Since the day our daughter could talk, she asked for a horse. She is an animal lover. She used to say, “I am a REAL animal lover” when she was younger. A lot of animals have been adopted into our tent over the years. A hamster that liked to bite, a dog on Christmas morning, a chicken that was actually a rooster, a turtle rescued from a parking lot, a snail who had babies, another dog, rabbits that won a blue ribbon, another dog, huge stinky pigs, and a fish just so the child would sleep in her own room. But there has always been one animal that was missing from the collection, a horse.
The tent managers (aka parents) are just like all 40 year olds that end up owning a horse. We are wondering how we got to this point. Of course, we told our daughter she could have a horse one day. It takes a super power to tell her beautiful blue eyes “no.” But we always assumed “one day” would never show up. Surely, she would out grow this horse fixation. Surely, she would realize the amount of time (and money) that goes in to owning a horse. Surely we could delay this request until she is in her 40’s and has a place to board the horse. Surely, surely, surely!
As the horse requests started to come on more frequently after we moved to the country, we made a deal with our horse loving daughter. “If” she was willing to help cover the costs for the horse expenses, “then” we would get her a horse. Before we knew it, she was a Red Cross certified babysitter with business cards, a loyalty card (Every 7th babysitting job is free!) and adorable two-year-old clients.
Happy the horse (he actually came with that name) joined our family in January. Every morning for a month, we have been at the barn at sunrise and sunset, feeding Happy. Three times a week our daughter throws a saddle on Happy and they trot off together through the pastures. They are a beautiful site together. And of course, we all love Happy because he makes us happier.
The 40 year olds in the house (who now own a horse) have learned a lot in this experience.
- Children have dreams and we need to help them achieve their dreams. The spirit of youth is contagious. We all need a little more fairy dust, horse riding and magic moments in our lives.
- Animals teach us about life. Animals are loyal, interesting and social. Life with nature awakens all our senses. The more we experience animals in this life, the more we appreciate creation.
- Responsibility is good for children. Where else will children learn to be responsible Christians? Our tents are full of opportunities to teach responsibility. If we take these opportunities away, we are taking away tickets to success.
- Honor your promises. We made a deal. Our horse lover kept her side of the bargain. We had to keep ours. We all learned a lesson in this deal.
We pray our tent is always a place filled with dreams and life lessons that teach life skills. What dreams are alive in your tent? How can you help make them come true for you and others?
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10
From our Happy (the Horse) Tent to Yours,
There is a quiet storm building in our tent. It is subtle. It is strong. It is powerful. Now and then we get a glimpse of it’s powers. A glimpse came one morning when a member of our family was discovered crying and yelling in the kitchen because she could not locate a shoe. One shoe. The sound coming from the kitchen was loud enough to be heard throughout the tent. We all hurried to see how we might help the situation.
In all of our collective training as pastors, parents and spiritual directing, we were speechless. Speechless. We did not know if we should offer this family member a hug or a baseball bat. So we all just stood still and watched until the storm was over. Everyone was happy to go their separate ways. Before we drove off to work and school, we heard wise words from the eye of the storm, “I think I had a hormone.”
Being human is a little overwhelming at times. Especially when internal storms are building. We do things, we say things, we think things that are not of God. We all mess up sometimes. Our families have a front row seat to our mistakes, breakdowns and failures. The people we live with sometimes see our best and worst sides all in the same day. And yet, we continue to love each other, deeply.
The only way we continue to love is through grace. We have received grace through Christ individually and therefore we are able to give grace to others. Especially to those we live with in our tents. In close relationships, we can practice giving and receiving grace day after day. Sometimes receiving it is more difficult than giving grace.
As you look back on your family this week, where have you seen grace? Who has experienced a moment of grace from someone they love? Who gave grace to someone? What did it feel like?
Grace began pouring into our family member the moment she said, “I think I had a hormone.” Hugs were given and tears were wiped away. We found the shoe. And we assured her that there were many more hormones behind that one. There are also many more moments of grace ahead of us.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
P.S. A wise friend shared a poem with me years ago called “When Children Turn Into Cats.” If your family has had a hormone visit lately, this poem will give you a new perspective! Enjoy!
Whether it is the best way to parent or not, in our tent we practice “all-in” parenting. Because of this we often find ourselves in the middle of family projects where we have NO previous experience. Recently we started “Family Project #674: Bunnies.” This project began just before Memorial Day. We were given five New Zealand rabbits, pens, poop trays and a wonderful consultant (a sophomore at Texas A&M University…whoop!). The rabbits lived on the back porch for two weeks. And then I had a “hissy-fit”. The rabbits could no longer stay on the back porch. The solution…move them to the yard, cap the sprinkler heads in one section, and build a pole-barn. We spent Memorial Day weekend building the barn. (Our motto…family projects bring you closer!! Smile! Ugh). The rabbits moved in and I reclaimed the back porch.
Our next step was an exciting event which we called “The Breeding Party.” At 11 o’clock one night, I found myself sitting in chairs around the pen with a 19 year-old young man and three girls ages 11, 9, and 7. We were watching the rabbits breed. (Mr. Bell has already retired for the evening.) Once the event took place, “The Breeding Party” was over and everyone went to bed. We talked about the event for weeks. And then we waited thirty long days before…BUNNIES!!
These new little bunnies have filled our home with love and joy all week during a week that we needed love and joy. These new bunnies have been moving around in their sweet little bed that their “all-in” mother made for them during a week when comfort from nurturing mothers and friends is just what we needed. These little bunnies have shown us new life in the midst of death during a week when we have seen the fragility of life next to the promise of eternal life.
I hope and pray that you too have experienced moments of love, joy, comfort and new life in your tent this week. Remember…God is always around even during difficult weeks.
Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10
P.S. Bunnies for sale!!!
On Wednesday evening, we received a special invitation to a birthday party. The hostess for the party gave out handwritten invitations to each member of our family. The honored guest was her special doll, Sarah. Sarah was turning three the next day and the party was planned for 8 o’clock in the morning. Throughout the evening, there was a lot of activity going on in the hostess’ bedroom. Candles, Oreos, forks, balloons, streamers, and napkins all floated across the house from various rooms to the bedroom. The computer paper vanished from the printer and was transformed into party hats. No one was allowed in the bedroom for a preview. We had to wait until 8 o’clock in the morning. Not a second before. Finally we all fell asleep while visions of the party danced in our heads.
As 8 o’clock rolled around, we all began our short journey to the party location with coffee in hand. (One person was almost late because they tried to play possum!) The room was decorated with streamers and balloons. At each place setting there was one Oreo with a fork and a glass of water. We sang Happy Birthday to Sarah as she was presented an Oreo-tower with candles on top! The rest of the party included a balloon toss, scavenger hunt and finally a dance party. Three generations were dancing around the bedroom celebrating the day. Smiles were everywhere. Especially on the hostess.
Our little hostess threw a great party and she learned how to do it from our parties. She had paid attention to details even when we didn’t know she was watching. It reminded us that ALL the details that make up our busy days are seen by little eyes and ears. The way we talk to others and the way we talk to each other is recorded in young minds. The way we help strangers and the way we take care (or don’t take care) of ourselves is seen with fresh eyes. The way we connect with God and share our story with others is witnessed by searching souls. It is worth our time to think about the messages we send through our daily details. How do we model a spiritual life? How do we show appreciation for God’s gifts? What does love, grace and forgiveness look like in our lives?
If you have a hard time remembering what it was like to be a child, I recommend eating an Oreo for breakfast. It’s a good way to step out of your busy, stressed, gluten-free adult world and step into a world full of possibilities. All of our adult agendas for the day were put on hold for a brief moment this week. We ushered in the new day in a beautiful way. The party became our devotional. We spent time together and time with God because we know God was a guest too. We could feel the joy and the love through God’s presence.
As we left the party we were given a party favor. A hug.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Colossians 3:12
From our Happy Tent to yours,
This past spring I visited a church in Mississippi. In the service, God wanted me to hear one thing…it takes a village. This simple message came from the youth pastor. He gave the announcement about the youth’s trip to the bowling alley that afternoon. But instead of simply reminding the youth, he was actually challenging the congregation…the village. He was challenging them to become a friend to the young people in the church. The church goal was to partner five adults with each young person in their church. He reminded the village of the goal and encouraged them to get started (or keep going) by going bowling that afternoon. Sounds fun!
This made me start thinking about my youthful years. Did I have five people outside my family who I would call a friend? Did I have five people who mentored me and believed in me? Did you?
These people in my life are called the unsung heroes of my life. Their names are not on any diploma, they will probably not be listed in my obituary and they probably don’t even know the impact they made on my life…but they were my heroes in many ways. They had a conversation with me that changed my life. They saw something in me that I did not see and nourished it until I did see it. They were patient. They would answer my phone call anytime during the day or night. I was always welcome in the homes. Some of them were teachers, coaches, friends, fellow church members, and pastors. They were my village. They were my unsung heroes.
This too made me start thinking and open my eyes. (This is probably why God wanted me to hear one thing that day.) Who needs me?…it’s time to go bowling. Who needs you? There are so many people around us young and old that need a village to love them and encourage them. And it may just be time for you and me to take them bowling (or to something else that sounds fun like eating ice cream).
Paula Gooder wrote a book called Everyday God: The Spirit of the Ordinary. I keep my copy on my back porch to read in the morning. It is warped from being wet and yellowed from being scorched by the sun, but it still shares treasures with me each morning. The other day I read these words:
Part of the point of God’s calling to each one of us is that we are called to be God’s unsung heroes and we will know we are succeeding, not when people begin to notice us but when they begin to notice God.
I would love to chat more, but I think I need to write some thank you notes and find some more people to add to my village…especially if bowling and ice cream are involved!