for the child I observed:

 “If I have to tell you one more time, I’m going to……….........(fill in the blank with any quasi-punishment you like… because it will never actually be given ): 
Result:  An adult who has no idea how to delay gratification; an adult who will take what he wants, when he wants it, no matter the cost or inconvenience to others, and who  will whine and complain until he gets it.  A perfect example can be found in the cast and crew of the Occupy Movement.  These unruly bullies didn’t just drop out of the sky…they were “raised” by someone, someone who threatened but never followed through and taught these children entitlement…to everything, even things that don’t belong to them.

“Just wait until your daddy gets home!”
Result:  A child who learns that his mother has absolutely no clout and who will pass off any responsibility for discipline to a father who has not witnessed the event and who is tired after a long day of work and doesn’t want to deal with it. Consequences should be swift, sure, and consistent.

And my favorite:  “Waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh” repeated in one long wail, which follows me on every single aisle of the store, sometimes accompanied by swatting mom or telling her he hates her.  Someone please tell me why this child is not getting his sweet little rear end worn out in the bathroom so I can shop without having my eardrums violently assaulted and my brain scrambled! 
Result:  An adult who constantly whines and complains to anyone who will listen about how terribly life is treating him, until he gets what he wants, of course.

You get the idea.  Under-parenting leaves a child to himself, and creates a self-centered person who cannot control his own emotions and actions.  Children must be trained, and that takes a lot of attention and effort.  It is not an impossible task, and I can say this because I trained six children who were an average of two years apart in age.  Yes, it can be exhausting, and the rewards are not seen or appreciated for a very long time.  But the end result is an adult who has respect for others, is diligent, knows how to wait for good things, is generous and loving, has a moral compass, and who is capable of handling the difficulties of life. A wonderful side benefit is a peaceful home where screaming, demanding, and whining are not a part of everyday life.   Whimpy parents produce whimpy children who will expect others to meet their needs and to overlook their “issues.” As my mother once told me, “Be the strong-willed parent your strong-willed child needs.”

Children crave boundaries.  This is a true statement.  The first time I spanked an out-of-control child and witnessed the peace that resulted, I was awestruck.  This kid had really, really wanted me to stop him!  Who would have known?  Spanking suddenly took on a whole new meaning for me.  Now if you are of a non-spanking mindset, I don’t have issues with you. I’ve seen other approaches work, too.  I just guarantee you it will take you longer and use up much more of your precious time to train your child with time-outs and lots of talking and reasoning.  And you also have to address the fact that if you are a Bible-believing and -following Christian, you might have a hard time justifying not spanking, since there are many scriptures to support it. But spanking is a whole ‘nother subject and a can of worms that can be opened on another post.

For now, if you are a parent, especially a parent of young children, please just know that what you are doing or not doing right now to train your child is shaping a future adult.  Set limits, stand by them, be consistent, and don’t let a little pipsqueak of a kid wrestle the control from you.  They don’t really want it, you know. They want YOU to be in charge.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Come to the Light

I've always loved this picture of my husband.  It was taken on his first "outside" venture after he shattered his tibia by falling off a ladder and had surgery that left him with two steel rods and a heavy apparatus sticking out of his leg.  He was pale from being inside so much, and he had lost about twenty pounds, but his spirits were high.  "Wow, it's great to be alive!  What a beautiful day! It's so bright out here!" were his enthusiastic comments. At the time, it surprised me that he saw things in such a positive light.  Then, as I reflected on the fact that he had been in bed or on the couch, immobile and unable to do anything for himself for weeks, I got it.  

Why is it that we fail to recognize the beauty and glory of something as simple as a blue sky, fresh air, and green trees?  Is it because we are so driven in our everyday lives, so busy working our jobs, worrying about bills, connecting with our devices, that our imagination and sense of delight in everyday things disappears?  

I am always blessed when I observe others who share my faith in God going through really tough times, such as cancer diagnoses, accidents, lost jobs, even the loss of loved ones, with so much grace and peace.  I had three close friends tragically lose their young adult sons over the past few years, and I have marveled at the resiliency of the human spirit.  Life does go on, healing occurs, and joy cometh.  There must be something God built into the human psyche that recognizes and goes to the light after a time of extreme darkness.  We just can't stay in that dark place for too long because our spirits long for the light.  We yearn for it, and when it comes, we recognize and delight in it.

If only it didn't take these hard things to get us to stop and smell the proverbial roses.  But such is the nature of man.  Time to go. I think I'll go outside and sniff the air a bit.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Preach It!

While going through my old "sermon notebooks" recently,  I realized that I have a treasury of quotes from people I've heard preach at my church.  I thought it would be cool to blog them.
Here are a few nuggets I've been privileged to hear.  Maybe this is the place to explain that our pastor shares his pulpit with other trusted church leaders, so these quotes come from a variety of people.

From Susan Peters:
"Great leaders don't desire as much to lead as they desire to serve."
"Be an extravagant lovers of others." 

From Linda Fyke in her breakout session on dealing with a prodigal:
"If you stay obsessed with your prodigal, you won't be letting God change YOU."
"You can't notice and won't celebrate what is good in your prodigal if you're wrapped up in their imperfections."
"People only change when they get a revelation from God, and you're not their God. You are NOT your family's Saviour."
"Build an Abraham altar for your Isaac and offer them up to God."

From Jimmy Seibert:
"God chose David when he was obscurely being faithful and content.  Be diligent and be content right where you are."
"What would you do if you had no fear?"
"God is not pleased with our sin - but He is pleased with us."
"When God is being glorified, everything else falls into place."
"Most of us pursue the glory of ourselves, not the glory of God."
"God created us to be in fellowship.  When you isolate yourself, you become disillusioned and cynical.  If you pull away from God's body, the church, you pull away from God."
"Believers should live simply, work diligently, and give generously.  That is the New Testament Church."
"Living counter-culturally in America has power."
"Be thankful!  Whining and complaining doesn't bring God into the situation.  Give God something to work with!"
"Everything in life that is good and successful is tied to discipline."

From Keith Wheeler:
"The Scriptures are not just stories to be read - they're stories to be lived."

From Fred Nelson:
"When we go to the world for our affirmation and self worth, we end up in either pride or self-pity." 
"Be unapologetically co-dependent on God." 
"Build your life around spending time with God."

Robert Herber:
"Our greatest evangelical tool is our faces."
"Try to smile like Jesus would smile."

Vincent Carpenter:
"Hell is not a bad thing to talk about with unbelievers.  If we leave it out, people don't know the consequences of not giving their lives to God.  Start with fear to get to His grace and love."
"Our culture encourages us to work our problems out on our own and to hide our stuff from others.  The church needs to get in our stuff!"

Donnie Martin:
"Maturity is understanding your own limits."
"Sex between husband and wife is an act of worship."

Joe Ewen in a sermon on the life of Joseph and the power of forgiveness:
"Joseph paid a heavy price for his fancy coat." 
"We have the power to retain or release sin against us."
"Unforgiveness leads to an impoverishment of spirit."

You can probably tell that we hear a lot of good stuff at our church.  I hope you will share sermon quotes you have found meaningful, too~

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Poignant Voice From the Past

This is a letter my sister recently found while doing some genealogy on our family.  It was written by my great grandmother, (my father's grandmother) on her death bed.  What an incredibly beautiful thing to realize that this woman was praying for my dad's salvation so many years ago.  My dad came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ on the same night I  did -  in different rooms of my parents'  house-  31 years ago, after my mom had a brain aneurysm and was not expected to live through the night.  My dad was in his mid-50's, I was 26,  and his life and mine were radically changed forever. 

It is my understanding that Jennie lived a hard life (12 children!) and obviously wasn't well educated, but she knew who she was and Whose she was, and her life had great purpose.  I don't think it's a stretch to say that my and my immediate family's and extended family's salvations are probably the result of this dear woman's prayers for her children and grandchildren.  I am forever grateful that she was a praying woman.

I'm writing this note for all you parents and grandparents out there as an encouragement that your prayers matter!  This woman will someday be surrounded in heaven by generations of her family who love the same Lord Jesus she does, and we will be an "unbroken family."  Enjoy , and... "don't be ashamed to walk out on God's side."

Letter written by Savilla Virginia Alldredge “Jennie” Kennedy before her death on November 25, 1937 to be read to her family.  The envelope said, “To all my family.”  She had twelve children and seventeen grandchildren.  Her ancestors are from England. It is unedited.
"Don’t grieve for me for each and every one has been just as good and sweet to me as posible & I love you all so much.  Now I want to ask every one to be true Christains.  You all need a loving saviour to lean on in death you need his loving hand to guide you over the chilly waters of death.  Thares not one thing on this earth that I would exchange for my soul.  I have devoted my time day in and day out pleading with the Lord to save every one of mine own boys and girls and all of their husbands and wives and every grand child.  I know thares lots of wild temptations in the world today to lure you all from god.  In ways of swearing and drinking, gambling, stealing and so on, but I have all ways believed you all  to good a bunch to every do things like that all of you are sweet and good but not cristains like you should be.  Don’t be ashamed to walk out on god’s side.  Let the world know who you are.  He gives us our lives and every thing we have.  He has been so good to us all.  Now let’s show him our appreciation.  If you all like to be all shine for crist.  I want to be put away just neat and simple.  Save all you can to help dad over the rough places.  He won’t be here long after I am gone.  I want you brothers and sisters to all ways stay in tuch with each other and pray for each other and if one needs help the rest go to their rescue.  Don’t let them suffer for any thing you can do for each other.  Be good and when your time comes to leave here, come on to the glory land so as we can all be an unbroken family.  I know I have fell short on doing my duty in many ways, but I don’t ask for the higher courts of heaven.  I want to rest and pray god’s blessing on you all to follow faithfully on.  Mama loves you all lots.  Good by.  God bless you all."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Parenting out of Fear

The word "fear", used as a verb, has two very distinctly different definitions.  One definition is "to feel a painful apprehension or anxiety of some impending evil."  Another definition is "to reverence; to venerate." When we began our long journey of raising our six children over 30 years ago, I wish my husband and I  had realized that one can parent out of a place of anxious fear and anxiety, or we can parent out of  a deep desire to reverence and fear God's plans for our children and our family.  These are two very different motives for making parental decisions.  Our protectiveness arose out of a deep-seated fear that our children might make the same mistakes we made in our younger years, and have to reap the bitter results of those mistakes, as we did.

In my very early years of parenting, it seems I feared almost anything that could potentially harm my children, especially spiritually or emotionally.  My husband and I  read a well-intentioned, but over-the-top book called "Terror in the Toy Box," and as a result we became very protective, overly so, to the point where we saw potential evil in even inanimate toys, such as Power Rangers, Rainbow Brite, and Smurfs.  I would blush to share some of my stories with you, but suffice it to say that my adult children have shared a few laughs over our efforts to shield them from all harm.  Thankfully, they realize now that we were just trying too hard. 

As our children got older, the fear intensified, and it seemed there was potential danger everywhere, so our rules and parenting were pretty restrictive.  The interesting thing is that, try as we might, we were not able to keep all evil at bay.  Two of our children were exposed to pornography at a relative's home, for heaven's sake! And even though we rarely allowed them to spend the night away from home (who knows WHAT could happen?), on the one night we allowed our pre-teen boy to have an overnight at his best friends' home, his older brother made an unscheduled visit to the home and our son's friend found some rather interesting pictures in his luggage. So despite all our efforts, some evil still found its way to our children.

If we had it to do over again, with the incomparable benefit of hindsight, I believe we would have still been sheltering and pretty restrictive, but our motivation would have been different.  We were very young in our Christian faith, and we saw demons behind every bush.  Our fear for our children created anxiety and apprehension, in them and in us, and mixed up in it all was our feeling that our children must be perfect.  I believe now that it is much healthier to create a reverential fear of a holy God in our children,  to teach them from an early age that they must learn discernment and how to run from evil themselves, and to allow them to fail on their own, while we are still around to support them and help them work through their struggles. Purity and holiness come from within, and if we are running around removing all the bad influences from their lives FOR them, there's a real danger that they will enter adulthood unprepared to handle the sensuous, licentious nature of the world in which they must live. They may even learn a subtle message that sin might be something they just have to try, the ”forbidden” fruit that they’ve never been allowed exposure to.

I've heard of parents who occasionally watch a movie or listen to music with their children for the express purpose of talking through some of the things they are seeing and hearing that go against their family values and faith.  This seems wiser to me than allowing children, especially older ones, absolutely no exposure to such things, and then having them walk out the door of the family home into a world that is chock-full of it, without giving them the tools to discern and decide what they should and should not allow in. Because our God is a merciful and redeeming God, our children have grown into wonderful, spiritually and emotionally healthy adults, despite our failures.  He knew our hearts for our children, and He honored that. 

Agree or disagree with me, I hope this makes for some good discussion around the family table

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Whatever...Why Not? Huh?

This will be my virgin journey into blog world, a place I've only occasionally visited, but have always wanted to inhabit.  I hope you'll join me on my little journey as I share my life, my loves, my fears, my joys, my thoughts. 

You may be wondering about the name of my blog.  Here's the back story:  I will probably refer to my mom many times in my blog. She was a very unusual women, one who never met a stranger, and a woman who was simple, but very wise.  She once told me that the best marriage advice she would give could be summed up in one word:  "Whatever!"  She encouraged me to use that word as often as possible when I was tempted to fire back at something my husband said or did.  The trick was the WAY in which I was to say this magical word.  Not with anger or emotion, but with a sweet smile and little shrug of the shoulders, as if to say, "What care I?"  Now I don't think she meant to just blow off the important conflicts of life, but to realize that most of what husbands and wives fight about is not really all that important.  Can I just say that the older I get, the more I see the truth in this.  Pick your battles.  It's hard to fight with someone who is sweetly smiling and saying, "Whatever!"

The Why Not? part is also from my mom.  Her philosphy was to enjoy life to the fullest, and unless you had a really good reason NOT to do something, your answer to most questions, especially those asked by your children, should be "Why not?"  Now before you start yelling at me in capital letters, please know that with six children, I definitely knew how to say "No!" and mean it.  But there is a certain beauty in being the kind of mom that says, "Why not?" more often than most moms.  Let's face it. We so "No!" because we're tired, we're lazy, and we just don't want to.  So why not add a little balance to the equasion and at least think about answering "Why not?" the next time someone asks you to do something you really don't want to do.  Others might begin to think of you as a really fun person, and that's not bad, is it?

So, that's the story of the name.  I've got a list a yard long of topics on which I want to write, but for now, it's just about the name.