I’m Okay

February 28, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

For those of you who know I live in the Texas Panhandle, I’m okay.  For those who don’t, I’m still okay.

Yesterday, the day after the 4th anniversary of the day our church burned to the ground, our house nearly did.  The extensive fires that hit the Panhandle came less than a mile from our house.  In fact, we were in the evacuation zone.  The story is too long to tell here, but trust me, you really start to realize what is most important in that situation.

We had plenty of time to get out because the fire near us was in the canyon and thankfully never jumped the walls.  Had it, our house would probably have gotten torched also.  Think hell in 70 mile an hour winds.  There was simply no controlling that thing.

Because it was relatively contained in the canyon with only a chance that it could jump and head our way, we had the chance to pack up some stuff.  Each person got a suitcase of clothes–my kids all thought to bring their school uniforms for school on Monday.  Then we pulled all of the family pictures off the walls, photo albums, family videos, and the computer.  I grabbed some of my typed up books and our important papers.  My mind kept going, “What can we not replace?”  If it was irreplaceable, it went with us.

I’m still kind of curious what I will find in the next few months that we forgot to bring that I would really have missed, but overall, we did good.  After everything was packed, I blessed our house and trees with Holy Water and my husband and I hugged in our living room and blessed the house.  He decided to get the kids to do that too, so we had  a family prayer meeting in our living room before we left.  My son (who is 8) looked at me and said, “This is kind of weird, Mom.”

He was right.  It was weird.

It was weird thinking it might not be there when you get back.

Thankfully, it was here when we got back.

Now comes the task of putting everything back where it was.  Strange how I can’t remember exactly which picture goes where on walls that I have looked at every day for the last 15 years.  Strange how I finally found my son’s 3 month old pictures that I couldn’t find anywhere when I looked for them a couple months back.  Strange how a month ago my main computer started acting up, so I backed everything up on Carbonite and now that computer’s saying Windows is not on there… so I’m going to have to get it fixed, and who knows if my files will be there or not.

Strange how I’m not panicked about even that because God gave me a reason to back it all up before tragedy struck.

Strange… but oddly comforting too because it just feels like God has been lining up my steps to prepare when I didn’t even know that was coming.


A True Miracle

February 28, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

I’ve been waiting to tell this story.  It’s been going on for more than a month now, but I wanted some evidence that it was the miracle I had a hunch it would be.

So you understand, I’ll start at the beginning of the middle.  🙂

As you know, my young son has had a great battle on his hands for more than a year now.  The battle has a label.  That label is “dyslexia.”  Now, since I found out this was our issue (before that, it was just a frustrating mess!), I have embarked on a quest to UNDERSTAND, to find answers, to learn what it is, why it is, and how to get through it or around it.

Slowly but surely answers have come.  We had gotten to the point that he could DO the work although it took a lot of effort and focus, far more than “normal” kids have to exert for the same outcome.  This meant hours of homework, hours of doing spelling, hours of reading–just to keep up.  But this was far better than before.  Before, we did the hours of work only to keep following further behind.

Well, I have felt since the beginning that God would give me the answers if I could breathe and let Him.

Then the miracle began.

One morning in late January my mom called me.  That morning the radio came on and contrary to her normal shutting it off instantly, her attention caught on the commercial.  It was an ad for a local vision doctor.  She said, “I don’t even know why I started listening, but I caught the doctor’s name and then the word ‘dyslexia.’  I don’t know anything about it, but I thought you might like to look it up.”

So I did.  And it was interesting.

However, we were doing better.  He was finally keeping up.  I didn’t really see the point of trying something else when it’s tough to get all of the “helps” we have found.  But I filed that info away in my brain and went on with life–for about six hours.

That afternoon, I got our school’s Wednesday Notes–this is the weekly communication from the school.  At the back of the Notes was a little yellow half-sheet of paper.  It announced an upcoming meeting at a local church… featuring this doctor!  Talk about getting my attention!  Wow!

However, at the time my husband was out of town so I was doing the single parent thing, and it was during the bone-chillingly cold snap we had around here.  I didn’t want to go to the informational meeting.  It was on one of the few “free” evenings we have.  Plus, I needed to be home helping my son with homework, not driving all over town on some fool’s errand that probably wouldn’t help anyway.  (I really probably knew better, but those are the arguments I used to get God to understand that I really DIDN’T want to go!)

Well, I have learned when God wants me to do something, He will send me THREE messages.  The first gets my attention.  The second tells me yes, God is serious.  The third simply cements that yes, this is from God and I’m to do it.

So I figured if God really wanted me to go, He would send me a third message.  It didn’t take long.  The next day I was cleaning my table.  On it I found a small post-it note with the information for this Center that had been written by one of the teachers I had met with… in September! Now, apart from God, what are the odds?!

I still didn’t want to go, but I know a clear message when I get it, so I bundled up and went.

The meeting was interesting, but I still thought we were doing okay.  However, I set up a free screening because there were some things they talked about that my son was doing.  We went a few days later.

Sure enough, his eyes weren’t playing fair with him.  They “jump around” as he’s trying to read.  They don’t “hold” and “flow” like they are supposed to.  They told me the next step was to get a full assessment by an optometrist.  I figured that would take a few weeks to get.  So I took my son back to school and went home.  I made the call, and they had had a cancellation (because of the cold ;), could we come in that afternoon?


So we did.  After the appointment (which showed that he sees 20/20), we had an hour to do nothing.  So I decided to run the paperwork back to the Vision Therapy Center.  Back for the second time that day, I turned in the paperwork, and lo and behold, they had also had a cancellation for the NEXT morning.  We could do the full 3-hour battery of tests.

I felt like the Holy Spirit had just put me on the FAST track of this thing.

We went the next morning.  Two weeks later I went back for the results.

Glory hallelujah!  Was that illuminating!

My son’s vision is–a dichotomy in inconsistency.  The only thing consistent is it’s inconsistent.  Some tests he scored in the 84 percentile, some he scored in the 9 percentile.  In one of them he scored BELOW the 4 year old level.  He’s EIGHT!


So we decided to do the therapy.  They had an opening on Feb. 22–nearly a month to the day that this whole thing started.

We went for the first time, and it’s truly a miracle.  I don’t mean that like in the metaphorical sense, I mean it in the literal sense.  They showed us one visual “trick” to learn spelling words.  We tried it on our spelling words last night:  phantom, pharaoh, phrase, quiet…  and in ONE night he learned some of the hardest words he’s ever been faced with.  Amazingly, he retained that ability this morning!

Who knows what he’ll be reading in six months.  I can’t wait to see!

-6 Days, 81 Days

February 24, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

The weather has been rather weird around here recently.  In fact, one day we set a record for the all-time low for the day, -6 degrees.  Around here, that’s called “cold.”  It was so cold that it tried to snow and just… couldn’t.

Everything froze.  Pipes everywhere.  We dealt with two broken ones in our shop.

Luckily we made it through that one, but I have to say seeing the temp in my van go above 10 degrees was cause for cheering by my kids.

But here’s the weird part.

The very next week… literally 7 days later, we set another record.  This time it was for the all-time high for that day, 81 degrees!

I thought this a great metaphor for life.  Face it, we all have -6 days–days when nothing goes right, when we just want to crawl back in bed and forget the world exists, days when just to keep moving takes all we have.  Those days freeze us, paralyze us, attempt to convince that every day from there forward will be a -6 day.  From that perspective, we cannot see a week ahead.

In those days, just making it through the day is cause for thanking God above.

But in those -6 days, we need to remember that there will be an 81 day again–and it may only be a few days away.  And in those 81 days, it’s important to be smart and lay in some “spiritual supplies” in preparation for the -6 days.  Get close to God on the good days.  That way when you need Him in the bad days, your “spiritual supplies” are there and ready to go.

In Honor of Childhood

February 21, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

I have watched this little commercial from the Super Bowl a gazillion times, and it still makes me laugh.  I think it must be something about the fact that when I was 7, my uncle took me to see the original Star Wars in the movie theater.  Now, I hadn’t watched many movies and I sure hadn’t been to the movies very much.  So this spectacle was like overwhelming for my little 7-year-old sensibilities.

And I really remember being SO SCARED of Darth Vadar.  I mean, he was the epitome of evil, and that haunting Vadar music.  UGH!  I remember being so afraid because he could move stuff with his mind in the movie.  That was beyond anything I had ever seen.

The other thread that ties into my fascination with this ad is how incredible it now is to be the mom of a little guy who at times DOES think he can move things with his mind.  He’s fearless, and he knows no boundaries in space and time.  He lives in THIS moment, and his emotions are just out there on his sleeve for all to see.  We call him drama king around here because he’s just so OUT THERE.  Nothing is bottled up, or held back, or denied.  If he feels it, you know it.

So when I watch this commercial, I so see the imagination of this little boy, his fascination with Darth Vadar–not because of his evil but because of his power.  He believes in that imagination that is so inherent in childhood.

I love it when he tries to move the dog, and the dog just looks at him like he’s bored and could the kid please leave him alone.  I love it when he tries to move the washing machine–how big that thing looks in comparison to him.  And does anyone have to wonder what the kid is thinking when it’s his MOM that moves his sandwich over to him?  HILARIOUS!

Then the big scene at the end, when he goes to work the “force” on the car, and it actually STARTS!

I’ve seen my child be this blown away when something he did actually worked.  It’s one of the best experiences as a mom you can get.

The icing on the cake of this one is the dad though, standing in the kitchen with the remote control.  Oh, how many times have we “worked our magic” on something, thinking we were the ones who “started the car” when in reality, our Father up in Heaven has that remote control right there in his hand, and he is enjoying watching us be so incredibly blown away that something “we did” worked!

Thank you to whoever came up with this commercial.  It is now one of my all-time favorites!

Always Remember

February 17, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

I love quotations.  Always have.  They can convey so much in so very few words.  I’ve got quotation books, and I always read the quotes when I get a Guideposts from my mom.  Wisdom is something you can find if you just look a little bit.

I found this quote the other day in a Guideposts, and I love it–especially with my newfound “love” of exercise:

“Always remember that dead last is better than did not finish, which is way better than did not start.”  — from the blog “From Couch Potato To Runner” by New York Times health columnist Tara Parker-Pope

This applies to so many of life’s “I Want to’s.”  You know those things you want to do but never quite find the time to get started.  Like gardening or writing that book or volunteering or exercising.  You’re going to…  Until you WERE going to but….

I think one of the things that stops people is the fear of failure.  And failure can be a BIG stopping point.  But the thing is, I think too many of us make anything less than first place the first time we go out for something “failure.”  We set the standard of “not failure” so high that no matter how good we do, we’re always left with the feeling that we should have done better.

I’ve been reading several self-coaching books by Brooke Castillo, and I love her philosophy that you have to be willing to suck at something if you ever want to get great at it.

Doing “Walk It Out” on my Wii is a great example.  At first, WOW was I lost.  I got dumped off in this whole new world and all there were were these little floating things EVERYWHERE.  At first, I clicked on all of them as I went by so that the song was playing as it kept going “QUE! QUE!  QUE!”

After who knows how long of this, I learned that clicking on every one doesn’t work.  You have to click on one or two and then collect steps to get them.  I have just started my third game, and I’m so much better at it now.  Since I’ve gotten the whole town and country once, I’m not so totally lost this time.  Plus, I’ve learned that it’s more fun for me if I get each goal in half the steps (one of the settings I didn’t know could be changed the first time I did it).

But here’s the thing… I could have been so scared of being bad at it to begin with that I never started.  I could have told myself (as I have in the past) that I just am not good at exercising, so why even try?  I could have… but I didn’t.

So I really like the philosophy of giving yourself credit for running the “race” even if you finish dead last and for starting even if you don’t finish.

What might you be putting off that you’re going to be trapped in “did not start” if you don’t go for it now?  Don’t wait.  You might not get this chance again.

Being Michael Jordan

February 14, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

My husband heard on the radio this morning how much Michael Jordan makes, and it’s some astronomical amount like $176,000 a day… something like that.  Of course my hardworking husband thought that was a pretty cushy set-up.  Then I launched into (hat-tip to Paul Harvey) “the REST of the STORY.”

You see, what they probably failed to mention on that radio broadcast was how Michael Jordan did not make the basketball team at his high school when he was a sophomore.  The coach thought he was too little and not tall enough.  Michael begged the coach to let him play, but all the coach would offer was for him to be the towel boy, which Micheal accepted.  But the coach also said that he got to the school at like six in the morning, and practice didn’t start until seven.  So if Michael wanted to come and practice before practice, he could.

Now, here is why Michael Jordan makes $176,000 a day.  He got up and went to that gym every single morning because he wanted to make his high school team. He did not go thinking he was going to make $176,000 a day someday.  No.  He wanted to play basketball on a real team with a real coach.  So he got up, and he went for an hour every morning to do drills and shoot.

The thing is, from what I’ve read, when he made the team, he didn’t stop.  He was usually the first guy there and the last to leave.  I read somewhere that he would stand in one spot and make like 10 or 20 in a row from that spot before he moved to another spot.

I also read somewhere how many last second-shots he missed as a pro, and it was a LOT.  But he kept practicing and kept working and never gave up even at the buzzer–even if he wasn’t successful 100% of the time.

I saw a kid the other day who will probably be a major league baseball player someday.  He had this attitude as well.  The quote I remember him saying is, “Practice doesn’t make you perfect, but it always makes you better.”

That’s what Michael Jordan did.  He practiced, hundreds of thousands of hours of practice.

However, he did one other thing that makes him so much money now–even though he no longer plays basketball.  He kept his reputation clean.

I believe Tiger Woods had the same singular focus on practice and being at the top of his game, but he let the fame go to his head.  He made some very bad personal decisions, and because of those decisions, he will never make the kind of money he would have made had he kept the main thing (being a good and upright person) the main thing.

I don’t know what your calling is.  I don’t know what you love to do.  But I can tell you like I told a writing buddy of mine the other day, “If you want to get good at writing, WRITE.  Practice.  Do it. You don’t learn to play the piano by reading books about playing the piano.  You learn by doing it!”

What do you want to get good at?  It may not make you $176,000 a day, but then again, Micheal Jordan didn’t know that kind of payoff would come if he put his all into the thing that he loved, so who knows?

Standing Up

February 10, 2011

By:  Staci Stallings

I think one of the best things we can ever teach our kids is to stand up for themselves and for others.  I’ve never really considered just HOW this ability is passed on.  I know I got it from my parents, and I had always hoped to pass it along to my kids.  Well, I think somehow that’s worked.

My oldest daughter (who is now 15) and I had cause a few nights ago to put my “country” theory to the test.  I have always said that people who live in the country just naturally have to learn to do for themselves.  If something breaks, they don’t have the luxury of calling the landlord or the city to complain.  Instead, they have to find a way to fix it themselves.  For example, I always said, if our water well goes out, my husband is the one with the flashlight out there in the cold fixing the thing.

Then the other night hubby was gone.  We had one of those “cold snaps.”  It was like 8 degrees out there.  Well, he called and told my daughter that we needed to go put the heater on the well because he had forgotten to reinsulate the thing when we’d had problems with it some weeks before.  So this time it was not my husband but my daughter and I who had to get all bundled up and trek out there through the cold to go set up the heater.

On the way out there, she carried the heater, and I was telling her how her grandmother was always a very tough lady.  My mom always said she couldn’t figure out the whole thing of boys taking advantage of girls.  To which I always said, “Well, duh.  Boys would never think of taking advantage of you.  They know you would rip them apart and spit them out if they ever tried anything.”

My daughter laughed about that.  She knows her Grandma enough to know the truth of that statement.  We got to the well, got the heater plugged in and working, and all was well.  We came back in the house as the temperature continued to drop.  My daughter decided to take a quick shower so she wouldn’t have to the next morning.  I went to bed.  In about five minutes, here she came.  “Mom, we don’t have any water.”

“Oh!  You’ve got to be kidding me.”

No.  She wasn’t kidding.  We had no water.  So back on with all of the clothes for both of us and back out to the well as the temperature dropped even more.  My smart daughter grabbed the headlight they use camping, and we trekked back out through the cold.  In the well house we finally got a hold of my husband to ask him what to do as we figured out the heater had tripped the breaker.  That’s when he informed us that the breaker is in my son’s room in the house! UGH!

He also told us that we were going to have to drag insulation out there to insulate the well to keep it from freezing because the heater wasn’t going to work.  So back to the house we went.

As we were going, I said, “See, this is why those boys wouldn’t take advantage of Grandma because she grew up like this… having to be tough and just get the job done… cold, snow, whatever.”

That’s when my oldest said, “It’s like the other day, we were in P.E.”  (Now you have to know that the first semester my kind, sweet daughter who is not much on sports happened to take P.E. in a class with eight boys and her.  I was impressed by how strong she was through that–not taking any pushing by the boys AT ALL.  During the second semester two other girls joined the class.)  “We were playing basketball, and I don’t know why, but the boys like to throw the ball really hard at Mallory because she is afraid of it and can’t catch it very well.  It was her turn and the ball went bouncing away and one of the guys went to get it.

“She looked at me (my daughter) and said, ‘He’s going to throw it really hard.’  So I said, ‘Here, stand behind me.’  ‘But he’ll think you’re me and throw it hard at you.’  ‘It’s okay.  Just stand behind me.’  Sure enough, he grabbed the ball and didn’t see that we had switched places because he was running the other way.  He grabbed the ball, turned around, and just fired it at us.”

Now, you’ve got to know, my daughter was the one who had a TERRIBLE time learning to catch when she was little.  But her just-older-than-her boy cousin has come over often to play football with my kids in the backyard, and she’s got some skills now.

She said, “I reached up and I caught it right here (just above her head).  I pulled it down real slow to my side and gave him the evil eye and I said, ‘Don’t ever do that again.'”  She said, “He put his head down and said, ‘Okay.’  Then I said, ‘And don’t do it to Mallory either.'”  She said, “I looked around and all the boys were just standing there staring at us but I didn’t care, they shouldn’t be doing that to her.”  The guy just kept his head down and said, “Okay.”

She said, “I stood there for a minute and then I shot and made it and we went on with the game.  Funny, they quit doing that to Mallory after that.”

Not sure where she got THAT from, but WOW!  Seems to me she’s learned about standing up and not letting bullies run over people.

Oh, and we did fix the well.  Maybe we’re both tougher than I thought.