Thursday, September 29, 2016

On Curveballs

My younger son is a baseball player.  I've watched him play since he was in preschool.  Unfortunately, my baseball knowledge has not grown at the rate of his skill, but still I know a thing or two.  And I still get nervous every single time he’s up to bat even though he has a great batting average.  The thing I dread the most in those moments is a great curve ball.  I hate those things.

The thing about curve balls is that the untrained eye (aka, mine) can’t see them coming.  All I see is a perfect and not-to-fast ball coming straight down the pike.  He’s gonna kill this ball!  It’s just what we hoped for today.  It gets close.  He begins his swing.  He’s about the knock it out the park!  Then it happens...the curve.  Are you kidding me?  The stupid ball just drops as the batter swings over it.  Strike!

Your day begins as they always do.  It’s going along nicely, given that most days in my house look like a Wylie Coyote and Roadrunner episode.  You know what to expect.  You are prepared for the norm.  And let’s face it, the “norm” is hard enough some days.  But then it happens...the curve ball.  It’s the phone call, the accident, the regular doctor visit gone wrong, the natural event that gets out of hand, the news you were not expecting today.  And it levels you.  What?!  You sit stunned.  You did not see this coming.  Dang curve balls!

You are thrown completely out of kilter.  You begin to question everything.  How did this happen?  Why did this happen?  Am I being punished?  What is really important?  What do I truly need and what can I live without?  Who am I and what am I supposed to be doing?  Where was God when this happened?  And if He’s really around, is He really big enough to fix this?  What do I believe in enough to act on...or even on?  The questions are hard, but you have to allow them.  And you absolutely must take the time to answer them.  They may be the reason you are here.

All the while, you are waiting.  Anyone can tell you...the waiting is the worst.  What is going to happen?  How will this end?  And I’ll give you a hint… the answers you found in your initial questioning are crucial here.  It takes faith to withstand the waiting.  It takes a really strong faith to thrive in the waiting.  When you don’t have any answers, it sure helps to at least know the One who does have them.  You may find that just resting with Him is enough to keep you going.

The good news is that if you’re still standing there, then you’re still in the game.  There is a Next, and it is coming … even if it’s taking its time.  This curve ball may have changed your life forever in some way...or many ways.  Or who knows, tomorrow, next week or in a couple months, life may return to “normal”.  But for now it is enough to know that you’re still in the game.  Now is the time to stand and play because another pitch IS coming.  You have to pull it together.  Focus.  Who knows, you just may hit it out of the park.

Monday, June 6, 2016

On 24 Years

Today is J and I's 24th anniversary.  The following is a note to him, but I hope that any married person who reads it will be prompted to think over their years together and find themselves grateful.  Life is good.  But life is even better with someone else.

24.  Wow, really?  24.  It just doesn’t seem like that long ago that we were walking down the isle.  We were young.  Really young.  As in, almost our oldest child’s age.  We were pretty sure we were ready for the anything the world had to throw at us.  We knew everything we needed to…we knew more then than we do now.  And above all, we knew we made the perfect team.  (So at least we were right about one thing).  We busted through those vows like champs.  For better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and in health, till death do us part…yeh, yeh, let’s get to the good part…the husband and wife kissing and running out to conquer the world together part.  It was an awesome day, I have to say.  And it has been the adventure of a lifetime.

So, about the “for better” part…we’ve been pretty lucky.  In fact, I think most of it has fallen in the “for better” region.  We still love each other.  We have an awesome bunch of family and friends that love us.  We’ve done some amazingly fun things together (climbed mountains, jumped out of airplanes, sailed high seas, etc.).  We’ve seen some incredible places (Middle East, Asia, Africa…).  We’ve been a part of some miraculous things and seen God do some amazing stuff.  And the kids.  I could write a whole book on how cool our kids are.  I don’t know what we did right…there may just be a lot of grace involved in that area, because our kids rock.  Talk about people who could, and do, change the world around them!  I could carry on for hours on the kids.  And I’m so glad you talked me into having some of them myself; it is fun to see them look or act like us.  I’m also glad you were cool with the adoption idea.  Where would we be without that one?

The “for worse” part is obviously not as fun to talk about.  But thankfully, most of the “worse” part has gone hand in hand with the “better” parts in some weird way.  I guess when the bible says that God can make all things come together for good, that actually works.  Like the times we watched so many of our young youth kids pass on so early…but then saw an entire town grab the hearts of those parents and love them into grace and sanity. Or the time I almost died…then didn’t…and ended up with an amazing son instead.  Or the year+ that we toiled over paperwork, made permanent tracks to the courthouse, and wept tears of worry over a little girl in who-knows-where China…then ended up with one of our greatest gifts.  Or how about those F5s that destroyed our community only to see us rebuild it and, in the process, build new and stronger relationships with each other.  We’ve said goodbye to churches and friends and towns we loved.  And we’ve said a more permanent goodbye to all our grandparents, an aunt, an uncle, a dad, several friends and (what are the odds), we’ve both lost a best friend.  But we’ve been supportive and patient with each other through all the grieving…years of it…and I think we’re stronger for that.

The “sickness” part we’ve also, fortunately, had pretty easy.  I can count about 8 little surgeries between us and the kids (thank you c-sections and bad knees).  I’m gonna say God has gone easy on us in this area.  Lord knows we both stink at being nurses.  We are not exactly the nurturing type.  I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna put those few days in the “worse” part.  Thankfully, we’ve both had good health so far.  I know we’ll start aging and falling apart some day and health can leave you at any moment…so I’m just gonna be thankful for what we’ve had so far and not take it for granted.

Oooo… the “richer and poorer” part.  We’ve had both.  We’ve had months where we got to the end and had extra to both give and save.  What fun!  We’ve also had other months.  Jobless months. Months where we weren’t at the end, but were out of money.  And the kids still insisted on eating.  Thankfully, we’ve always had people who loved us and helped us until we could take care of things ourselves.  Now I hope we’ll never forget what that felt like and always be ready to be the ones who can help someone else.  It’s another gift I don’t want to take for granted.

So, that leaves us with the “till death do us part” part.  One of my favorite things is that I can tell our kids with confidence that we’re in it for the long haul.  We’re willing to fight for what we have.  We’re willing to humble ourselves and put each other before ourselves even when we don’t want to.  Because at the end of 24 years, I’d still choose you.  You balance me.  You make me a better me.  You still make me laugh every day.  I still love your eyes and think your smile is about the best thing on earth.  I want this adventure to continue for 24 more and beyond.  Thank you for being awesome and loving me.  I love you too.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Neighbors Do

When I was a young newlywed, my husband and I moved to a small Texas town called Mart.  Jay was hired to be the youth and music minister at the First Baptist Church there in Mart and the church was kind enough to give us a parsonage to live in.  I couldn't wait to meet my neighbors!  And I didn't have to wait long, because in this small town of two thousand, individuals, community, and neighbors are still highly valued.  I think half the town came to help us move in.  It didn't take me too long to meet my neighbors…on my left was Don Matthys, on my right was Walter Williams, and across the street (who later moved into the house behind me) was Walter Honeycutt.  They were happily married, retired couples and I absolutely adored them from the start.  They taught me much over the five years I lived there, but the most important thing they taught me was how to be a good neighbor.

As soon as I was settled into my home, my first order of business was to work on my yard.  My yard was giant…several times bigger than any yard I've had since…so I knew I’d have to put a lot of time into it.  I had waited 21 years to learn how to mow a yard and I was so excited.  (Yes…I said “excited” in reference to mowing…I obviously did not get out much).  As soon as we were settled in the house, I went to Sears with Jay to pick out our (my) first lawn mower.  Jay taught me a couple things about the mower, then, I set out to mow my first lawn.  I must say…it was horrible.  I was the worst lawn-mower in history.  By the time I finished, I had gutted my yard.   Random piles of clippings were dotted across the not-so-straight streaks of scalped yard.  I guess Don noticed.  I waited a couple weeks for the grass to recover and started out again with my mower.  Next thing I knew, I heard another mower.  “Don must be out mowing his yard too”, I thought.  Don was mowing … but not his yard … mine.  I stopped my mower to go and thank him.  He showed me some tips on how to actually cut the grass without ruining my yard, and we started mowing together.  We mowed together for five years.  We only mowed my yard though…wisely, he wouldn't let me touch his.  When he heard my mower start up, it took him about five minutes to be out with me.  And sometimes Walter Williams would join us and we’d have our own little mowing party.  I thanked Don every time, and every time he would be embarrassed by the recognition.  As far as he was concerned, it was his gift to his younger, inexperienced neighbor, and he truly enjoyed doing it.  I did too.  Don certainly knew a thing or two about how to spend his time.

Once I had the grass thing under control, I decided to work on a flower garden.  I spent days clearing out the grass by my house to make a flower bed.  Then I had to decide what to put in it.  I knew absolutely nothing about flowers, but I had long admired the flowers that Walter Williams had around the base of his trees.  My flower garden was on the side of my house that faced his, and any time he saw me out there working on it, he came to help.  I asked what kind of flowers he had and told him I’d like to have something like that.  He nodded his head and walked back to his home.  Moments later, he came out of his garage with a spade and to my horror, he began digging up his flowers.  Not understanding that the flowers were bulbs and could be transplanted, I thought my poor neighbor had lost it.  He walked back over to my house and I’m yelling, “Walter!  What are you doing?  I didn’t mean I want those exact flowers!  I can get my own!  Really!”  Walter was laughing at this point and went on to explain that not only would this help thin out his flower bed, but someday these few bulbs would spread all over my new flower bed and I could find someone else to share them with.  He was right.  Somehow, by sharing the flowers, they actually multiplied to the point that they had to be shared again.  Walter knew a thing or two about sharing.

One day I looked out the kitchen window and saw my other neighbor doing something rather odd.  He had driven his truck (all the way) across the street and parked it along the side of my yard.  Now, Walter Honeycutt had a hard time walking, so I understood why he drove to get to my house, but I was still unsure why he had the gate of his pickup down and was sitting there having a drink of water from a large orange cooler.  Before I could get to him to say “Hi Walter, what’s up?”, I saw him sprinkling something on my yard.  Weeds were not a concern in this small country town, so I was dumbfounded as to what on earth he was up to.  Walter had noticed something about my yard…it was covered with ant hills.  Now, I have to tell you, it was also covered with something that concerned me more…holes.  Tarantula holes.  Come to find out, I lived on “tarantula alley”…and my yard was covered with entrances to their homes.  Walter smiled when I told him they were my bigger concern because what he knew was that they weren't the real problem.  See, tarantulas pretty much keep to themselves …fire ants do not.  Fire ants may be small, but they are horrible, torturous, fiendish creatures who like to play a fun little game with any human they can find.  Here’s the game…they sneak their tiny, weightless bodies all up your legs…hundreds of them at a time…the poor human doesn't feel them at all…then, when the leader gives the signal, they all sting you at the same time.  Only then do you know of their presence.  And unless you’re completely alone, you’re not allowed to strip down…which is your first instinct…trust me.  If there’s not a lake within two feet, you are in trouble, my friend.  Knowing this, Walter was sprinkling some kind of homemade fire ant repellent.  He would sprinkle a few mounds, then rest on his truck.  Sprinkle a few more, then rest on his truck.  It took him hours in the hot, summer Texas sun, but he wouldn't let me help.  It was his service to me.  See Walter Honeycutt knew a thing or two about serving his neighbors. 

I was as lucky as a young girl could get when it came to my first neighbors.  They each did so much more for me than I did for them, despite the fact that I was the young and healthy one.  I was constantly getting into home improvement projects that were over my head (thank you, HGTV), and they were constantly helping me out.  And they always did it with a smile and a laid-back attitude.  They had this “it’s gonna be alright” outlook and they knew how to enjoy themselves even while they were working…on my yard.  I’ll never forget these three or what they taught me.  I may not be the all-knowing lawn expert in my neighborhood, but I now know how to give my time, my talents and a helping hand to my neighbors.  After all, that’s what neighbors do.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Wads

Two days ago I lost my dad.  We called him The Wads.  I know you’re thinking us kids made up that name when we were young and couldn’t pronounce words, but that is actually not the case.  My brother and I were older than I want to admit when we developed a secret language that we were sure no one else would be able to speak or understand.  Mostly, we started everything with “W” and ended up sounding a lot like the French chef muppet.  That is when dad became The Wads.

You knew the minute The Wads walked into a room…and the minute he walked out of it.  He was a loud speaking, big laughing, close talking, arms waving, fast moving, high octane, force of nature. He had a faith so big it left no room for worry, an optimism that plowed through every obstacle, a passion that sparked the fire of dreams, and a joy that swept up everyone in his path. 

He taught me the value of prayer and bible reading.  As a little girl I watched him go into his study every morning to meet with God before going off to work.  He taught me not to forget the alone…the widows and orphans.  I watched as he took care of them every month with his encouraging cards and gifts.  He taught me to give to others until it hurts, then give some more.  He taught me to show grace and love not only to my friends, but to those who would wish to harm me.  I saw how he treated others in business even when they were unjust to him.  He taught me to work hard, every hour of every day.  And he taught me how to think big, dream big, and believe I could do anything.

His life was an adventure.  Definitely not because he chose an exciting career…he was a businessman, a distributer…but because he chose to dream.  He chose to allow God’s dreams to fill his heart, and he chose to pursue those dreams.  He believed God could use a single businessman from Oklahoma to change the lives of people across the world.  And he did.

My dad’s life was amazing, incredible, brave, and more powerful than he knew.  But he would never say that of himself, only of the God who gave him life.  In fact, Wads said this…”If Jesus can take a driven, impatient and religious Pharisee like me, and begin to change me, then he can do it with anyone.” 

In a world full of people who are beat down, stressed out and depressed…going through the motions, but going nowhere…caught in the doldrums.  Wads would say we can all have a different kind of life.  We can all have joy and passion, energy and adventure, because we can all have the God who provides it.

I am proud, honored and eternally grateful that I got to be his daughter.  And in his honor, I will take this life and I will live it to the fullest.  I will allow myself to dream and to get swept up in the adventure God has for me.  And when I come to my last day, I will be as happy and peaceful as my dad was on his.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Get Back Up

So it's been two weeks since you've been working on that New Year's Resolution.  How's it going?  If you're like most you've already failed at least once.  Many of you are even starting to feel your resolve dwindling.  You thought this year would be different.  You had a revelation this time about the importance of this change in your life and swore that this year you would make it!  But maybe not.  Maybe you will never change.  Maybe this is just who you are.

That's a lie.

But you have to get back up to prove it.

You are not the only one who struggles with this.  There is a reason gyms are full in January but not May.  You are not the only parent who messed up with their child...again.  You are not the only one who has failed to kick that habit or pursue that dream.

Here's a deal for you...I'll share with you a little story about my struggles to complete something, but only read it if you promise to let it encourage you.

So...back when I was 38, I was hiking up a mountainside with my siblings and their spouses as we vacationed in Colorado together.  (Don't let the "hiking the mountainside" phrase fool you...while I like to think of myself as outdoorsy and athletic, I was the one they had to wait on every ten steps so I could catch my breath).  I had been inspired the previous summers by my children (who are outdoorsy and athletic...because they're young!) who liked competing in triathlons.  They made it look so easy, I was convinced I could do it too.  So during one of the hiking breaks everyone was taking on my behalf, I made the grand announcement that "'"  Even though I could hardly get the words out of my pathetic lungs, I had made the announcement, thus cementing my resolve and holding myself accountable to other people who now knew my plans.  (This is always an important step, by the way.  Always admit your goal to someone.  You deserve to have accountability, help and encouragement).  My brother quickly said something like, "That sounds great.  We'll do it together.  Some day we'll travel the country competing in races together.  We'll start next week when we get home."  Which he did.  Three months later he ran his first triathlon.  The next year he completed a half Iron Man.  Let's just say he's better than me at pretty much all this and move on.  Okay, back to me....

It should be noted that I did not own a bike....or run (anywhere, ever....okay, except that one time I was chased by a bear, but that's a different story...but also took place in Colorado, as it so happens...)....and I had not swum a lap in my life (except that one time I had to as a child at summer camp in order to get the little bracelet they give you that allows you take out the canoes).  So, it seemed I had my work cut out for me.

The first thing I did was buy a bike.  I was, after all, committed to this goal and would need one.  I bought a good helmet, but failed to buy protective padding for every inch of my body....which as it turned out, I needed.  I set out on my first ride.  Now, "They" say, "It's just like riding a bike", to tell you that there are some things you never forget (and bike riding is supposed to be one of them).  I'm here to tell you....never trust what "They" say!  I had to learn the hard way that you can't just turn a corner by turning the handles.  (Just so you know, you have to be going a certain speed and lean into it.  Important safety tip.  Thank me later.)  After a shaky ride though the neighborhood, I went onto the big road.  I quickly came up to the first intersection....a big one....four lanes of traffic that are always buzzin'.  Here's another important safety tip....learn how to dislodge your new special bike shoes from the pedals before hitting a major intersection.  Let's just say it didn't go well.  Let's just say most of the cars missed their chance to go through the light because I was in the foot stuck in the pedal...covered in bloody scrapes and gravel...trying to get loose from the bike...and trying to act like it wasn't a big deal.  I couldn't actually tell if the honking drivers were mad, felt sorry for me, or were just having a good laugh.  Either way, I came home with a messed up body, bike and spirit.  Here's the point.  I had to ride again.  I had to get back up.

Running was next.  My encouraging sister-in-law Stacy had started running the previous year, so she gave me a birthday present with all the gear I needed.  I was ready to hit the road and, thanks to Stacy, I even looked good doing it!  She told me an important tip.  Just start running 20 minutes every other day for a while.  Also, it's good for newbies to run a few minutes, then walk one, and repeat.  Eventually, I wouldn't need that minute break.  I was pretty sure I was in good enough shape not to need that minute of walking; after all, I did exercise in other ways all the time, but I appreciated the advice.  I started out on my first run.  I was feeling good.  It was a beautiful morning.  I was running.  I had great tunes flowing.  There was, dare I say, a spring in my step.  After a while of course, things got harder.  My breathing was getting heavier.  My legs started to feel tired.  My heart started pumping hard.  Too hard.  I was pretty sure it was about to explode.  Everything hurt.  My lungs burned.  Something was wrong.  Very, very wrong.  I had overdone it!  I had to stop for fear of having a heart attack...or stroke!  I needed that minute walking break.  I slowed to a walk just in time to prevent a total collapse.  I looked at my watch to note my minute walk and almost cried.  I was not even close to 20 minutes.  I wasn't close to 10 minutes.  I wasn't close to 5 minutes.  I had run...20-something seconds.  I'm not joking.  Not exaggerating.  It had been seconds.  Here's the point.  I had keep going.  I had to get back up.

Then came the hard part...swimming.  I went to the pool early....really early....5:00 am no one would be there to see what was about to happen.  Guess what.  There are a group of crazy people, at least a dozen or more in my area, who like to swim that early everyday!  So I kindly asked if I could join someone's lane and circle swim with them.  Now I've watched a lot of swimming because my oldest daughter is a competitive swimmer.  I get the jest of it.  You put your face in, kick your legs, and pull with your arms....sounds easy enough.  News flash... if you haven't gone under water in 25 years, just doing that is awkward and, as I found, somewhat alarming.  As an adult, you think about a fact that never occurred you as a child... there is no air under there.  None.  And with arms and legs both flailing as fast as they can to keep you afloat, you need air!  Panic sets in.  You look up to see how far until you've reached the other side and realize you are getting nowhere fast.  Fear takes hold.  You don't want to doggie-paddle to the edge, but you are exhausted.  Your heart is pounding, lungs are aching, limbs are weakening.  Just in time, you reach the other side and hang onto it for dear life.  This was my first 25 yards.  A kind man who was swimming in my lane approached and I waved him to go on ahead, but he stopped to check on me.  He didn't have to ask if this was my first time.  He offered his help.  He gave me some tips.  He even told me he would watch me and coach me a bit.  "Really?  Thanks so much!  I need all the help I can get!", I happily replied.  I took off...he watched...then yelled, "Darling, you have to keep your ass up.  KEEP YOUR ASS UP!"  I'm not joking.  This was what he yelled to me.  I would have been completely mortified at this point, but I realized I had made it another 25 yards back to where I started.  I wanted to get out. I wanted to get out more than anything I've ever wanted.  But I couldn't.  I had to keep swimming.  I had to get back up.

I told you at the need to tell will need help and encouragement.  I was at that point.  Thankfully, I was able to join a swim class and my friends Pati and Carole had me up and going.  A year later, I swam my first mile.

So the day came for my first triathlon.  It wasn't pretty.  It was really hard.  I did not set any course record.  (Actually, I may have...but they don't give you a medal or draw attention to the fact that you may be the slowest person ever to complete that race).  I was no longer 38.  It had taken a me a while to complete this goal.  In fact, I raced the month of my 40th birthday.  Accomplishing my goal and giving myself the time to work towards it was my gift to myself.  It's one of the best gifts I've ever given myself, by the way.  And I pretty much failed all along the way.  It was literally one crazy fail after another.  But I never quit, so in the end, I accomplished my goal.

I don't know what goal you've set for yourself; but whether your goal is physical, spiritual, emotional, etc., the same rules apply.  It's just like your parents, coaches and teachers always told only really fail if you fail to get back up.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

When Progress Failed

Progress. It's what we do.  The human race is constantly moving forward, searching, discovering, bettering and becoming.  We have progressed in every area of the human experience.  And it seems that the more we progress, the faster we progress, and it becomes an unstoppable force...a tidal wave we can't control.  And why would we?  Here's the problem with progress...we need to learn to stop once we have reached perfection in a given area.  We have obviously not learned this lesson.  Case in

Years ago, we achieved perfection in the area of clothing.  We made something that was completely comfortable, soft, looked good on every body type and, depending on the fabric used, it could be worn in summer or winter.  It was the pajama.  The perfect pajama.  But noooo, we just had to keep going.  And look where fashion took us after the pj was sequestered to nighttime skirts (no one can pretend those are comfortable), high heels (not only treacherous to walk in, but literally unhealthy), tight-fitting blouses (yeh, no worries there....).  What about the poor guys?  They got suits (nothing like being in a straight-jacket all day) and ties (obviously invented by some women after discovering their men were having affairs..."Here honey, wear this.  It's all the rage.  You'll look dashing."  Laughed all night long, she did).  I think you get the point.  We should have stopped while we were ahead.

Actually, a small group of professionals did just that.  They looked at the rest of us following the trends and they said, "No thanks.  We'll stick with our pjs."  They proceeded to make their pjs/work clothes out of soft, comfortable fabric that was easy to wash and wear.  And did we laugh at them?  No!  We have complete respect for them!  They are noted as some of the most intelligent people on the planet.  They are our medical professionals.  They are the ones whose advice we ask, and when they give it, we follow it exactly.  When they walk in a cafe in their pjs ("scrubs" as they like to call them), we treat them with respect.  We are apt to smile at them and even give them our place in line.  They are brilliant!  They are game-changers!  They are lifesavers!  And they know what clothing makes sense.

There are other groups of people who wear pjs.  One group in particular may not be the smartest among us, but they are the gifted ones.  This group of people is so talented, they earn millions a year... our professional athletes.  And what do these wealthy people, who can afford to buy any clothing, like to wear?  Pjs.  They make their pjs out of soft, flexible, breathable fabric in their team's colors.  When they walk into a restaurant wearing their pjs/ warm-ups, do we make fun of them?  No, we go ask for their autograph.

I could go on, but I think you've got the point.  We really need to rethink this.  Progress has failed us.  It's not hard to see where we went wrong or what we need to do to fix it.  But who will be the one to lead us?  Who will stand up and say, "It's time to wear our pjs!"

Welcome to my blog.

Hi there!  You have somehow arrived at my blog.  My name is Kenda.  I am the wife to a really cool guy, a mother to four incredible young people, a follower of Christ, a professional volunteer, and someone who spends hours and hours driving kids around.  This driving gives me a lot of time to think.  I think about all sorts of things...and I will write them here for you to see.  It's like getting a little peek inside my head.  Like most people, I think simple things.  My thinks can make me laugh, cry, want to scream at someone, or just make me say, "huh."  So I invite you to stay for a minute or two to read a thing or two.  Hope you enjoy.