When twilight drops her curtain down and pins it with a star, remember that you have a friend though she may wander far.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In Memory of Nada "Joline" Stamps Gibson

Many people have reached out asking how they can help with our 104-year-old great-grandmother, Kathryn Stamps (I call her "Granny"), in the wake of losing our grandmother, Joline. I'd like to invite you to help continue to care for Granny and their home. The challenge for us now is how to keep Granny in her home, and your one-time support will allow us the time we need to outline a plan for the future. 

Joline Stamps Gibson - I call her "Mammaw" - has lived with Granny for my entire life (I'm edging up on 30 very soon). They lived next door to each other in Fort Smith, then moved to Houston to be closer to my mom and aunts. In 2009, my Aunt Celine joined the household and provides direct and continuous care to the "Grannies" as well as a third income to the house. With the loss of Mammaw's social security, which was crucial to the balance of finances for the household, it would be helpful to have some extra support to buy us some time to balance out the details of this transition. If you would like to help, I know it would be a blessing to the women who have been caring for Mammaw and Granny for the last 30 years.

I was going to set up a GoFundMe, but over 8% is taken in fees and you have to set a goal. I am not looking to raise a certain amount. I just want to offer our extended family living far away an opportunity to support Granny. I will send all of the funds to my mother who manages the finances of the household. If you give via Paypal to "friends and family" from your checking account, no fees are deducted. You can also opt to give via credit card on Paypal, where fees will be deducted, or you can mail a check. Please email me for an address.

Please click here to give via Paypal and email me at lydiarudy@gmail.com if you have any questions. Please also send us pictures that you have of Joline. You can send them to my email address.

Thank you for loving my Mammaw and for helping us continue to love on my Granny. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

the sea will hold you.

Lie back, daughter, let your head be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will hold you.
Spread your arms wide, lie out on the stream, and look up,
laugh at the gulls.
A dead man's float is face down.
You will dive and swim soon enough where this tidewater ebbs to the sea.
Daughter, believe that when you tire on the long thrash to the island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, where I held you and let go,
Remember when fear cramps your heart what I told you:
Lie gently and wide to the light-year stars,
Lie back and the sea will hold you.

Phillip Booth

Friday, January 27, 2012

one year.

I can't believe it's been one year since I left the woods. In honor of the 375 days I spent in the woods, here's a little blog I found that takes me back to the days when I sent out mass texts each day documenting the hilarious quotes my kids would say. Enjoy:


Saturday, March 26, 2011

the poise of the egret

I must learn
the calligraphy
of egret stance,
poised on a word
that lies beneath
the weaving current,
steady, still.

Nancy Compton Williams
Christianity and Literature

There's something about living near the ocean that makes life more peaceful and healing than before. I've walked on the shore of an island and shared the ground with wild ponies. I've seen dolphins playing in the waves, and I've seen sea birds graze the ocean water with poise and grace and confidence.

I must learn the calligraphy of egret stance....steady, still.

I've spent the last 8 years of my life looking for steady ground, looking to still my busy life enough to find out what this life is really all about. In my time in North Carolina and especially my time here on the Crystal Coast, I feel more grounded in my nontraditional beliefs than ever before. My journey has taken me from fundamental, conservative Christian beliefs through questioning even the existence of God to now, where nothing seems very fundamental, but everything seems very real.

I spent a weekend in Washington, D.C. with two of my very good friends from my childhood. I went to a church with them where one is serving as a pastoral intern. This Baptist church is nothing like I've experienced before, and it was refreshing. I shared the worship experience with members of the GLBT community, with members of various backgrounds and races, and with female pastors and leaders. We explored the Sermon on the Mount, a sermon most captivating and inclusive of Jesus' general teachings.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13-14

It strikes me odd that Jesus calls us to the difficult, narrow gate. It has been my experience that the Christianity I've been brought into has been easy, not difficult. That the choice to "follow Jesus and accept Him into my heart" was simple. That all I had to do was say a quick prayer, and my life would be changed for eternity. I spent years of my life compelling people to "get saved" thinking quantity rather than quality was the way of Jesus. Get us all to Heaven, then sort it out there...let God handle it.

I also spent years of my life reading the stories of martyrs and peacemakers thinking that "the hard places" were where real Christians went, and that I had to be the best Christian...just like I had to be the best at everything else. That my job was to save everyone I knew, and everyone I didn't know. Little by little, the shallowness of this mentality showed itself to me. It couldn't be just about Heaven. It can't be just about a simple prayer. Jesus showed us not how to get to Heaven, but how to live...right here on earth.

Who of us who claim Christianity have really found this narrow gate? Who of us have really found the truth that Jesus has to offer?

I think very few....just as Jesus says, "there are few who find it."

As this world gets smaller and as we all become closer connected, I find that there are so many from my past who have stopped looking. Who have accepted Christianity for what they've been told, who are comfortable with the Christian life they've been given. That is fine for them, but I can't help but think that this road of comfort, stability, and close-mindedness isn't what Christ was talking about.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves...verse 15

I don't want to be the Christian who speaks peace and love, but becomes defensive and angry any time I feel threatened by the beliefs of another. How fearful Christians have become of women...of homosexuals...of color, even still! How fearful we are to consider God to be bigger than the box we have put Her/Him/It in! (See? That made you cringe, didn't it?)

My biggest struggle over the last year has been whether or not my choices have lined up with God's plan for me; whether or not I have strayed from God's guidance. I realized recently that the choices I have made have not necessarily deviated from God's plan, but they've deviated from the church's plan. I am not keeping with the rules and formulas that Christian society has deemed appropriate, and I am no longer bound by those rules and formulas.

I am bound by the love of God which compels me to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly.

My God does not expect me to follow every rule; my God expects me to love as (s)he does.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

not-so-final recap or are you glad you did it?

Last week was my last week at camp, and I departed during what I considered one of the best weeks at camp with one of the most heartfelt goodbyes from my kids and co-workers that I honestly didn't expect. I've returned to Texas for a week while I'm unemployed and homeless, and I've been saturated with two main greetings:

1) I'm SOOO glad you're out of there!


2) So, are you glad you did it?

In response to #1, I have to say that I am also glad to be out of there. For the last year, I've been living in conditions that are by no means normal or desirable. I will no longer have to wake up and immediately start working. I will no longer have to discreetly do my morning routine so as not to wake my moody teenage boys too early and sacrifice the special moments of alone time. I can now wear pajamas to bed (not to mention SLEEP in a real bed) instead of cargo pants. I can use electricity at any time for any purpose. I don't have to worry about misplacing my lighter or headlamp and fear of enabling my kids to run away or get high on the mud trail. I never have to hear the words, "what cha want for that snack?" followed by an increased heart rate worrying about whether or not there is gang activity or sexual underground going along with that seemingly innocent trade of graham crackers for stamps. I will never have to check a smelly bathroom again, so that a perfectly capable teenager can go inside without finding poop on the walls or a gang message. I don't have to buy or distribute anymore gimp, though I will miss the colorful lanyards my kids would make me when they were bored. I don't have to tuck twelve teenagers in at night anymore or listen to them talk dirty about me and other counselors once I've left the tent (though I will miss the quality conversations that happened before I left). I won't smell of kerosene in the winters, and in the summers, I need not wear long sleeves to avoid the yellow flies.

In response to #2, I think most people are expecting me to regret my decision to leave everything and head for the woods of North Carolina. A small part of me wants to rewind to a year ago when I decided to leave, and smack me in the face for ever considering leaving such a great job, a close family, amazing friends, and the greatest state in the union. A larger part of me wouldn't trade this year for anything for a number of reasons:

1) Through this blog and my crazy facebook updates, I've received more random messages, comments, and notes from family, close friends, long-lost friends, and even strangers sharing their stories of inspiration and hope in relation to my own. They've been encouraging, supportive, and even miraculous tales, and I wish I knew how to put this whole experience that I've shared with my readers into a box and treasure it always.

2) I've met some of the most courageous people I would otherwise have never met. The Chiefs of Camp E-Tik-Etu, the ones that stay one day, the ones that stay ten years, the ones that push through, the ones that care immensely for those kids, are my heroes, my friends. They are the only ones who could ever understand what I've been through in the last year, no matter how hard I try to explain it to others. I admire them and because of them, I've learned how to admire myself. Chiefs fight the battle day after day, waking up as if yesterday never happened, and fighting for the lives of kids who don't even know what to fight for.

3) I've fallen in love with a man who would do anything for me, who listened and supported me during the hardest job I've ever done, and never complained once that I had a chaotic schedule and couldn't be there with him at the drop of a hat. He made my time away from the woods an adventure, and I'm excited that he will be there for the next adventure too. I wish that you all could know him.

4) I've lived among beauty. I've seen the phases of the moon, the changing constellations each season. I've survived monsoons and floods, snow storms and icy trails. I've been among the foxes and the bears, and I've seen more sunrises this year than my entire life combined. I've lived outdoors, and nothing can rival that, not even four solid walls of comfort.

5) I've learned more about what I want to do, who I want to work for, what I need in a job, what I can tolerate, and what I can't. I've become more patient, more honest, and tougher than ever. More than anything though, I've learned what it means to love unconditionally, and that alone is an amazing gift.

6) I've worked with the most resilient and brave humans on the planet: my boys. I will miss them the most. I missed them the moment I walked out of chuckwagon. I missed them the moment I realized that no matter if I stay or go, I won't know how they do after they leave camp. My heart breaks knowing that some of those boys will return to the same lifestyle that brought them to camp. Some of them will end up in jail for life, and some of them will hurt many people along the way. Some of them hurt me.

My heart rejoices knowing that some of them will go on to be productive members of society, and my heart rejoices knowing that all of them know that I loved them. I wish they could know that they are my heroes, too, because just like their chiefs, they wake up everyday and make it. It may not look pretty, but they do it, they fight the elements and get through the day, and that alone makes them successful.

I am glad to leave; I am glad I did it; I am sad to leave; I am sad that our world is such a place where camps like this are necessary.

This fight is not over for me...it's just moving out of the woods and closer to the water.

Monday, January 10, 2011

a girl's journey

A life of promise, of purpose, and of hope
She chose one youthful day
Ordinary, mundane, normal won't do
A mother recalls her daughter say

Seems so easy from eyes untainted
Not scarred or bruised by the hate in this world
Not hurt or torn by love awaited
The world at the fingertips of this young girl

The more she sees the despair of others
Little by little her eyes are unveiled
The young girl trudges onward
Not dismayed, never her plans curtailed

She walked through valleys of unseen trouble
Doubted and fell into the tempestuous waters
She lost sight when she searched through the rubble
But still, the voice of hope and love remained

Standing at a crossroads, a wandering woman recovers
From the sacrifice of love she made
To fulfill the dream of a wonder-filled youngster
A year of challenge she would never trade

But now a new sacrifice calls her name
One of companionship, adventure, one of love
Leaving behind much that formed her
Will she still please the One above?

A leap of faith, a leap of uncertainty
What waits beyond the leap is unclear
Stress or peace, loss or bounty?
A promise of blessing she holds near

She'll hope and love and dream forever
Until one day her time will come
Will He glance upon her face and say,
My child, my girl, well done?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

one year.

52 weeks.

Three days from now I will have been at camp for an entire year. When I drove in at this time last year, I had a goal to be here 2 years. That was easy to say after spending the previous two years at the North Texas Food Bank where I worked between 40-50 hours a week and had a life full of soul-enriching activities to compliment my high-stress job.

By four months into my camp experience, I realized that this was not what I had expected. I knew it would be tough, and that the kids would resist change and act out towards whoever was in their way. I knew the weather would be rough--hot and buggy in the summer, cold and icy in the winter. I knew that I would work a tough schedule of 5 days straight in the woods with my kids. What I didn't realize is that sometimes we wouldn't have the staff we need, so I would end up working more than 5 days straight, and maybe then only get 1 day off. I didn't realize that I would be told one thing, then see another. I didn't realize what the program needed to be, so that the kids could be helped. I didn't realize the program wasn't at a spot to adequately serve the kids who had been sent there.

I didn't realize that no matter how badly you loved a kid, you would hardly ever see the impact you had on his life. I didn't realize that I didn't come to camp with the tools I needed. I didn't realize that no matter what you do, you can never be prepared to work at a camp like this.

I didn't realize that after a year, I would have scars and bruises all over my body reminding me of the hard times. I didn't realize that my hair would change texture because of the elements in which I live and the stress I am under. I didn't realize that my body would react so adversely to such a drastic change in diet.

In the midst of all these surprises and unexpected twists to the job, I realize this: I walked into this camp ready to put aside my entire life for a year (or two) so that I could do my best to love these boys who need it. As I approach the end of my camp stay, I know that I have loved these kids. I know that I have grown in patience and compassion. I know that I have found the population who needs me the most. I know that I have realized what I need in terms of support from my employer, and I know what I need for me to be okay in the midst of chaos.

I have seen the love of God in my co-workers. I have seen the grace of God each morning that I wake up to a new sunrise. I have seen the patience and understanding of my Creator when I have fallen under the pressure of this lifestyle. And most amazingly, I have seen the resilience of a child thrown through the storm, crushed by the rocks, cast out by society, ignored by the system.

I know I will never stop helping children create better lives for themselves. I couldn't live with myself if I just walked from this path to another. For now, though, this door must close, so that I can continue to love these kids somewhere else, for every human has her limits.