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Monday, May 14, 2018

Lured By Grace

Grace: Unmerited favor.

The new Cushman home.

In less than a month my wife and I will be completely moved into our new home in Bell County. We will say good-bye to Navasota and our wonderful Victorian home of 28 years. In fact it was a home we planned to live in until the end of our days. But last spring something happened that began months of dialogue and searching that ended in a surprising result.

For months previously I had suffered significant anxiety over consternation about Raegan, our only child. Now past 30, she is single and alone in Temple, in Bell County, but well employed, and recently she purchased a beautiful new home there. And as she was putting down intrepid roots in her chosen community, we suddenly had some of our imaginary roots severed. I was made aware that cemetery plots we had always thought were assigned to us and our family (for almost forty years) in Grimes County had been sold to others, and that because of changes in the association's policy, new plots, and not near or adjacent to my parents, would be kind of pricey. In a strange spiritual way, we were more free than ever to think of calling a new place “home.”

Meanwhile, my art career had taken some bizarre twists and turns. Commissions seemed to often go sour, and there was an uncanny re-flux after (and sometimes BEFORE!) several jobs. It all started a couple of years ago when the State Legislature decided to require criminal background checks for all school contractors. That I understood, but they also required egregious contracts which gave authorities unprecedented invasion if not violation of my Civil Rights, and easy access to ruin my life. "To protect the kids..."

I wrote my Representative a furious letter and bowed out of a twenty-year career doing murals in Brazos Valley public schools. My mural career was screeching to a halt. A year or so later, a seemingly cursed mural project, the center-piece for an ambitious, if not ill-fated water feature in a public park, was completed with minimal interest and no celebration. Designed for a non-profit organization in Kerr County, a twenty-five foot Texas rain cloud scene was created a midst a budget crisis and subsequent change in Board vision and priorities, which left its future in doubt. In other words enthusiasm over my Hill Country "masterpiece" fell FLAT.

Another customer completely reversed himself after the completion of a large monumental sculpture installation on private property. In short order five life-sized horses (and a baby one) were sold off at a loss and removed. It had been a gift for a wealthy person, but the giftee was not amused.

Then a madman attacked another of my recently completed public murals with spray paint, writing God's judgment on either me or the establishment I had adorned, or maybe both. Really!

It seemed that after a wonderful and envious art career, the public, even my patrons, were beginning to spit my art back at me. No, not all of them. But I had never felt or experienced so much hatefulness and rejection since my painful Grade School years. What did all of this mean? I prayed about it... and came to the conclusion that MAYBE the person who had brought me to Navasota was telling me it was time to move on. That I might be needed elsewhere.

That person who brought us here was God. It's true, I would never have moved to Navasota, except God made it plain we were supposed to. We had found a beautiful old home near downtown, and said... “...like that one!” It sat on a picturesque corner and was surrounded by giant pecan trees. But God had already picked that wonderful Navasota home for us, and had kept it from selling for months until we found out it was for sale and the owner even owner-financed it. Weeks after seeing and coveting it, I “accidently” met the daughter of the owner of this 1881 Victorian cottage, who arranged a fateful meeting which led to the purchase of the home we had admired and now would raise our child in. We had been lured to Navasota by His unmerited favor; God's Grace. And it was the “best years of our lives.”

 So far. But now we were feeling unmoored. And we drifted instinctively towards the love of our lives... our only child. I left out the part that simultaneously, Linda's father, (our last living parent) passed away, further freeing us from the area, and leaving us with the money which would make a move fairly smooth (financially).

I told Linda what was on my mind, and to my surprise she was soon looking on Zillow.  But once again, God had already found us a new home, around fifteen minutes from Raegan, out in the Texas Hill Country, on top of a mesa overlooking a beautiful valley that featured Temple, Texas on the horizon. He had been holding off other buyers for over six years! A stone home that will need little maintenance, on 2.6 acres in a gated community, on an oak and juniper covered caliche bluff, teaming with birds and animals, once a Native American arrowhead factory. We knew it was our new home when we saw a little Carolina chickadee, (one of our favorites) in the bird bath. We get up every morning to see the sunrise, and greet the birds and God's gift of life. 

As I write this, my wife just showed me a news headline. In an incredible, unexplainable series of tragic accidents, Brazos Valley Young Life leaders or their loved ones have been killed over the decades. I was a Young Life leader when John and Kathy Hays were killed on Hwy 6 one rainy evening, perhaps twenty-five years ago. They were the first. Since then four other Young life leaders have either been killed or lost loved ones in tragic vehicle accidents that have left at least four more dead. The evil one hates what we have been trying to do here. An old career Young Life leader recently admitted to me that the spiritual warfare in Grimes County has always been as hot as any place he has seen (my words). That is why we were brought here. After two heart attacks, I have been granted a furlough.

Jesus told his followers, to just follow him and “Let the dead bury the dead.” He wanted his followers to keep moving... to never stagnate, to go when and where He sent them. To not let familial or social ties constrain His vision for their lives. To follow the breadcrumbs of His infinite Grace.


At our new home, there is a boulder on the mesa cap rock where I sometimes pray and meditate. I will continue, as I have for many years, to pray for Navasota, which will always be home, no matter where I lay my head. And I will remember the battles won and the battle still raging. It is an interesting and engaging place. It can be a wonderful place to plant your life. Perhaps God will soon bring someone to Navasota who can finally do His bidding. Someone who can unite the town... under the Grace and Love of Christ.

When you are working for the Lord, it is guaranteed to be the best years of your life. Even if they might be short and you are required to make the ultimate sacrifice. It was not required of me or mine, and I am so grateful, but I would have so given with complete satisfaction for the honor to suffer for Christ. And in my own way I have. And poor Linda has been there to patch me up and hold me together, all while laboring in her own harvest in the public schools. She gave it 110%. You might say we have walked the gauntlet together.

But He has something else, one more errand, maybe one more community for us to serve in building his Kingdom. Or maybe it is the little sweetie who used to give me back rubs and make my stress evaporate, now coping with stress herself. And then maybe the mission is me. Whomever, whatever it is, it is in Bell County.

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