Thursday, February 23, 2017

Everything needed to be happy I learned from an outhouse




Grandma Birdie was a natural redhead, a color my tomato bisque turns when I add extra cream. She laughed frequently, listened intently, and anytime she had Keebler fudge striped cookies, I went home with a handful of them.

She made sure of it.

What she didn't have was indoor plumbing. Visiting her and Grandpa on their rural Oklahoma farm meant traveling back, back, baaaaack to an era where water was pumped from a well and the bathroom was a good 100-feet or more from the house.

Trust me. You wanted it that far.

They lived on the original 160-acres my great, great grandfather claimed during the Oklahoma Land Run and raised their four children in the original settler house, which consisted of three rooms - the kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom.

Visits to my great grandparent's farm meant lots of time sitting outside under an enormous elm tree and, yes, hiking to the wooden outhouse when nature called.


Just do your business.


You didn't dawdle in Grandma and Grandpa's bathroom. You got in, got done, and got out. In between times, you tried to ignore the smell, the flies, and the wasps buzzing overhead.

This was the beginning of my love affair with plumbers.

Water was found in two metal bowls in the kitchen. One was for washing your hands. One was for drinking. Both were filled by pumping the water out of a natural spring well, which kept the water abnormally cool and super duper delicious.

Just don't confuse which bowl was which.

That's so unfair.


I don't know how that remarkable woman lived every day where simply going to the bathroom at night, in the cold, or in the rain was a miserable chore. But she did.

Every morning, Grandma headed to a local restaurant where she worked as the cook, while Grandpa farmed. Then both came home, sat in their comfy furniture, ordered Chinese take-out, and binge watched 24.

Yeah, no. They came home and worked more.

You were never around either of them and heard a word of complaint. Or even a grouchy attitude. They were lovely people. Funny and smart. Quick to laugh, quick to give out hugs, and always thinking of others, even when others had so much more.

(Is that kind of strength and graciousness hereditary? Um, some. My mother has it. But it skips a generation.)

Thank God for every flush.


Ask me what I want in life, and I could rattle it off alphabetically. Ask me what I'm grateful for and I need a minute to think.

Hey, I'm a work in progress.

Grandma Birdie was the opposite. She never focused on what she didn't have but what she did. And it served her well.

I think of her nearly every time I turn on my faucet, take a shower, run a load of laundry, get filtered water from my refrigerator, or stumble to the bathroom at night. She's the image in my head reminding me that, no matter what happens in life or what I face, I can always live with a grateful heart. And it'll serve me, well, too.

It's really too bad more didn't have the chance to know her.

Maybe then the people complaining about not having free college and free healthcare, demanding raises they didn't earn and a lifestyle they can't afford, emotionally distraught over opposing viewpoints or lost elections, could find happiness in their self-imposed misery.

Because - and I'm only guessing here - I bet they have a toilet that flushes.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love's a Lover AND a Fighter

I'm repurposing this blog from 2014, with a few added revisions and thoughts. It fits me most Valentine's Days because the fight of life doesn't take a break even for a day beautifully dedicated to chocolate consumption. (I'm a dark chocolate junkie in case anyone is itching to send me some.) If your day is more about warring than loving, know you are loved even when you are called into war. 
X's and O's
Tara Lynn



"Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, 
and endures through every circumstance." 

1 Corinthians 13:7

Love, I've wondered, may be made out of mohair.

It's warm, fuzzy, cute, and when you're wearing it, everyone around you and everything you touch is sprinkled with a little piece. Strands of mohair also stick to your lip gloss and love might do that, too.

That's the cutesy side to love. The flowers and candy and such. The fat, diapered baby with arrows. The rom-coms and date nights. And there's not a bloody thing wrong with any of it.

So it's cheesy. So what?

Revel in it, my friends. Enjoy the ridiculousness. Life has lots of serious moments so never discount the lighthearted ones.

The soft stuff, however, isn't what I'm thinking about today. Today of ALL days I'm thinking about fighting. Real left hook/right hook kind of fighting. No holds barred style. The kind that hurts and usually draws blood.

In other words, today I'm thinking about love.



This song by Switchfoot found me months ago on a day too heavy to live underneath. A day I was driving myself to the hospital, yet again, to get more bad news, yet again, and all I could think about was how I didn't have any fight left in me.  I was tapped out.   

At that moment, I'm not sure I loved anything enough to throw a punch for it. Not even my own life. It was a day after a long siege of days where pain and struggle and uncertainty were the only things on my horizon or scheduled for tomorrow.

I drove, but I drove without hope. And that's when this song came on.


Down but not out


Life at that moment wasn't worth the fight. Neither was my future, my dreams, my faith, or my hopes, which had faded like draperies in east-facing windows. But I had no options but to keep moving forward because, in life, there's no such thing as reverse.

So I drove. And I listened to this song.

This is what the Switchfoot frontman Jon Foreman said once about the thoughts behind the song:

"From time to time we all come to those difficult moments of struggle when life becomes a fight. Maybe we are depressed and can't seem to find a way out. Or maybe we're dealing with the loss of someone we love. And maybe in that existential moment we begin to wonder what we're living for, what we're aiming for, what we're struggling for."

Love, he explained, is the only thing worth fighting for.

Take it to the mat 


In the middle of nothingness, when I'd lost all purpose and heart to take one more hit or go one more round, God was showing up to tell me if all I had was Him, then He, alone, was worth the fight.

Not the life I had wanted but didn't have. Not the plans I had designed but couldn't complete. Just God. Just love. That's all I needed. If He was the only thing left about my life, then it was still worth fighting for. And He would be its Savior.

Again.

During recovery, this song became my anthem. I played it A LOT. Still do. And on days when all I can do is put one foot in front of the other, I still put on my headphones, turn on this song, and put one foot in front of the other.

If this finds you in that kind of a moment, or that kind of a month, year, or decade, then all I have is one piece of advice:

Love, all by itself, is worth fighting for. Even in the moments you don't feel it or see it. Even if you think all you have is the hope of love.

Don't give up, my friends. Don't grow cold or hardened or detached from the hope that things can and will improve, that God will answer you one way - one day - or another. Whatever in your life has died, you have a Savior who specializes in resurrection.

Happy Valentine's Day.


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Prove the doubters wrong. The audience'll love it.


At halftime, the game was over.

The Patriots had gotten on the board, but only by the instep of Stephen Gostkowski, who scored a field goal as a backup plan. By the third quarter, the scoreboard was napping. The Patriots hadn't drained the Falcon's first quarter juice. And, with Tevin Coleman sipping Mai Tais in the end zone, the 25-point lead could be cemented and left to dry.

The pundits. The fans. The experts. Everyone knew Super Bowl 51 was done. Just ask them.


If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your Super Bowl predictions.


People are calling it the "greatest comeback in Super Bowl history" and it's the first to ever go into overtime.

The year of the underdog, apparently, isn't over. Not even after the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA finals, Coastal Carolina won the College World Series, Brexit won in the UK, Donald Trump won in the US, and the Chicago Clubs' defeated the Curse of the Billy Goat.

Everyone destined to lose just keeps winning. How glorious.

If anything, 2016, and now 2017, is teaching us there are no guaranteed winners and no written in stone losers. What is guaranteed, however, is that there'll always be a buttload of doubters.

Discouragement approaching from the north.


Whatever your hopes or dreams, you've likely faced opposition, naysayers, questions, skepticism, and doubt. It all comes as a standard package.

But separating the doubters from someone only speaking the hard truth is like peeling apart two layers of phyllo dough. Pieces of one often stick to the other. Even people only doubting for doubt's sake often have historical precedence and even reality on their side.

Think about it. Who wins a Super Bowl in overtime? Until Sunday, no one.

So how do we tell the difference between what is doubt and what is reality?

Um, yeah. I don't think we can. But do we need to? Fourth quarter comebacks are only thrilling when we don't know they're coming.

Take doubt with a stiff upper lip.


I have a doubter in my own life. (Several actually, this guy's just more vocal about it.) He thinks my dream of being a novelist is a joke that just keeps on giving. I try to avoid him but my tries don't always work.

When we do cross paths, I'm forced to go through the exact same conversation every time. Not kidding. Exact.
"So...sold any books lately?" Laugh, laugh, laugh. 
"Yes."
"Really?"
"Yes."
"Are you going to write another one?" Laugh, laugh, laugh. 
"Yes."
"Really?"
"Look! Up in the sky! Is that an asteroid on a collision course with earth?" Run, run, run.

Now is not the time to take a knee.


If you're struggling to see your dream materialize, I hear you and I'm with you. But, even in my most difficult moments, I know I can't stop moving. Even an inch forward is forward.

We will get discouraged. There's an entire world out there itching to predict our failure. But no one can see the future. (Refer to, pretty much, the entire freaking year of 2016 for evidence.)

Tom Brady could have slowed down, let the inevitable happen, and accept what everyone else was seeing on the scoreboard.

But, he and the Patriots decided...nah...we'll keep playing football.

I love how one sport's writer explained the game's sudden shift in the fourth quarter, "Brady was making clutch throw after clutch throw..."
Confession: I had no idea what that meant so I looked up the definition of "clutch" and it's awesome.

Clutch:
"...the phenomenon of athletes under pressure, often in the last minutes of a game, to summon strength, concentration and whatever else necessary to succeed, to perform well, and perhaps change the outcome of the game." 

Whatever else. Whatever is necessary. Whatever energy you have. Whatever talent is untapped. Whatever diligence you can maintain. Whatever ideas you can execute. Whatever courage you can summon. Whatever humility is required. Whatever hard knocks you have to take.

Whatever else is needed to prove the doubters wrong. Do whatever else.

What's my whatever else? Book number two. It's coming out this year, hopefully. And, who knows, maybe the next time I see my doubter I can hand him an autographed box set.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Can anything calm the nation's civil unrest? Well...there is this one thing.



"Who is your God?"

A guy asked me this once, while my dad slept in St. John's Surgical ICU after having emergency brain surgery. It was my 26th birthday. And, to celebrate, my dad had a slow-bleed aneurysm.

We do birthdays big in my family.

I was, understandably, upset. But calm. It's a sleight of hand trick I do with my emotions:
See the emotion? Perfectly normal emotion, yes? Now...watch closely. Don't take your eyes off it. Poof! It's gone. Where did the emotion go? 

The guy, someone I was casually dating until that exact moment, decided this was a great time to instruct me. I mean, why not? I was at leisure. Just hanging out listening to my digestive juices feed on my stomach lining.

Because I wasn't weathering this emergency with zen-like faith, because I feared for the future, he believed it was a good time to question my love for my father and for God.

I decided to get some air. So I went outside and set a limo on fire.

It's the end of the world as we know it.


People are upset, apparently. You can tell by all the genital costumes. The current national climate, if nothing else, is doing wonders for the poster board business. There's nothing quite like an angry, violent mob to make you thankful your parents spanked you as a child.

I get that people are anxious. I think some are even genuinely so. But, like all mob mentalities, some are just there for the feeling of mobraderie. Others because they're paid. A few because they like playing in the street. And some because they're pyros.

For those truly afraid, I'm sorry. Fear sucks. Whether founded or unfounded, it's a lousy emotion.

And, since you're afraid and this is the perfect time to ask, "Who is your God?"

He is Who He says He is.


The question comes off jerky, right? I thought so, too.

The crazy thing about jerks, though, is sometimes they put their foot in their mouth and say things that bring comfort instead of their intentioned rebuke.

Poor jerks. Can't catch a break.

When that guy asked me that question oh so long ago, I began to hear the "who" as a homonym (** a word that sounds the same but has a different meaning.**) Not "Who is your God? Is it your father?" but "Who is your God? What's He like?"

What is His character, heart, personality, and what has He promised He will do? If I could remind myself WHO God is, wouldn't that help me face what I feared?

So, in that moment of terrible unrest, while my father underwent yet another emergency brain surgery only a few days later, I asked God to remind me Who He is. And His answer helped me then, has helped me since, and I hope helps you now:

"Be strong and courageous for I will never leave you. I will never forsake you (Deut. 31:6). I watch over you and I never sleep, never slumber (Psalm 121:4). I never take my eyes off you. I hear every cry of your heart (Psalm 34:15). I am here now, holding your hand, and I'll help you always (Isaiah 41:13). Calm your troubled heart and trust me (Romans 15:13). I will give you peace even in the midst of your fear (Philippians 4:7). And, wherever you go, I will be with you (Joshua 1:9)."

I hope this helps. May you find peace even while crazed people burn trash in the street.