The Place of Refuge

On our 10th wedding anniversary, Christy and I were blessed enough to be able to travel to the Big Island of Hawaii. As we got there, we couldn’t believe the beauty and all that Hawaii had to offer. We went all over the Big Island and about halfway through our stay there, we asked the owner of the house we were renting what is a must see. He asked what all we had seen and done and he let us know we had missed one of the coolest places. It was called The Place of Refuge. He really didn’t explain it except it was the oldest place there and it had tons of turtles. The next day we went to this place and what we found had a profound meaning. It was truly breathtaking and amazing. It was a place that all the way to today, sticks with me.

The Place of Refuge was built by the original warriors of the islands. It’s made from volcanic rock and was completely handmade. This place is situated right on the coast and has places where the warriors could launch their boats for battle. The walls are tall enough were it would hide the people inside and thick enough where it would be hard for their attackers to launch arrows from their boats to reach the inside. The thickness of the walls also protected the civilians from attackers being able to climb the walls and jump over. The walls were feet thick and if an attacker was found on top, they would be easily seen and likely killed before they could reach the inside for an attack.

Inside the walls the civilians had everything they needed to survive. They had huts to rest in, places to build boats out of the trees inside the place and places to cook their food. But most importantly, there was a pond situated in the middle of this place. As our guide explained the place and when we got to the pond, we could tell the water looked perfect. Someone in our group asked about the pond and asked if it were safe to drink. The guide started talking about the reasons they built this place where they did and it was because of that pond. It’s situated perfectly in the middle and due to the porous lava rock directly underneath it, salt water from the ocean bubbles up and as it goes through the rocks, the salt is completely filtered out and it’s the only true fresh water on that side of the island. This was the most important piece to their place of refuge. Without fresh water, they couldn’t survive.

With this in mind and every time I see our pictures of this place, I think about our places of refuge. We all have them. Sometimes it’s a place. Sometimes it’s a person. Sometimes it’s a group of people. Sometimes it’s isolation from others. Sometimes it’s our God. Sometimes it’s words from people. There are many places where we get our refuge. Our refuge is our safe place. It’s a place where we can fill our tanks when we are empty. It’s a place where we can heal when we are hurting. It’s our place and that’s important.

This past weekend, we had E2 with us while she was on a home visit from the ranch. We’ve had her in our family for over 5 years and when we brought her into our home, we hoped to give her a place of refuge, not a place of trauma like she had known for all 8 of her years before us. We had hoped to be able to give her a sense of peace and safety in our home in our family. We had hoped for her to run to us, not from us. We had hopes but as we went from day one to week one to month one to year one to the time we moved her to Boys Ranch, our hopes were just that. Hopes.

As she moved to the ranch, we had hopes again. Hopes that the ranch would be a safe place for her because most of the kids there are just like her. A place where she didn’t feel she had to attach to anyone because everything there is temporary. There will be home moves, new house parents from time to time, kids in and out and no promise of staying there until high school graduation. With each home visit, we noticed the ranch wasn’t a place of refuge, it was simply a place where she was trying to learn. Again, we had hoped for E2 to find that place of refuge and again, our hopes were just that. Hopes.

But this past weekend, we noticed something different in our home. We noticed she had a peace while in our home. We noticed she was more compliant than she ever had been and we noticed she was resting in our home. We didn’t see a ton of anxieties we saw just 2 weeks before and she was peaceful this time. As the weekend went on, we were on guard. We were waiting for the moment when things changed but they didn’t. As I talked to her before we took her back to the ranch, she said, “Dad, I’ve enjoyed being home this time. I’ve felt better than I have in a very long time and I hope to come home more often.” This was the first time since we’ve had her living with us where she felt peace in our home. I was over the moon excited because what we had hoped for from the beginning, is slowly becoming truth. She is finally finding our home and our family as her place of refuge. She’s beginning to see it’s a safe place and she is starting to believe we aren’t going to leave her. She knows she will always have this place to come and fill her tank when it’s empty. She knows she can be honest and herself without getting into trouble. She finally feels she can begin to trust those closest to her. And that’s huge for a kid like her.

Our prayer from here on out is she continues her growth at the ranch and when she’s home, she can find a place of refuge. She can find a safe place where the arrows of life can’t get to her. She can find a hug if she needs one. She will have clean water and plenty of food. A place where she can relax and not have a worry about her day, week, month, year or future. A place where she can play games or not. A place where she can be built up, not torn down.

A safe place is what we all need and hopefully E2 has found hers in ours. We hope this continues but we also hope our place can be a place for all of us to find refuge. We hope our home is inviting and a place where we can fill our tanks. I hope I am doing enough to fill the tank of my wife and kids daily so they can make it through their busy days. I hope each one of you have a place to call a refuge. I hope each of you have people in your life who breath in love and truth, even when it’s not what they are comfortable doing. If you don’t, pray for one. Find a safe place and if you can’t find that place, rest in Jesus. He is our ultimate refuge and that’s our beginning of truly finding peace and a place of refuge.

Well Hello Beautiful

Well hello beautiful….

Those were the first words I ever spoke to her and she didn’t even know they were directed towards her. Those words flew out of my mouth as I walked into the room where she was sitting. Those words changed my life that day and I didn’t even realize it. Those words still ring true every time I see her. Those were the first words spoken to Christy. Those words started our story. Now, the rest of the story….

I’m not lying, those were the words I said as I walked into Daniel’s room and saw Christy sitting in a chair in his room. Daniel was a friend of mine who had recently broken his collar bone. I was coming by to check on him and Christy just happened to be there at the same time. I was happy to come check on Daniel but when I walked into that room and saw her there, I was like, um, who are you?

I knew I was there to see Daniel but I couldn’t take my eyes or thoughts off Christy. I remember it so well, I even had a VCR tape with an amazing hit made in that weekend’s Dallas Cowboys game and wanted Daniel to see it. I put in in his VCR and we watched it over and over. I think Christy was bored with it but it is who I am!! I remember her walking out of the room and down the hall to the kitchen to get something to drink. My eyes followed her the entire way but my mind told me to stay in the room and not follow her. I wanted to leave that room and go down the hall with her to talk to her one on one but I just couldn’t do it. Was she dating Daniel and I didn’t know it? Who was she? I had a first name and that was it. I was absolutely mesmerized by her. Her smile, her eyes, the way she talked and carried herself. I knew I had to get to know her better. I was sad when she had to leave and all I could do is simply say, I hope to see you again soon. As I smiled, I winked. Because it’s what I do. I wink when I get excited and smile. I still do but only at her. It’s my way of saying, I love you without saying it. It still makes her giggly.

As I came back to visit Daniel daily, I asked lots of questions about her. I wanted to know more about her and how I could reach her. Daniel and many of our friends told me she was way out of my league and to get over it because she would never say yes to a date with me. They discouraged me every time I brought her up but I kept pushing. I had just recently had my heart broken but I was way over that. I did all I could to talk to my friends about Christy. They gave me just enough to shut me up but I really wanted more. I was out of high school and she was a junior in high school and I didn’t care. I really wanted to get to know her better and was adamant about it. As time went on, she came by to check on Daniel and I got to know her a little better but still, nothing to tell me if she felt the same.

I really didn’t think she felt the same way about me until another mutual friend, a girl, came to me and said, hey, Christy likes you and I think y’all would be great together. This was just a few days before Halloween 1992 and I was in shock. I had been playing my cards close as to not get my hopes up. Daniel had a party planned at his house Halloween night and I was expected to be there. I was fairly hesitant at first because a crazy girl who liked me was going to be there as we my recent ex. Then when I found out Christy would be there, I was all in!! I remember what I wore. Actually, she remembers what I wore too. It was a pair of jeans and a red, white and blue Adidas sweatshirt. I came as myself because I just don’t do dress up. Christy came in this red Mexican senorita dress and she was STUNNING!!!!!!! When I walked in, Daniel’s mom let me know because of the other two girls there, she had asked Christy to kind of be my date for the evening. We were to hang out and when there were things to do as couples, we were to do them together. His mom thought this would be best for me so the other two girls weren’t a bother to me. I had no idea at the time but Christy was just as excited about this as I was.

The only mistake I made that night was not walking her to her car and asking her out at that moment. That moment came the next week when our mutual friend came to me and flat told me to go and ask her on a date before it was too late. It took me 2 more days to get the courage up to do it but I finally did. I was super nervous she would actually not answer the door if she saw it was me or say no. Or even worse, if her parents said no because I was in college. I had lots of anxiety and that wasn’t like me at that time in life. At that time, I was a cocky kid who didn’t know what I didn’t know. I was hot stuff and I knew it. HAHA!! But for some reason, the thought of walking up to her door and asking her out was absolutely freaking me out.

After I rang the doorbell, I stood and waited. I knew she was home because her car was out front. She opened the door and I was so happy. She invited me in but was kind of hesitant because her parents weren’t home but she knew her mom would be home any minute. After talking for a few minutes, I finally got the nerve up to ask her out on a date the next evening. She said yes and we started looking at the paper for what movie to go see on our date. I couldn’t take her out to dinner that night because I already had family plans with a former sister in law and my niece. I wasn’t going to have her meet family on our first date. No way, I wanted a second date!! We decided on the movie Sneakers. Her mom came in from work and we were introduced. She said, “Dennis, it’s nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.” That made my heart skip a beat because I knew at that time, she had been talking to her mom about me!!!

I drove a 1979 Chevy pickup that had seen it’s better days. It’s what we could afford for me to have and I was dang proud of that truck! It had a single bench seat like most of the trucks had back then. As I picked Christy up that night for the movie, I opened the door for her and she made herself comfortable on the passenger side of the truck. From here on out, things got pretty fuzzy for me. You see, I was in heaven and I was nervous. As we talked on the way to the movie, I kept looking over and thinking, I can’t believe Christy is on a date with me. I really can’t believe this beautiful and amazing person wanted to spend time with me. I was in awe and again, I was very nervous.

The movie we chose was showing at the mall. That was when the mall movie theater was the place to go see a movie. We were standing in line waiting to get in when I saw some family members. Aunt Eveline and Uncle Wayne came up to me and started talking to me. We talked for a bit and then they left. As they left, I noticed Christy was pretty puzzled. I knew exactly what she was thinking. This guy asked me out but won’t introduce me to people he knows? Honestly everyone, I didn’t admit this to her for a while but that night, I was so nervous, I forgot her name. It took everything I had in me to not pass out that night from my anxiety and nerves. I simply forgot her name and didn’t want her to know I had forgotten her name. We went into the theater and enjoyed the movie. As we left the theater, it had gotten a little cold outside. My truck was good for most things but the heater wasn’t it’s best attribute. As Christy got in the truck this time, I noticed she scooted to the middle instead of staying on the passenger side. As I got in, she asked if it was okay if she got closer to me because she was cold. I was like, YES!!!!!!

I took her home and walked her to the door. I gave her a good night hug and asked if I could see her the next night. She told me no because she had promised a friend she would go on a date with her boyfriend’s brother. I was a bit sad but I understood. I told her to have a great date and I hoped to hear from her sooner rather than later.

That night, after I got home, my brother asked me how my date went. I walked into his room and said, “Rodney, I’m going to marry Christy Wenger. Write it down, we will be married one day.” He laughed.

The next night, I was going to go out with some friends to a party but honestly, I just wanted to stay home and chill. It was a little before 9 when my phone rang. Remember, this was 1992 and there was no caller ID on my phone so I had no idea who it was. When I answered the phone, I was shocked to hear Christy’s voice say hello Dennis, it’s Christy. I was so happy to hear from her for many reasons but mainly because if she was calling me, the other guy had ZERO chance with her. We talked about her “date” and when she got to the point of, oh, you know, he was weird, touchy and just wanted me to hold his quarters while he played arcade games, I knew I was just fine!

That’s really when we decided to be together more. Over the next few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, we went on a few more dates and hung out at each other’s houses with our families. We got to know each other and were happy when we were together. After three weeks of “dating”, we were out front of my house and she was about to leave. To this point, every time we left each other, we simply hugged. I had not kissed this girl and I could tell she was getting frustrated and rightly so. She even told me later she thought something was wrong with her or I just didn’t want to. Absolutely not! There was nothing wrong with her and I wanted to kiss her well before but again, nerves set in every time. After that first kiss, it sealed the deal.

We dated for the next three years and on July 22, 1995, we were married. What I had stated on the first Friday night of November to my brother had become a reality. I married Christy Wenger and she became Christy Amason. I was 21 and she was 19. We were too young. We knew that but at time, we didn’t care. We were young and in love and this roller coaster called life had just taken a turn.

Like most newlyweds, it was fun in the beginning. We were still so young and in college and working and we had no idea there was a whole world out there. We were grown ups and poor but we had each other. As days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months and months turned to a year, we started to have issues. We hid from most of them and 18 months into our marriage, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out and I was sad but I was also prideful and selfish. I remember her coming to me asking me to go see a marriage counselor. I was very against it because I was stupid. Up until that hour we were to go, it was in question if I was going to fight for her or with her about the counseling. We went together and for the first time, I recognized I had problems and so did she. We began working through them and as time passed, we resolved what most of our issues were. Thankfully, Christy fought for us and I followed.

As the years have gone by, we’ve added to our family. We have three kids who are amazing! We graduated from college before having any kids and both of us have owned our own businesses. Over the past 23 years of marriage, things haven’t always been perfect or even good at times. But the love and fight we have for each other has always been there.

More recently, Christy has had to remind me to fight again. Not with her and not just for her but for myself as well. I have become too laid back and honestly, my zest for life just hasn’t been the same. Over the past few weeks, life changes have forced me to look at every aspect of me, her and us. I’m very thankful for this time. It’s brought me back to writing and fighting for what I believe and for my wife and kids. I told her the other day I feel like we are teenagers again. More cuddling on the couch, working on things together and sending each other love notes. It’s been a very nice return to us and I don’t plan on it changing.

I love my wife with all of my heart all of the time. We’ve had our ups and downs but we hold on to each other. We came from different paths to reach the same destination. I hope and pray our kids look at our love story for inspiration and knowledge. We haven’t always made the right decisions, going back to when we first started dating to today, but we’ve always found a way to correct bad decisions. God has brought us and kept us together for His purpose and I’m excited He can use our story to help others. There’s no way I could do this thing called life with anyone else. Christy is my earthly rock and she knows it. She levels me out. She lets me know when I’m being an idiot and she reminds me daily to be great. I have no idea what I do for her but yesterday, she gave me the biggest complement. She told me I was the glue to our family. I was a bit puzzled but she told me I was the one who kept us together. I was the one who made sure she was okay and I take the steps to keep us, us. I didn’t see that so I am thankful to be our glue.

I know the first 26 years of our relationship has had it’s ups and downs and I’m sure there are more to come. But I also know we are stronger today than yesterday because we choose to be. I know our life together isn’t nearly over and this excites me! I look forward to growing old with the love of my life. I’m thankful for a broken collar bone, especially because it wasn’t mine! But without that break, I’m not sure we would have met. I’m thankful I didn’t meet Christy while I was in high school because I’m not sure she would have liked me. I’m thankful it took me weeks to ask her out and I’m thankful she said yes to a 2nd date after forgetting her name on the 1st. I’m thankful she was and is still patient with me. I mean, it took me 3 weeks to kiss the girl of my dreams. What guy does that? I will say this though, I don’t wait any more!!

Thank you Christy Amason for being my earthly rock. Thank you for keeping me grounded when I try to fly in a bad direction. Thank you for loving me, especially when it’s hard. Thank you for being an amazing mom to our kids and thank you for being my best friend. I love you and every time you walk into the room, I smile, wink and say, well hello beautiful. I may not say it out loud because in some cases, it might be awkward but I say it inside every single time.

I love you sweetie!!

Finding Beauty in Brokenness

To be broken is to be fractured, damaged, not in one piece, having given up all hope, in despair. That doesn’t sound like a good thing at all and honestly, it is not for anything, especially a person.

I am broken. Yes, I’m admitting I am broken and am in need of repair. I’m not broken in a sense of a medical condition. My body is actually in pretty good shape, or should I say, is a pretty good shape!! My brokenness is more of a spiritual and heart issue and I have been in the process of finding beauty in my brokenness.

This brokenness isn’t something that is new, it’s been around for quite some time but I have had the ability to hide it, deal with it and live with it because at the same time, others who counted on me, were broken as well. I did not have the ability to help them and help me at the same time. I put others first, which is not new for me but in doing so, I coped with these issues by pushing them down inside my heart and mind instead of tackling my issues head on while trying to help those around me. Due to this coping those around me haven’t been getting the best of me and I am deeply sorry for this and am doing all I can to become a better me for them.

This is not the first time in my life I have been broken but this time it seems different. I don’t know why it seems different but it does. I think over time, the loads I have carried for others have caught up to me. My shoulders are weak, my back hurts, my mind is racing and my heart has been in pain. Due to all of this, my spirit has finally broken and I am in need of repair. I think back to the past few months when I’ve been at my lowest point and I see a pattern of trying to get help but not asking for it because I felt I would look weak and I was not sure if those around me could have helped me with what I needed.

Don’t think this blog is all sad because it’s not. My brokenness doesn’t mean I’ve given up all hope; and neither should you believe there’s a deep issue here. I’m just being completely honest and open here. I’ve been holding hurts, scars, issues with selfishness and pride too close to my heart and not allowing myself to overcome them because to admit I was weak when others absolutely needed me to help carry their load was not acceptable. I had never not been able to help others carry their loads and  although it was very difficult for me, I carried their loads instead of allowing others to help me carry mine.

I was built to carry heavy loads and God has entrusted me with many people in my life who needed me to help carry their burdens and love on them the best way I knew I could during their times of brokenness. It’s in this where my brokenness has occurred. I have hidden scars from others and myself instead of wearing them for all to see. I have hidden selfishness and pride so deep it’s who I became. When we have scars for all to see, others usually ask, how did that happen? That can open up a chance to share your scars story and to have them possibly help you heal those hurts. We should wear our scars as part of our story so we can overcome them and overcome how we got them so we never go back to that place unprotected from the pain. We shouldn’t hide our scars where nobody can see them, especially those closest to us. When we do that, it hurts each of our relationships. I hope to wear my scars proudly because dang it, I earned them!!

Within this brokenness, I have had to dig deep into every part of my heart, mind and soul. I have had to admit things to myself and others I didn’t want to admit. I’ve placed my brokenness out for those closest to me to see and those people are helping me in ways they may never know. I have had to take my burdens off my shoulders and my back so I can rest and heal. I have had to empty myself of myself and fill myself with God’s word, His promises and His grace. I’ve been granted grace by those who love me the most during this time and I think it has brought us closer together. I have a long ways to go until I am complete again but in my brokenness and being at one of the weakest moments of my life for quite some time now, I know beauty will soon bloom.

I know every scar and weakness I have can be made beautiful. I know during this time of healing and restoration, I will be completely put back together and will be even better than before. I know I will be stronger than ever before and harder to break in the future. I know my outer strength that everyone has seen for so long will become that strong inside my heart, mind and soul. My shoulders are weak but are getting stronger. My back hurts but the pain is much less. My mind has been racing but is now transforming and slowing. My heart has been in pain but it is being filled with joy, peace and love. I am surrounded by the best support group a person could ask for during this time.

I know when my brokenness is healed, I may look a bit different. I may look at things in different ways and I may speak, act and laugh differently. I really have no idea how all of this will change me but if all of these things happen, in the end, I know when I am healed I will be able to use this time for God’s glory. I will be exactly who I need to be for those around me. This excites me and I look forward to every piece of me being put back together again so I can use my brokenness to help heal others!

If you find yourself broken, don’t give up. Hope is around the corner. Help is always there and may come from those closest to us or from someone we least expect. Don’t withdraw, run toward others. Don’t think about the scars and hurts, write them down, speak them out or get them out any way you can. The longer you hide them, the deeper the break will be and the harder it will be to heal. It’s time for each of us to find where we may be broken and find our beauty in our brokenness. If we can all do this, imagine the beauty each of us will exude!!!!!!

Life’s Winter

Winter.

With one word, I scared many of you. With one word, I made you think of cold days, snowy weather and cabin fever. With one word, I may have made your heart stop or at the very least skip a beat.

I know, fatman weather is why each of you probably what you feel I like post will be about but hang with me and let me tell you why I love winter! If I’m being honest, winter hurts at times. The cold wind, the snowy days, the sleet pounding so bad against your face it hurts. Winter hurts at times. But winter is also the time in the natural cycle of life where we should be able to grow the most and we don’t even realize it because at times, winter is just cold and harsh.

Even though winter can hurt, winter doesn’t scare me, it energizes me. Being in the lawn and garden industry for so many years, I fully understand why living in a place where winter actually occurs is part of the natural way of keeping things healthy. During winter, plants either die back to the ground, they fully defoliate or they thrive. I’m not talking about annuals here because they aren’t made to survive all seasons. Plants that are perennials, need winter to get their energy back for next year’s growth and bloom. If they aren’t allowed to do this, then they run the risk of not having the root energy needed for next year’s growth and blooms and eventually, over time, becoming less and less healthy to the point of death. Deciduous trees, ones who drop their leaves in the winter, also need the winter to gain the strength in their root system to thrive next year. While the trees have their fall, insects that survive inside the sap of the trees move up and down with the sap and this is a great time to treat these trees for these boring insects as well. Evergreen plants, they need the winter to put on their growth. They thrive during the cold months and have to have to the cold to have their best chance at survival during the summer. Along with pruning and the natural fall that occurs, winter is also the time where pruning can be done with little to no damage to the plants. During the winter months, people clean out their landscapes and get a chance to clean up their landscapes for a healthier overall landscape. 

Just like plants, our lives need a winter for many reasons. This is the time of the year, especially this year, where winter has been in full force for me personally. I’m pruning bad habits out of my life to make me a healthier overall individual. This winter, I’m attempting to pour into my roots by letting the things I have harbored for too long wither and die. This has been particularly hard but like I said, winter isn’t easy. I’m using this winter to become a better me, not a different me. I hope the work I am doing and will continue to do will show in my every day life, especially to my family. Although change is hard, I’m thankful for the changes this winter has brought about so far in our family. I’m moving forward, no matter what challenges are in front of me. I’m not going to let a cold wind, a snow storm or any other of what winter brings me, tear me or my family down. I will use this winter to make me stronger, therefore, making everyone around me stronger, especially my wife and kids.

You see, winter can be scary. It can be cold and harsh but we can’t truly get a beautiful spring without winter. In order for each of us to bloom the best we can when spring hits and to thrive through the hot summer months, we must face winter. We must embrace it, learn from it and grow in this season. If you’re going through winter right now, know it’s only a season and embrace the challenge because if you’re like me, you’ll be thankful for the beautiful spring changes and the new blooms you produce during the spring. I hope each of you find a little solace this winter and dig a bit in the cold dirt because when we begin to allow the correct pruning to be done and we watch the things of our past that held us back wither away, then we can truly grow!!