Light surrounded her. A second later, her room, her family and the bed she was lying in completely disappeared. Light was all there was, sheer white, more brilliant than the sun. She marveled at her ability to look directly at it without its intensity hurting her eyes.
Weightlessness replaced gravity, suspending her in the air. There was peace! All of her burdens, all her pain, simply dissolved. At first, she wasn’t sure she was seeing flecks of color that faded into the light, until the light was color, vibrant and full of tones she never knew existed. The history of her life flashed before her, the good history. For a moment she saw herself lying in her bed, with her family around her, crying. She closed her eyes.
Opening her eyes, she was startled to find herself standing on a hill overlooking a landscape that was richly green, breathtakingly beautiful. Instantly, she had the desire to share this miraculous place with her loved ones. A familiar bark broke her thoughts. She turned to see her golden retriever, Daisy bounding up the hill toward her. Falling to her knees she opened her arms wide. Daisy fell into them knocking her over, licking her face. The dog’s body shook with joy, thumping its tail against her leg. Tears streamed down her face. In her whole life, she had never experienced a surprise that exceeded this moment.
Someone called her name. Recognizing the voice, she turned and saw her mother walking toward her. She ran to her and they fell into each other’s arms, filled with the joy loved ones feel when reuniting after a very long separation. They talked for a while, catching up on the details of each other’s lives. Then her mother said, “Come, I want to take you to the Banquet Hall,” pointing to a brilliant city that suddenly appeared far in the horizon. The city spread vast and wide and was bejeweled with golden light. “It’s in that massive building with the big towers,” her mother said.
They walked down the hill toward the city. Daisy at her heals just like old times. They passed a heard of horses grazing. Two of them lifted their heads as they walked by, grass hanging from their mouths. The sky was crystal clear, full of colorful birds taking flight. They looked like tiny ornaments flying, perching in the trees.
They entered the city through a gate. People greeted her as she walked by. Her mother led her down streets paved in gold, which paled in comparison to the architecture and precious jewels used to construct the buildings. They stepped into the Banquet Hall and she was startled to find it full of people busting about. Busy with the preparations for an unfathomable number of guest. Interior decorators worked on beautifying the hall, all in perfect harmony.
The hall was full of delicious smells wafting from the kitchen, produced by Chefs preparing food. She realized she was hungry. Waiters burst through the kitchen, swinging doors carrying trays full of edibles for the workers to sample. They even gave Daisy a bite. Florists arranged flowers. A construction crew hung fresh garlands from the rafters. The sweet smell of the flowers and greenery impacted her. How long it had been since she pressed her nose to a rose and the rose possessed the sweet rose scent? She realized, that heaven was a place of fruitfulness where a person’s gifts flourished. A flush of anticipation rushed through her as she realized that that her own gifts would flourish too.
Her attention fell on the multitude of banquet tables filling the hall. Some of them were exquisitely adorned. Row-upon-row of table settings carefully prepared. The people working on them radiated a spirit of great joy and anticipation. In fact, anticipation filtered through the air.
Taking her hand, her mother led her through a maze of tables, “We’re preparing for the celebration,” she said, “The banquet that will take place once the whole family has arrived.” They came to a stop in front of an elaborate place setting she knew her mother had prepared for her. And she realized, heaven had foreseen her arrival!
To her right, the table settings were a spectacular sight, exceeding the enchantment of any holiday décor she had ever seen. Each place setting was designed to represent the uniqueness of the person it was made for. Individual, yet connected, like a giant puzzle.
In contrast, the left side of the table was stark and bare, lacking any embellishment at all. Somehow, she knew who the empty places were for—her family still on earth! Instantly, she missed them with a grief so intense, she thought her heart would break.
Understanding, her mother whispered in her ear, “We left their preparations for you. I know this is difficult, but He will help you with this grief. What He will show you is thrilling!” Her mother took her into her arms, holding her the way she had done so many times when she was a little girl.
A great commotion drew everyone’s attention outside. Anticipation intensified as if the air were charged by an electrical current. Excited, her mother grasped her hand exclaiming, “He’s coming for you—to see you!”
At once her knees weakened. A tremor shot through her body as she tried to process what her mother said. She felt so insignificant, how could He possibly take the time to see just her?” Her heart fluttered with nervous anticipation. How should she behave? What should she say? Years of faith had not prepared her for this moment—the moment when you see Jesus face-to-face!
The adults around her stepped reverently aside. But the children abandoned their play and ran to Him calling out His name. He ruffled their hair and touched each little hand reaching for His, giving each of them a bit of attention. Then He looked up and His eyes linked with hers. Time instantaneously stood still, as her passion from a lifetime of faith received its reward. Opening His arms, He called out her name.
He smelled like the seasons combined, the blossoms of spring and the sweetness of summer’s grass, the pungency of autumn’s leaves and the frost of a freshly fallen snow. Their communion was intimate—void of all words. She melted in His embrace and once again the desire for her family entered her heart.
And then, quite unexpectedly, she saw her family on earth, all of them, congregated together consoling each other, filled with sorrow over her passing. She witnessed firsthand how important she was to her family, how appreciated and loved.
Next, He showed her His plan for the future of her family. She was filled with such awe that every concern of hers dissolved in the knowledge that one day all her loved ones would be reunited, her husband, children, grandchildren and future generations to come. She had prayed for them and He was answering her prayers. Together they would dine at the table she helped prepared for them, and when they crossed over, she would be there to greet them rejoicing over each new arrival. There was so much joy to look forward too!
Tenderly, Jesus took her face in His hands, brushing away the tears streaming down her cheeks, “Your journey has just begun,” He said. His broad smile caused her to laugh. They were like two conspirators sharing an intimate secret.
“I have so many questions,” she confessed, “I don’t know where to begin.”
“I have the answers,” He replied, “and all the time in the world.”
He led her to His favorite tree, where they sat under its shade on a soft bed of moss. They talked for hours. He was unhurried, answering her questions, telling her jokes. And then she realized… there was only one thing… only one you could take to heaven with you—the people that you love!
For three years now, I’ve driven passed this tree without giving it a second thought. Whenever I looked at it, I saw this tree in relation to the grove of other trees planted around it. This tree is healthy, a fruitful contributor within the society of trees. It produces oxygen and provides homes for wildlife. It’s also pretty to look at. In fact, based upon the condition of some of the other trees growing around it, this tree is a top performer.
Last winter, when its branches were bare and freezing in the cold, this tree caught my eye for the first time. Take a closer look.
The branches are gnarled, growing close to the ground. One even extends along the ground for several feet. This tree doesn’t have the physical form we’re used to seeing. It’s different. It’s unique, yet despite looking different, this tree performs the same tasks all trees were created to perform and its doing its job well.
This tree has a determination to survive! This is what drew me to it in the first place. Minus its spread of lovely leaves, I can see its struggle. I hear its story!
During the sapling stages of its life something bent this tree over, pressing it down. But it survived the pressure! It continued to grow, becoming stronger and stronger. Although its branches and trunk are bent severely close to the ground, it grew in size, until it was thick enough to hold children and adults desiring to explore and climb it. People who come to the park where this tree lives, utilize its shade, taking a break from the Texas heat. Sometimes pausing for a few minutes to eat a snack, as evidenced by the discarded, plastic cup seen in the picture. Frankly, this gnarled, odd looking tree seems to be everyone’s favorite because of its accessibility, the comfort it provides and its strength.
This tree reminds me of my daughter, my Juliann.
If you’re reading this article… I thank you! I’m also guessing that you are a probably a mom. Simply because I have been told by medical professionals that 99% of the children they see are supported only by their moms. But that was a few years ago, so, if you’re a dad, I thank you even more, for the reason stated above and ask that you not be offended if it seems like I’m only addressing women. I’m not. It’s only because my story is delivered from a woman’s perspective.
As I began writing about my life and motherhood, a sudden flood of memories laced with lessons I learned, began to inundate my brain. Lessons, that years ago I felt strong inclinations to share with other parents who might be facing similar circumstances. My children’s needs ranged from physically handicapped, to gifted, to extreme ADHD. My husband and I were also adoptive, foster parents, which opened our eyes to the effects of physical and emotional abuse in children and adults. In addition, I personally, am extremely ADHD and Dyslexic. Which I now can happily say, I have thoseconditions, but they DON’T have me! Inspired, I began to outline what I want to share with other parents. Therefore, this series Raising A Child with Special Needs, will be delivered in several parts, posted over a period of time.
My hope is to offer as much encouragement as I can to other parents facing the circumstances I did. I want, not only to tell my story, but to impress upon you that you are notalone in raising your special child! You are not alone in your emotions, your isolation and the immensity of you load!
Years ago, a counselor told me that feelings are just that—only feelings! They are neither good nor bad, it’s what you do with you’re your feelings (how you act upon them) that matters. In a nutshell, you are not a bad person or parent because of the way you feel. And if you’re just beginning your journey down this road called special needs and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel… I’m here to tell you, that light is there!
When I was first struck with the realization my child had significant physical differences, I felt as if I had crossed an invisible line, into an unknown world that was extremely frightening. No one else in my life had or had raised a child with special needs. I quickly learned that my friends and family members couldn’t begin to comprehend what I was facing. Overwhelmed, I felt as if I was standing at the bottom of a huge mountain staring up at the top. I knew I had to climb to the summit but seriously questioned my abilities to so. Two, conflicting emotions tormented me; loving my baby with all of my mommy’s heart, versus absolutely NOT wanting to deal with a handicapped child and a future that was unknown. I wished the years away, wanting to be instantly transported to the summit. That place where all the questions and mysteries were revealed.
My journey began with a seriously complicated pregnancy, resulting in a lengthy hospitalization and the two-month, premature delivery of my daughter, Juliann. I already had two little boys at home, Chris and Andy, so I knew something was very wrong when Juli’s physical development was severely delayed. A few months after she was born the diagnosis came—cerebral palsy. My head swam the moment I heard the words. In an instant I was propelled, for the rest of my life, into this world labeled handicapped. There was no way to escape, no way to determine the extent of Juli’s disability nor whether or not her cognitive skills were affected. She was a little bundle of mystery and the love of my heart. Still, I did not want to raise a physically handicapped child! I can say that now but was deeply ashamed of this truth for several decades.
My daughter’s physical differences revealed to me just how prejudice a person I really was. As a child, growing up in the latter years of segregation I never understood social prejudice. I was also submerged in the arts, my family a collection of professional artists, musicians, my mom a singer and actor, dad a television and radio broadcaster. My artistic family taught me to not to judge someone else’s lifestyle. But the moment the word handicapped was attached to my life! Now that was a different story!
Accepting my new state of being did not happen overnight. It was a process of multiple steps that continued throughout Juliann’s childhood and to some extent still take place today. The beginning step was the hardest regarding acceptance that Juli was different. My submission began while holding her tiny body close, kissing her infant hands, singing her songs, realizing I would do anything to keep my baby safe. Her needs took dominance over mine, and even though I didn’t want to manage cerebral palsy, I knew I would do everything I had to for my daughter.
Immediately following Juliann’s diagnosis, she had further testing to give us a better understanding of her specific needs. These tests became my second step. For the next twenty years Juli and I would have multiple doctor appointments, tests, surgery, equipment purchases such as form adjusting highchairs, walkers, wheelchairs and standers to stretch her hamstring muscles, as well as weekly occupational and physical therapy sessions. Just before she turned two, Juli had to wear glasses and an eye patch. It broke my heart, making her do this. Not just because she hated them, but because I hated covering up her adorable face. However, this treatment turned out to be excellent! By the time Juli was in the fourth grade she didn’t need to wear glasses at all.
Throughout most of her childhood, Juli wore braces that wrapped around her feet supporting her legs, running up to her knees. As she grew we had to have new ones made. When she turned twelve I supported her decision not to wear them anymore. At five years old she underwent a Dorsal Rhizotomy surgery, resulting in over half the nerves in her lower body being severed. Complications resulted from that, leaving me riddled with guilt wondering if I had made the right decision, despite an extensive team of physicians at Dallas Medical Center telling me this was her best option. Next came the purchase of her first, motorized wheelchair, which meant purchasing a van with a wheelchair lift.
With each new step regarding Juliann’s development and physical needs, I went through a process or cycle of emotions. Here’s an example of what I mean, using the purchase of our first van with a wheelchair lift. Let me start by saying, that for some reason buying that van was for me, the straw that broke the camel’s back. I hated it! It was huge and driving it frightened me. In fact, Chris named it Europe, because of its size. But the van was a necessary piece of equipment need for our family, for Juli.
Here’s the example of the process I went through:
1. Realizing that the van is necessary
2. Angry I have to buy the van
3. Buying the van
4. Angry I have to learn how to drive the van
5. Mastering my driving skills (although Juli and her brothers had to endure bumps over curbs and the denting of quite a few handicapped signs as I parked the van.
Whether it was the need for glasses, braces, surgery, medications, walkers, ect., I went through this cycle. Sometimes several times over a span of several years, before finally reaching acceptance. I’ve learned that this cycle is similar to the cycle a person experiences when dealing with grief, Denial—Isolation—Anger—Depression—Acceptance.
Today, almost thirty-three years later, Juliann’s childhood is over. It has been a wonderful and rich journey full of joy. Yes, we faced great trials along the way. Yes, the road was rocky and riddled with potholes. Yes, it could be frightening! At one point it brought me to my knees. I was so broken from the multiple issues I was facing as a mom, drained and exhausted. That’s when I met Jesus face-to-face and He became my sustaining power.
When I look back upon my Juliann’s upbringing and see so many things I would do differently. I have to remind myself, that, at the time… I did the very best I could, withthe abilities I was given and the tools that I possessed. That’s all any of us can do really, our best.
As parents, especially women, we need to remember to take care of ourselves, the same way we take care of our children! A little fact that gets brushed under the carpet while juggling families, work and all the other things we do in our lives. I learned, that I could not give to my family what I myself didn’t have to give. In other words, if I didn’t have patience when handling my kids, my kids in turn were impatient.
In Texas, the foster care system understands the importance of this need for rest. So much so, that they pay for parents to take short, overnight respites away from their house and children. I understand that leaving for the night isn’t an option for some people, finances and childcare being the main reasons. Still, everyone needs a break, especially if your raising children with special needs. Find the time and make it a priority. Search the internet for creative ideas. Most importantly, learn to discipline yourself concerning these times! Meaning don’t talk about or mull over in your mind, your children’s issues. This time is for you! Remember, even Jesus sought moments of solitude and rest.
When Juli was in the sixth grade and left the nurturing environment of our elementary school, the social implications became so negative I pulled her out of public school to homeschool. This was one of the hardest but most rewarding decisions I ever made. Particularly when her brothers decided to homeschool as well. When it was time for Juli to enter the ninth grade, she told me she was ready to try public school again. During her high school years, we utilized both inclusion (mainstreaming into regular classrooms) and resource (a classroom designed to teach alternative learning methods to children who have learning differences). Juli made good friends, some she still has contact with. There were still some pretty grave social issues that come our way, such as the boy who asked her to the prom and at the last minute told her, he didn’t want to be seen with her in public! Her brother Chris rented a tuxedo and proudly took her anyway!
Despite the social implications, Juli maintained the Honor Roll and Dean’s List all four years of her high school career!
During her junior year, I began to slowly step back and let her take the lead regarding her educational needs. She was introduced to the art of Graphic Design and discovered this was something she not only was good at but enjoyed. One of the main appeals being the fact that her art held footing on its own. Meaning no one could look at her art and could see that she used a wheelchair. In her senior year, she began working on her college Associate’s Degree for Graphic Design. Spending half a day at high school, the other half at the college. This was truly her first step into adulthood. I knew she was scared to death and helped her with the transition, spending time with her on campus. Together we learned how to maneuver around the school. Either my husband or I was always waiting for her in the van when her classes were over. We had to transport her to and from the campus ourselves because of her wheelchair.
After Juli graduated with her Associate’s Degree (again, maintaining the Dean’s List and High Honor Society) we moved her to Dallas where she lived on her own for the first time. While pursuing her Bachelor of Arts, again in Graphic Design, with the Art Institute in Dallas, she found a job at a mall across the street from the school. Both school and work were centrally located by a rail station which was her means of transportation.
Suddenly, Juli’s physical safety became our main concern. Twice she was hit by a car crossing the street from the Art Institute to get to the train station. Once, on her way to school, a homeless man physically attached her, threatening her life. The police apprehended him, which is a story in itself. We’ve had several instances where her wheelchair broke down stranding her on the streets of Dallas at night or early morning (still happens). These episodes propel my husband out the door to drive to her assistance. And, just encase you’re wondering, in all of the above instances, Juli came out unharmed.
I’ve taught her to immediately call 911 if she finds herself in danger, since Dallas is now over an hour away from Fort Worth, where we now live. She does, but always calls us too. We’ll stay on the phone with her until help arrives. We’ll also stay on the phone if someone creepy is at the train station and she’s all alone at night. Her struggles are not over, they have only matured. I find the next step is taking her to the level in her independence, teaching her to lean more on herself and less on us. She’s getting there. We all are.
About three years ago we moved to Fort Worth, Juli too! She has a sweet little loft in the heart of the city. We adapted it for her needs. She still travels to Dallas everyday for work, with Bank of America. Her salary sustains her living and she has excellent health benefits. Although she wasn’t hired as a Graphic Artist, the management has taken a sincere interest in her work. They’ve also taken an interest in her. She’s learning to maneuver around a corporate setting and adjusting well. Reaping advice from her Dad who climbed the corporate ladder from the bottom to the very top with the company that is now Verizon. She is happy and healthy and becoming more independent every day. She is also my closest friend and confident.
When I look at my daughter I see an incredible woman, who has overcome more obstacles than most people could possibly imagine. She’s a tiny little thing, very petite, yet a monument in my eyes. She’s a living definition of Courage. Someone with the ability to hold her head high and persevere, despite a world that’s watching her because she’s different. Throughout her life she’s demonstrated the strength to face, not only her fears, but dangers and pain. She is also an advocate for others with special needs. An attribute that became evident even when she was a little girl in elementary school. The other SP kids were always drawn to her and because she is pretty, falling in love. She is like that tree, something beautiful to admire, full of strength and determination. She is my greatest treasure, my closest friend,my daughter, my dearest Juliann.
Next month, look for Part Two of my series, Raising a Child with Special Needs, My Struggle with Dyslexia and ADHD
I have a passion for taking discarded items and turning them into something new. Something that is beautiful and useful. Whether the item is an antique, vintage china or a child’s toy from the 1950’s, I see a finished product that fills me with excitement. For years I’ve worked on furniture restorations. Stripping off old finishes, sanding the pieces by hand, removing hardware and glass, to get to the prized wood. That is how I stumbled across Annie Sloan’s, Chalk Paint, at an antique mall I used to frequent in Grapevine, Texas. Every time I browsed through the mall I was drawn to the colorful, creative booth. One day I went to the store specifically to purchase one of Sloan’s books and some paint for a project, when I ran into the booth owner, David. This sweet man spent over an hour teaching me about the paint and its application, as well as Sloan’s other products. I bought the book, “Paint Transformations,” several cans of paint and other products I needed, to transform an old, 1950, white kitchen cabinet I planned to use as my linen closet in my master bathroom. Here are the steps I used to transform and preserve the cabinet:
1. First, the prep work! I began by taking the cabinet apart. When I do this, I like to take pictures as I go alone, to refer to when I start to put one of my projects back together. Once the doors and hardware were removed, I chipped away lose paint and sanded the cabinet down. This cabinet was riddled with natural distress, scratches and gouges in the wood that were reminders of its history. The last step to prepping was to wash the surfaces I intended to paint, using Dawn liquid dish soap well diluted in water.
2. I used wood glue to add the decorative appliques to the cabinet doors. The appliques I purchased from “do it yourself Chic!” an online store (www.doityourselfChic.com). You have to wait a few days to proceed, until the appliques, which are soft when you glue them, turn hard.
3. Once the appliques were ready, I painted the center pieces the color Aubusson, the door handle pieces Old White
4. I painted the doors and the entire exterior of the cabinet with French Linen. I also like to paint the back and underside of a piece, to preserve the furniture’s longevity.
5. Next, I added dimension to the appliques, by applying a “wash” (explained below) using French Linen. Once the appliques were dry, I washed the doors, the center appliques and cabinet’s exterior in Greek Blue.
6. How I applied the wash:
*First of all, I protected my hands with a pair latex gloves.
*Second, I had more control of the color if I only worked small sections at a time. As I went along, it was easy to blend the sections together.
*I begin by using a small, craft brush to apply small streaks of the full color. Next, I sprayed the paint with water using a spray bottle.
*With a wet cloth, I rubbed the color in. The great thing about this technique is, if you want more color you add it. If you need to dilute the color you use more water. If the color dries in an area (Annie Sloan’s paint dries fast) you simply mist it and rework the color.
*I keep a big bowl of water by me, which I dip the cloth in often, to keep it nice and moist.
7. Using a small, artists brush, I applied along the edges of the doors and the edges and corners of the frame work, the color Greek Blue, diluting the paint with water to get the look I wanted. I also rubbed the color in places with a dry cloth to smear and remove harsh edges. In other places I kept the edgy look.
8. I painted the inside of the cabinet with the color, Duck Egg. The outside of the cabinet, including the back and bottom side, I washed in Greek Blue, using the same technique I used in step 8.
9 . Finally, the finishing touch, applying the wax. First of all, make sure your hands are protected. I wear the thick Playtex gloves made for washing dishes. The wax eats through anything thinner. Also, be sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area
10. For this step, I used Annie Sloan’s White and Dark Wax. Applying the dark wax by itself can be tricky! David taught me how to use a light coat of the white wax first, then apply the dark wax on top of the white. Next, rub the wax in using a clean cloth. If the wax starts to dry before you have your desired look, simply apply a small amount of the light wax and rib it in. I give the wax just a minute or two to set, then immediately start to buff it into a sheen using a sock. Like the wash, work the wax in small segments, at least until you get the hang off it. This prevents the wax from looking blotchy, unless, of course, that’s you want. Also, it’s the Dark Wax that gives the piece that vintage, antique look I love.
I also wax the appliques. This gives them a polished, antique appearance. The Dark Wax also highlights the marks and scars that tell the furniture’s history, along with a polished, antique sheen.
11. For this particular piece, the hardware was vintage, so I’m guessing original to the cabinet. I washed all of it. The pretty, hinges, I used rust remover on. They looked dingy and gray, so I brought them to life using Annie Sloan’s, Gilding Wax, in the shade, King Gold. After I drilled the doors back on the cabinet, I applied the Gilding Wax on the heads of the screws.
This beautiful cabinet, now serves as the linen closet in my bathroom.
May 5th, Jeff and I joined my good friend, Julie, her husband and our other horsey friend, Tommy at the Lone Star Park, a horse racing track in Grand Prairie, Texas. It was the day of the Kentucky Derby race and Julie and I, huge derby fans, couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate and watch the race, than at Lone Star.
We weren’t disappointed! Despite an enormous turnout, we found the park surprisingly manageable. Upon entering the park, we were greeted by a stand selling derby hats.
Regretfully, I didn’t wear mine, not being sure what to expect. Thankfully, I love to wear sun hats. But I’ll never make that mistake again! Not only will I wear my hat, but my derby dress too.
It seems there are fewer opportunities for adults to don a costume and embrace pure fun. Derby day at Lone Star provides such an opportunity. All around us women wore beautiful dresses, topped with elaborate hats. Many men wore suits, with ties and pocket handkerchiefs matching the color of the woman’s dress.
There were families and friends with plenty of little ones running around. Girls in matching sun dresses and hats. Some of the little boys dressed to. We saw everything from t-shirts and shorts, to attire suitable for a wedding. And the creativity! Some folk’s put a great deal of thought and planning into their attire, like a Halloween costume.
Immediately, after Jeff and I arrived at the park we found Tommy, then I headed straight for the rail along the front of the track. It was such a surprise when I found the rail almost empty. If you are a horse person, it is an absolute thrill to stand at the rail, feel the thunder of hooves, smell the horses, dirt and hear their snorts as they bolt by.
It is also a thrill to watch the horses cross the finish line. They’re, soaked in sweat and high-strung from anaerobic exertion. Nostrils flared, eyes wild, veins protruding, like roadways on their lean forms. Jockey’s riding in the back are covered in mud. Their horses too, from the front runners hooves flicking the mud their way.
I took this video of the first race I watched.
While I ran to the rail, Jeff stood in line and bought our drinks. He usually looks at the program and places a few bets (I’m talking a dollar or two). He’s good at this. On an average, he usually wins back just a little over the amount of money, we put into our visit. Meaning the entry fee, drinks and food. However, the lines on derby day were long, so we decided to wait. Good choice! Amazingly, a hour or two later the lines were shorter and Jeff was able to place his bets.
About 45 minutes before the Kentucky Derby Race took place, we sought out the paddock area, where they saddle and show the race horses before the jockeys ride them to the track. Amazingly, the area was almost clear. We were able to set up chairs in the shade with a clear view of the large outdoor screen that would show the race.
For horse people, the excitement preluding this race is equivalent to the excitement one feels just before a concert, when your favorite performer is about to walk on stage. I couldn’t help myself… Bounding from my chair I quickly went to the front of the rail, where I could see and hear the screen better. Several other people were doing the same. We grinned at each other with a knowing understanding… the short moments of this race are one of a horse lovers favorites. For me, it’s not just about winning, although that is the icing on the cake, it’s about the majesty of the horse. It’s power and grace in full motion. Filling me with continues wonder, over how a small girl can harness that power and ride such a beast. Moment’s later Julie was by my side and the race was on…
The icing on the cake was ours… JUSTIFY won! As is often the case, Jeff won the exact amount of money, we had put into our visit.
After the race, we collectively left Lone Star and headed back to Fort Worth for dinner. Next year, I’ll proudly wear my derby dress and hat. Allow myself some of that fun we adults don’t get very often; at least not in public. On the other hand, on the top of Julie’s and my bucket lists, is actually going to the Kentucky Derby… Humm….. I already have my hat and dress!
If you enjoyed this post, check out my post on the Kentucky Derby party I hosted.
Lone Star Park is a great place to bring the entire family! If you’re visiting Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington or an adjoining city, consider going to the park. Wear plenty of sunscreen and sun hats. Come hungry, because there’s hotdogs, pizza, nachos and other such finger foods. If you prefer air conditioning and a little more upscale menu, make a reservation for a table upstairs, where you can watch the track.
For more information: (972-237-1197) www.LoneStarPark.com
“I will sing of Your mighty strength and power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy and loving-kindness in the morning; for You have been to me a defense and a refuge in the day of my distress. Unto You, O my strength, I will sing praises; for God is my Defense, my Fortress, and High Tower, the God Who shows me mercy and steadfast love.”
Within the bowels of the dungeon, stood a man shackled in chains. His eyes stared, unfocused. For hopelessness dulls the senses of men.
Time had transported the man chained against the stone wall, into a stagnant existence. No longer could he determine day from night, nor did he care. But as the sound of a commotion outside drew near, increasing into cries from an angry mob, the ear of the chained man was captured. He could hear the massive door to the dungeon open. As it did, sounds from the mob, the cracking of whips, increased in volume. He felt a burst of fresh air rush through the stinking prison, announcing the arrival of another man. Followed by the clamoring of boots upon the narrow stone steps.
Torches lit the stairway leading down to the prisoner’s chamber. Casting shadows, encased in golden light to dance upon the walls. Moments later, the soldiers appeared, pushing into the chamber two, new prisoners, not one. At the commander’s order, the two men were shackled to the floor. The chained man watched, taken back by the deep, purple bruises swelling on their beaten bodies. What had these men done to warrant such severe abuse? The commander addressed the jailor, threatening, if the two men escaped, it would cost the jailer his life. Snatching a torch from an iron bracket on the wall, the commander turned and left the dungeon, taking with him the golden light.
Shocked by the commander’s threat, the jailor stared at the two men, feeling a moment of compassion. But experience and fear, pushed his compassion away. Rubbing his forehead, he assigned a fresh set of guards to watch over the two men and retired to the comforts of his private quarter’s where he could rest. The chained man shook with hatred for the guards. Anger bubbled inside of him causing his body to shake. The sight of the guards, always brought back memories of his life that was lost. Memories the chained man struggled to forget. A draft, cooled by the dungeon’s stony depths, circulated through the chamber, caressing the chained man, sending gooseflesh down his arms and legs. Trembling, the man stood, in his chains, forgotten, caught in the clutches of hell.
Somewhere in the darkness, the new prisoners groaned. They were stunned that death had passed them by. Moving slow, for every movement brought fresh ripples of pain, they inched their bodies as close together as their shackles would allow. Quietly, talking. Their words fell like feathered whispers, rising and falling, growing in strength, echoing off the dungeon’s walls. Some of the prisoners began to curse, when they realized the two men were talking to God. Praising God, as if God was in the dungeon with them. As if God was listening. The chained man wondered if the two men were mad. New prisoners always made frantic pleas to God when they first arrived, but never spoke words of praise. In time, their voices stilled, once they realized that God wasn’t listening, that God didn’t care. Still, the praises of the two men grew in strength. They lifted their voices, empowered by faith that seemed to know no limitations.
As the praise increased in volume, the cursing men shouted profanities, mocking and stupefying the two men’s faith. Yet, the psalmists, raised their voices louder. They praised without desperation, but adoration accompanying every word. Their words transformed into songs. Songs that resonated through the dungeon’s chamber. As the chained man listened to the melodic strains, he felt a stirring of hope. A foreign energy had somehow pierced through the dungeon’s walls causing tears to stream down his face. The prisoner’s shouting profanities yelled louder, with faces bibulous and red. Insane men babbled and cackled, gyrating up and down. The guards looked at each other bewildered and alarmed, as the uprising intensified into uncontrollable bedlam.
The chained man barely noticed the tremor that shook the earth until the dungeon’s foundation began to shake. He stood in terror, as ear-piercing sounds from the shaking intensified. He felt the wall vibrate against his back. The shackles around his wrists and ankles cut into his flesh. The dungeon lurched and shifted, sending boulders from the ceiling crashing down. When unexpectedly, the chained man’s shackles opened and he fell to the ground, unhindered. With eyes closed and teeth grit, the man waited for the deadly strike that would surely hit him at any moment. He welcomed it. The floor shimmied and shuddered beneath his hands and knees. Boulders continued to fall from above. The dust was so thick none of the men could see. Breathing was difficult. The thundering sounds of the walls falling in drowned out the men’s cries of panic… Then… the quivering stopped. Boulders became stones. All was still, except for a showering of loosened pebbles.
Sunlight, coming from the shattered roof, spilled down through the settling dust. The men were scattered; every one of them free from his chains. For several minutes there was silence, no one dared to make a sound. The unexpected freedom was so astonishing that it rendered the men unable to move. Not one, instigated the desire to escape. The silence was broken by the frantic jailer bursting through the dungeon’s door, downing the stairs. Seeing the prisoner’s free from their chains, he pulled his sword from its sheath in fear, readying his hand to plunge the blade into his heart. The new prisoner, named Paul, yelled for him to stop. Reassuring him that every one of the prisoners was accounted for. The jailor’s life was safe!
Stunned, the jailer moved to step forward, but his legs buckled beneath him. As he fell, Paul, and the other named, Silas, went to his aid. The jailer marveled at the respectful way they treated him and remembered their cause. They spoke of Jesus, the Nazarene, who was crucified. Whose followers, like these men, believed he rose from the dead, calling him the Messiah, the Son of the living God. A hush descended upon the prison as each man realized they were in the presence of the supernatural. Humbled, like small children, they waited to be told what to do next.
The free man stood. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he examined the scars on his ankles and wrists. He looked at the open shackles hanging from what remained of the dungeon’s wall, savoring the pleasure of moving his unhindered limbs. Waves of emotion gripped his heart as he listened, while the jailor asked questions about Jesus. As Paul answered them, the free man believed. The seed of hope inside of him grew, expanding as the dawn rising over the horizon, stirring him with its powerful love. He never knew there was such love! Falling to his knees he realized the light of Salvation had conquered his darkness forever.