Let’s End On A High Note – Dalhart, Texas.

Truly, it’s not easy to pinpoint what I love most about Dalhart Texas. But if you press me on the matter, I’m going to say it’s the Nursanickel Motel across from the Toot -n- Totem Truckstop.

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A gal can always count on the Nursanickel Motel, especially when that gal is supposed to be in Amarillo, Texas by now eating a 72-ounce steak in thirty minutes or less trying to get it free, at The Big Texan.

But no, Sam and I are like moths to Dalhart’s flame. Limping into town on five wheels instead of six, having blown a duel between the feedlots and the cornfields, west of Dalhart, The Nursanickel came to our rescue.

Again.

The last time we were here Sam either got food poisoning or the stomach flu and was projectile vomiting with a measure of flair and, frankly, volume heretofore unseen in West Texas.

Because we were heading to a horse sale, we were hauling his big truck and trailer, so we had to park around the corner. We weren’t even married yet, and I drove it in to town. That’s how sick Sam was. Walking down a side alley to The Nursanickel, he fell to the ground and I thought, “oh great, now how am I supposed to pick up and carry 225 lbs of vomiting cowboy.”

Here’s a dramatic reenactment.

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Horrified, I called my mom from The Nursanickel saying, “I think Sam got food poisoning from some bad prime rib, should I take him to the emergency room?”

I heard my dad ask from the background.

“Did he eat the butt? Ha ha ahaha.”

Sympathy isn’t Mike Quirk’s strong suit, but since when Sam is sick, he doesn’t just vomit, he shout/vomits, I thought the emergency room might be in order.

Quickly, I suggested to Nursanickel staff they not sell the rooms nearby. They were kind and accommodating as West Texans are and suggested I give him pickle juice. Jane Quirk suggested ibuprofen and rest. Sam asked for Pepsi and though I told him it was a bad idea, he drank it anyway and immediately shout/vomited it up.

So, like I said, Dalhart has a lot of good memories for me.

After two weeks in the mountains, you could blindfold me and I’d still know I’m back in Texas: 1. I’m sweating. 2. Our waitress called me Hon and 3. She laughed and said “raaaahht” when I made a joke.

God willing and tires don’t blow, we’ll roll back into town tomorrow.

On Cows and Rockets

Yesterday, Ranch Manager Greg asked Sam and me to move some cows for him. Then, I think as a favor, he grabbed my all time favorite ranch horse, Rocket, out of the pasture and tacked a shoe back on him for me. Most any horse will do, but for years, when there was cow work to be done on the ranch, Rocket was always my pick.

Here’s why.

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Colorado cows don’t come to the bucket like Texas cows do. At least ours never did. Plus, the ranch is an obstacle course of hills, rivers, timber and bogs.

Sam and I are into the slow and easy method of moving herds, none of this galloping in, whistlin, and a hollerin’ nonsense you sometimes see in the movies.

But Rocket chomps at the bit – literally. Holding the herd, he glares at them and from the saddle you can hear him clacking and grinding his teeth. Rocket is cow horse to the bone.

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A grey wall rolled in up ahead and lightning tore into the peaks to the north. So with our friend Deann helping, we began pushing about 50 mama cows and their calves down past our old house, over a couple hills and along the fence line toward the open gate.

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As we got there, the cows balled up still not seeing the hole. I noticed a red horned cow that had led the rest of the girls pretty steadily from the lower pasture. She was eyeballing the creek and the wide open space on the other side of me. From the back Sam yelled, “watch that red cow, she’s a lead cow.”

Before I could even smile at the resurgence of Sam’s and my psychic cow working rhythms, Rocket spun, darted into the creek and punched that old, red cow back into the herd.

I didn’t even touch him.

This is why people buy foundation bred Quarter Horses and spend their lives showing them. It is incredibly fun when four brains – one bovine, one equine and two human – consider the same situation at precisely the same moment. It’s even more fun when the equine brain beats the human brain to doing something about it.

That’s why Sam does this.

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No point to this post really, other than to say how grateful I am for fast horses, good cowboys and mountains without end.

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On Not Saying Goodbye

There’s this thing on the ship that people talk about all the time. Or maybe they don’t talk about it enough. It’s a nasty little gut check, a surprise I got this week as posts from DFW, Heathrow and Tenerife filled my newsfeed.

Every day, Mercy Shippers make you fall in love with them and then they leave.

They leave Texas for the ship. They leave the ship to go home, or they leave the ship forever to write the next chapter in their lives. After returning from field service in Haiti, and saying goodbye (or not) to a group of 30 (not 31) people who forced me to come up higher, listen harder, pray deeper and trust God more than I ever have, my heart broke in new and unusual ways.

My gosh, I’ve only known them for eight weeks. Please. But I’ve been skulking around their lives the whole time, asking questions I can’t even believe I ask. Questions that maybe we should ask more often in church, but don’t because we’re too busy, polite or afraid.

“Tell me about your Dad.”

“What’s the Lord saying about that?”

“What’s happening on the boyfriend front?”

I don’t know who gave me permission, maybe I just gave it to myself, but when you ask hard questions, people bristle, they fight, they cry or they breathe a sigh of relief and say, “My God, do you see me in here?”

Jesus sees you in there. It’s his light we’re shining. His is the only one I’ve found that reliably chases out the darkness. There are people sitting next to you right now, whose story would break you in half, if you knew it, but we avoid it because people are messy and loving them is costly.

Especially when they leave.

I’ve decided this is the Lord’s way of teaching me empathy for the crew of the Africa Mercy – people who live, work, eat, cry, pray and laugh together until the day they walk down the gangway in tears or stand atop it in tears, waving. Painful goodbyes are such a regular event on the ship, people say they’re not sure leasing real estate in their hearts is worth it. They know exactly how bereft that land will be when their sweet little squatters are gone.

That’s plainer to me now after a year of Gateways, and in particular this field service in Haiti, where I camped on a bunch of new real estate and let people camp on mine.

One day, when I nearly hurled a garden hoe across a huge weedy field and later sat on a 100-degree rooftop and cried, two different somebodies showed up to remind me that God is working in me too, and if all I can muster is to walk humbly as I grope my way through, well then, they’d happily stand by, praying.

I’d love to say I have a salve for the painful goodbye, but I don’t and frankly I doubt I’m meant to. Maybe a little longing, a little pain is part of the fullness Jesus had in mind when he explained what he was doing here. Remember Jesus didn’t promise us happy, he promised us full, and there is a difference. So if full means missing these faces until I climb the gangway again, I’ll take it.

Ship videographer Josh Callow put it like this in a blog post he called The Pieces of My Scattered Heart, which I beg you to read because it’s his heart laid bare on this topic, in a fearless and magnificent display.

The thing that is so great about Mercy Ships is the ferocity with which we love. These people that travel across the world to work for no pay to serve the poorest of the poor are some of the most selfless folks you’ll ever meet. They dive in head first and love at full speed…

So June 2014 On Boarding – Go dive in and love at full speed. Then pair up in threes as soon as you can.

xoErin

10429298_10152355639114737_1422943316129289360_n*As ever, the thoughts are my own, not those of Mercy Ships, but I’m pretty sure you know that.