Tuesday, December 23, 2008


It was a Saturday evening around 7:00 when the doctor laid this little blue, wet, cone-headed baby up on my tummy and said "You have a baby boy!" After 17 hours of Lamaze breathing, parade watching and focal point gazing, I was ready to see this little guy. He was beautiful. I wasn't scared of him, after all, he was a lot smaller than me. I just wanted to do it right. This mother thing. That's what scared me - could I do it? The picture for his birth announcements was taken with a full size football laying right beside him. An indication of the time to come.

Last Friday morning at precisely 11:00 a.m. we heard a big booming voice from the back of the gym. We knew to stand to welcome the newest graduating class of the Tulsa Police Academy. When the first officer rounded the corner bearing the class flag, it took me a minute to realize that this man was that same little baby I had welcomed to this world some 28 years ago. Although he didn't look at me (because he wasn't supposed to - he's such a good boy), I knew he was showing me his newest uniiform. I could hear in my head, "look at me, Mommy! look at me!" I could see in my head this little blonde headed 4 year old running into the living room with his first ever "real uniform" - not something just to wear for the harvest carnival at church. He was a "real" soccer player on a "real" soccer team. That was the time he was also about to have a little sister and wanted to be in there to "help get the baby". When I realized how serious he was, I talked to my doctor and she was all for it. When the time came the nurses gave him some scrubs, shoe and head covers and were excited to watch him work. He stayed up by my head and held my hand until he pulled on his doctor gloves, got the scissors, and cut the cord so Kayla could start living on her own. The next week he put his "doctor suit" back on and took Kayla to Show and Tell at Thursday School.

Fast forward to his first real football suit. We had moved to Houston and he was having a difficult time. His best friend Chad was left behind in Snyder and it was tough on those little guys. They were in the third grade. Didn't ever talk alot but were together all the time. He came home from school wanting to play football - full contact football. I, like any good mother, told him absolutely not. His dad, on the other hand, took him to register and came home with everything a small football player would need. Along with a few things he wouldn't. He tried it on for me and walked into the livingroom grinning from ear to ear. I can honestly tell you I felt something move in my heart. I really did. I saw what I thought was this little bitty face in a big huge helmet and I sure didn't want anyone to hit it. He informed me later and reminded me MANY times later that he didn't get hit - HE hit. It was also during this time that his daddy was diagnosed with liver cancer. When we found out, I took all three kids to the park and we sat up on a picnic table and I explained what was going on. I was honest with them from the very beginning of that whole thing because I wanted them to be able to trust me. When I told them, Adam and Kayla cried while Kyle broke sticks and through them a far as he could. Break, throw, break, throw. I let him throw until he was done, then he cried. My biggest prayer that whole time was that I could show them how Great our God was. That He was faithful. Every night before Kyle would go to bed part of his prayer would be "and let us be happy even in sad times". So much like his momma. After about 3 months the doctors told us we may only have a few more days. I came home, got Kyle and we went into Tomball to the bank and the grocery store. As we were sitting in the drive through. I told Kyle what the doctors said. We held each other and cried across the console. We then went into Klein's grocery store and on the way out I said "Beat you to the van!" and we took off running. I beat him of course, although he would beg to differ, and we were laughing as we jumped up into the van and I said "Kyle, do you know what we just did? We were just happy even in sad times. The only way we could do that is because of Jesus. He's not going to let us do this alone." You could almost see the light bulb come on above his head. For him to understand the power of prayer at that age was priceless to me.

We moved back to Snyder and the next spring He got his Little League baseball uniform. He was on the Braves. That is the season I walked back and forth between his and Adam's field because all their games were the same time. The end of that summer we had the funeral for their daddy and we had so many people around. It was amazing the love we felt. My cousin Randy and his wife stayed a few days extra to help with things. The day they left I brought the kids home from school and Kyle asked where Randy was. I told him they had to go back to work so they went on home. Kyle didn't want to get out of the car to go in the house. He said "Mom, I need company. I want company." So did I, I just didn't say it out loud. As long as company was there we didn't have to start our new "normal". Once again the Lord gave us the strength to get in there and live our new life. He would be our company.

His Junior High years he wore the Snyder Tiger football and basketball uniforms. Michael and I got married during that time and he became a loyal fan of the boys' sporting events. As Kyle was beginning his freshman football year, we brought home two little babies to add to our family. He knew what time we were supposed to be home and stayed in the driveway playing basketball until we got there about two hours later. He went straight to the door, got out the car seat and went in the house. He couldn't wait to hold those little girls. He was a great big brother. We brought Rachel home almost a year later. Michael and I hauled three baby seats to so many games.

When he started his senior year, I cried over everything. His last first day of two-a-days, his last first day of school, his last first game. But, oh my, that last game was heartbreaking for me. We were in the playoffs, playing in Dumas and after the game, as the players were leaving the field, I just stood in the stands. The other fans were leaving, but I just couldn't. It was kind of like not wanting to get out of the car to start our new normal as a family. I knew when I left the stands, I could never get all that back again. Kyle wasn't a showboat on the field at all. That day, as he was walking to the dressing room, he turned around and looked our direction and held his helmet high in the air. Just stood there a minute before he turned to go in the locker room. Michael and I were standing there with tears in our eyes. When I saw that helmet I knew in his heart he was saying "this hurts, Mom, this really hurts". I sat down and put my face in my hands and cried. We raise our children, knowing they are going to leave one day, but I couldn't put my heart around it yet. The sadness was there at the end of the baseball season and at graduation too, but I think God's grace was starting to prepare me for the future.

That summer we made a trip to Stillwater on a recruiting weekend. There was one time I saw him down by the rail in the Cowboy Stadium looking out at the field and I wanted so bad for him to have it because he wanted it so bad. The good-byes to his sisters and brother and to Chad were difficult as we packed up his car and headed to Oklahoma that warm August. We got him moved in and when it was time for us to leave, we watched from the car as he ran up the steps to Bennett Hall, turned around and stuck his hand straight up in the air. I don't know what he was thinking but I was saying "This hurts, Father, this really hurts."

He looked mighty good in Oklahoma State Orange. The uniform fit fine. His face wasn't too small, the helmet too big. He worked hard and wore it proudly. The first season, he made the travelling team several times. One weekend he wasn't supposed to because Adam had to go in for surgery. The roads were icy and I was afraid for him to drive. A dear friend met us in the parking garage of the hospital and gave us a credit card. He said, "You get that boy here. Get a plane ticket". Kyle got there right when Adam got out of surgery. The nurses would let him stay in there with Adam in ICU because they knew he was going to have to leave the next day. Later in some interview Kyle was doing, he was asked the question, "have you ever been scared?" His reply was when he saw Adam hooked up to all the machines in ICU.

Kyle met Jade at OSU. She, just like Kyle, has been through many uniforms. I met her when she was wearing her OSU softball uniform. She was an amazing athlete. More importantly, she had an amazing heart. Still does. I think of their wedding day and the day of Eli's birth and know this story could go on and on. Sometimes when I ponder those in my heart Kyle still looks 10 years old to me, even though he's doing "husband" and "daddy" things.

This last weekend we were all at their house. Could be pretty overwhelming for most people, but not for Jade. The more the merrier. She loved having everyone there, and we loved being there. Little Eli was all the entertainment we needed. He is so precious to us. We had several family members and a few friends there to see Kyle's new uniform. David Duncan, a fishing buddy of Michael's from Stillwater came over. He's been a great encourager for Kyle to get into police work. Of course, Adam also has encouraged Kyle so much. So as we were doing pictures, I went over and stood between my two big ole' boys, in their matching uniforms. We did this the first time when I was taller than them. They have outgrown me a little.

That big booming voice we heard before the officers walked in? That was my little boy. It didn't sound like "Look at me, Mommy" at all. At least to all the others in the room.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Sunday morning was so sweet. Everyone seemed so glad to see each other, there was such a feeling of family. Michael preached on the angels coming to the shepherds, some of the most insignificant people in the social circles of that time. It wasn't the lowliness of the shepherds that was so interesting. It was the fact that Jesus was born in a stable with the animals because He came to be our Lamb. Our sacrificial Lamb. The Lamb of God. Now He is my Great Shepherd. Isn't it amazing how God did everything He could to show us Jesus? Michael encouraged us to think about what the priorities really are in our lives. To focus on what really is important, instead of things that really don't matter.

At the end of the service 16 year old Jordan came up to be baptized. As he climbed into the horse trough, his two soldier brothers got on each side to help baptize their baby brother. Jordan's back was toward me, Michael was standing by Jordan's brother to help get him down into the water, and I could see through all those manly arms and shoulders to his daddy standing at the other end of the trough. He was standing with tears in his eyes, with his daughter standing between him and his precious wife. Two years ago when this daddy came to church, he sat by himself. Every Sunday when we would all "get up to stretch our legs and give somebody a hug" he would remind me to pray for his wife and kids. Any time he was there he would remind us. God was hearing those prayers. Last year he and his wife were baptized together. So sweet. Every baptism is sweet to me because I know most of the stories that brought them to that point. This one was extra sweet because I saw a praying daddy see another of his prayers answered. I was overwhelmed with the emotion of it all.

We got done with everything and I was getting ready to go home to start the beans so we would have something to dip our cornbread in at the party we were having at the church that night. I went looking for Michael to tell him I was leaving and saw him talking to one of the men of our church. Another man had tried to pick a fight with this man and things got heated. I waited until they were done and drove by where Michael was standing. He leaned in the passenger side window and told me things were okay. I wish I could describe the look on his face. It was a mixture of peace, strength, and responsibility. Many times on a Sunday morning we get to hear of awful things that people are going through, then he will go in to lead us to worship our Lord. After being up most of the night in prayer and study he has to wonder, after a fight in the parking lot, if anyone hears. Maybe that is why he has me. Because I wonder. His face showed no discouragement at all leaning in my window. It was ME who was discouraged. After such a sweet morning and sweet message, someone has to go try to mess things up. As I rolled that window up the tears rolled down my cheeks. Those kind of tears you can't stop once they start. You just have to let 'em go. Once again, overwhelming emotion.

After they stopped, I had such a grateful heart. The kind of grateful heart where you actually feel like your heart is bigger than it really is. I realized that the look on Michael's face was BELONGING. He is where he belongs doing the things God has given him to do. That is where the look of strength and peace came from. I was grateful God called us to this church where the people air their laundry, speak their minds, and love passionately. I was grateful we are not at a place where you have to wonder what is really going on in people's hearts. Here, I know how to pray. There is no guessing.

I was in the kitchen at the party later on that evening and told Wendi to listen. You could hear the Alan Jackson CD playing Christmas songs, the dominoes clanking together, the youth in a corner playing cards, people laughing all over the room, and the little ones playing up on the stage. It was sweet. That night the family we have here overwhelmed us again with a gift of love that we never knew was coming. We belong here because God put us here.

It was SUPPOSED to be Michael who preached that sermon, baptized Jordan, and talked through an altercation that morning. It was SUPPOSED to be Michael who listened at the Christmas party to a sweet, tearful lady tell of an unpleasant diagnosis a few days before; and hear that night of the same type of diagnosis for another one of our precious widows. He was the one who was SUPPOSED to get the call the following morning to meet the ambulance at the hospital because one of our sweet sisters in the Lord did not wake up. He is the one who will stay here to make sure she gets the homegoing celebration she deserves this weekend while the girls and I make a trip to Tulsa to see Kyle graduate the academy. The look on his face was BELONGING because he is right where he is SUPPOSED to be. I love him more than I ever have.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Changing Seasons

The Chipmunks are singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", the Applejack is cooking on the stove with Daddy's old white coffee cup on the spoon rest to dip and pour it into mugs, and the girls and I are decorating the Christmas tree. The tree this year is prettier than it has ever been. We all agree. It doesn't make sense, though, since it has the same lights, angels, and ornaments tucked in the branches that we have used in years past.

It was later as I was revisiting Christmas's past that I realized the difference. Always before, most of the older kids were here to help decorate. Jade and Kayla did a great job making the house so Christmasy. The boys would each put on a couple of ornaments, claiming their jobs done. This year it was me and the three younger girls. We were making our own new memories. As I pulled out ornaments with pictures and ornaments with faded fingerpaint I took the time to take them in. I think because they weren't here to put them on, it became more real to me that we are in a changing season. Trying to plan a time around work schedules to get together is getting complicated. We all really like each other and want to spend time together. I cried a little bit, feeling a little sad about it all. Then I got a phone call about a mom just a few miles from us who just found her son dead in his closet. I begin to pray for all the moms who will never get to put arms around their kids again, whether they are in jail, in the war, or in heaven.

I have so much to be thankful for. So Much. The girls love to do things like we've always done them because that brings back good memories for them. They like playing the record player with all the old albums that sound scratchy when the needle hits the vinyl. They like the Applejack cooking even if we don't drink it. The fire going and the Sugared Plums candle lit. Changing seasons is a good thing.