Sunday, October 30, 2011

Little Mama

Mama Chicken and her babies
We lost our little mama chicken today. As does sometimes happen in the mountains, pets and livestock get taken by predators. It’s a harsh reality and never an easy pill to swallow. We put so much energy into caring for and protecting them that they become part of the family. So, we mourn the loss of our busy little mama.
I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word. –Psalm 119:28
She was such a joy to watch as she talked to her babies showing them things to eat, how to scratch for more, and the best places in the yard to “fluff.” They had their little route that they took covering the entire yard in search of bugs, seeds, and any treats that I tossed out for them. You always knew where there were by their little chirps and mama’s clucking in return. She would make a certain cluck sound for food, another for danger, and another for calling them closer to her when they wandered too far away from her ever-watchful eye. If there was too much space or an obstacle between she and her babies, she would run around in a panic trying to find a way over, around, or through to get to those kids of hers.
Now, this afternoon, as I watched them closely, they still call out to her but with no reply. They keep doing all the things she so carefully taught them to do – searching for food, drinking, watching out for danger, staying out of the way of unfriendly coop-mates. Sticking by anything they can dive for cover under. Recognizing people as friends, but, not getting too close. It breaks my heart to think of those little sweet faces snuggling together to keep each other warm without her protective wing over them.

Photo taken by Tami Collins
…weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. –Psalm 30:5b
Today, I feel like both mama chicken and the little orphans. I can relate to each of them. The ever-present desire to protect my children, and, feeling lost from losing a parent. The predator seeking my mother’s life: cancer. The predator that took my dad’s life: MRSA. We do have a limited amount of time here on earth. And, none of us know the day or hour of our departure. Only our Father in heaven knows. Each minute is a gift. A gift sometimes filled with sorrow, and sometimes joy. But, God is there. We may not know what tomorrow has for us, but He does, and has orchestrated every detail of it. A life lived with Him front and center is a life worth living. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
I find comfort knowing that I have a Heavenly Father. And, He will never leave me or forsake me. We have His word on it. Receive each minute as the gift that it is – with thanksgiving and a heart of gratitude.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. -1Peter 5:7

The orphans

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thankful Thursday - October 27

In the spirit of a book that my dear friend Debbie sent me when I was going through a particularly difficult time, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, I am starting my list of things that I am thankful for.

Today I am thankful for:
·         Dishes to wash on a cold fall morning when my hands are freezing.
·         A job to go to and people I love to work with.
·         My grandson’s smile.
·         The crisp fall breeze swirling the amber, scarlet, and purple leaves around my feet.
·         Laughter until it hurts.
·         A husband that will rub my back all night when I start tossing and turning. Even without being asked.
·         A drive-by hug from my kids.

Fall Favorite
Photo by Tami Collins 2007

With so much going on at any given moment of any given day, I sometimes forget to stop, drop, and roll.
   Stop listening to lies of the enemy of my soul. (Philippians 4:8)
   Drop the garbage that has accumulated in my life and mind. (2 Corinthians 10:5)
   Roll out the praise and thanksgiving. (Psalm 100:4)

So, today is a new day, with fresh mercies and opportunities to grow and learn. I’m thankful for today and all that it holds. For opportunities to find Him in his brilliant creation. 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! — 2 Corinthians 5:17

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Welcome to ~Branded Heart~!

Hello! My name is Tami Collins. I have been a wife for nearly 25 years, mother to one step-daughter and a son and daughter of my own, new grandmother, amateur photographer, rookie gardener, owner of a small flock of chickens, and brand new blogger.

With the kids grown (but not completely gone), I find myself floundering around looking for a new purpose. I have thrown myself into being a mom and taking care of others my whole life. Living paycheck to paycheck and only one or two vacations in 25 years, I don’t even afford myself a hobby. I tell my husband that he got off easy with a wife that can fit all of her shoes on one small shoe rack and only has a few feet of closet space. (I, too, got off easy with a husband that does not watch sports of any kind. Okay, maybe a fishing show every once in a while.)  I have finally accepted that I am worth at least one haircut a year, and that jewelry is better left to those who have a clue about fashion. It’s all about comfort and practicality for me.

As I enter the next chapter of my existence on Earth, I sense a need for a deeper, more meaningful faith-walk and relationship with my King. My days used to be filled with transporting kids places, grocery and other shopping, last minute baking marathons, making sure the animals were cared for and safe, paying the bills, running errands for my husband…all while holding down a full-time job as a production manager/graphic designer for a monthly magazine. I could go on and on, but we all know what a full plate looks like… Point being, I sometimes feel like that dirty, limp rag in the hamper. I need more of You, Lord!

My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek.
— Psalm 27:8

I took my queue from a dear sweet friend who has found her niche in blogging and writing and encouraging as she dispenses what the Lord gives her each day. I thought, “I’m not the most eloquent of writers, and I have certainly been known to ramble on and on, but, why not? It’s okay to be unique. God can use that. If Jesus can spit in the dirt and heal a blind man’s sight, he can use my willingness to do something unusual and head-scratching, too.”

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
— John 14:12

My hope with this blog is that I can give utterance to the gems of hope, faith, love, and power revealed to us, through good times and bad, when we lean on the Lord and not our own understanding. Please bear with me as I attempt to follow the leading of the Spirit and step into a fresh purpose.

Note: the older posts on ~Branded Heart~ are an ongoing “series” of posts allowing me an outlet as I walk through this difficult time of my mom’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. - tlc


I am not a big fan of heights or roller coasters. Disneyland is as big a roller coaster as I can handle. Too bad for me this week is one of those “roller coaster” weeks. Up one minute and down the next. Lifted on a wave of hope and courage and then down into fear and uncertainty. Uggh…I just feel sick to my stomach.

Mentally pacing the floor, I anxiously waited to talk with mom to find out how the PET scan went. The PET scan helps to see where the cancer is, how far it has spread, and what will be necessary on surgery day and after. I think the cruel reality of it all is starting to sink in. I can feel my heart skip a beat and my mind feels more like I stepped off the Tea Cup ride - relentlessly spinning. I just need more time with her.

While hubby/grandpa was keeping the grandbaby occupied, dinner was on the stove, and, being the multi-tasker that I am, I placed the phone call to my mom. I love my blue tooth headset!

She answered the phone and sounded remarkably good. And, she was even eating! I know, sounds odd, but she hasn’t been eating more than a few bites a day for months, living on coffee and cigarettes. Nothing sounds good, and living alone with a houseful of dogs, she hasn’t had the energy or desire to cook. It’s too bad; she can make something wonderful out of very few ingredients. She has always been able to make a gourmet meal out of hamburger. And, she passed that along to me as I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her as a child. Yea, I’m sure you caught the “coffee and cigarettes” statement… ‘nuf said.

So, where is the lesson in all of this? I’m still pretty numb. All I can do is be thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who carries me through these times. I don’t have anything profound or particularly enlightening – yet. All for YOUR glory, Lord!

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. — 1John 4:18-19

Friday, October 21, 2011

Finding Answers

Having the office all to myself for a few moments, I took advantage of the time to glean information from my mom about her recent doctor’s appointment. Still in the discovery stage of the cancer situation, all of the tests, appointments, an assortment of doctors, and details that need attention are stacking up. Lots of activity going on and yet there is the “hurry up and wait” syndrome happening as well.

Frustration and anxiety raise their ugly heads. How do I take care of all that needs to be taken care of while being so far away? Why in the world did she feel the need to move so far away ten years ago? Her living situation is far from conducive to health and healing. What am I going to do with the 14 dogs that she insists on keeping? She can’t care for them (or all of their messes) and get well after surgery and during radiation treatment. She loves those darn dogs. They have been a comfort for her as well as a big headache. Why do we do these things to ourselves? Didn’t she say something about a mold problem that was never really resolved in her house? Oh, dear God, I have to get her out of there!

When I take a look at everything on my plate right now – our family’s birthdays sprinkled in with the holidays; living in the mountains with wintertime bearing down on us; a recovering husband just starting physical therapy after surgery on his cervical spine; helping my young daughter with her newborn – my beloved grandson; while working a full-time job - I’m exhausted and overwhelmed. Lord, help me to break it down into bite-sized chunks. Show me when, where, and how to let go of things that I have no business holding onto.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. —Matthew 11:29

Time to start counting the blessings – focus on the good and perfect gifts in everyday. I can do this - not by my strength, but Yours. I simply must take you at your word. You love me and are concerned with every detail of my life. You have great things in store for me. I am the apple of your eye. I thank you, Lord, for my family, my home, my friends, and even these “teaching moments.” Let my heart remember that I do not walk this existence alone. Each day is to be lived fully. Life is not to be run blindly toward the grave.

I thank You that you search the deeper things and know me completely. I am free to come to you just as I am because you know everything about me. Nothing is hidden. There is no darkness in your presence. There is peace and rest in that knowledge.

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing."
— Zephaniah 3:17

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Wait

Today we wait. Mom has another doctor’s appointment with a specialist, a biopsy on her tongue, and, hopefully, some sense of direction as to surgery and future treatment. In my head I know the gravity of the matter and that Mom’s life could be cut short by all of this. But, there is this calm that keeps me afloat and has a firm grip on my thoughts and emotions. Thank you Lord for getting me to this place in my life where I can roll these cares over onto you.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
— Proverbs 3:5

It’s not always been like this. In fact, this is a relatively new thing for me. To trust and have the ability to hold onto the powerful truths that are tucked into the hem of His garment - the truth that sets you free. The truth that He does, in fact, have everything under control. Nothing surprises Him. That truth that I cannot add one day to my life by worrying about tomorrow. And, that comforting truth that He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever. — Hebrews 13:8

So we wait – holding on to the promises that His word is “yes” and “amen.” His word never returns void, and all things are being worked out for the good of those who love Him. I’ll just say it – I love Him!

Thank you, Lord, for your love, grace, mercy, and peace. I rejoice in you! Father, I commit my mother’s life and well-being into your hands. Your will be done. Please give us grace as we walk through this difficult time. Send your Holy Spirit as our guide, our comforter, and protector. I give you, and you alone, the glory. Thank you for granting wisdom and insight as we follow you. I love you, Lord. In the precious name of Jesus, AMEN.

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper [in the thing] whereto I sent it.
— Isaiah 55:10-11

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


As details start to come in about mom’s pending surgery, the pressure starts to mount as I am torn between my noble duties as a daughter and my duties and responsibilities at work. It wouldn’t be a big deal under normal circumstances, but with only three of us that work in the office, only one can be on “vacation” at a time – and that would be my co-worker.

"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
— Exodus 20:12

What do I do? My motto and mantra is "family first – always" but this one involves an 8-9 hour drive one-way just to get there, a strong sense of responsibility to my employers, a deadline that is not moveable, and an injured husband that has to make his doctor’s appointments. But, it’s my mom. We haven’t been on the best of terms for over 20 years but we have grown close again over that past couple of years – leaving all the garbage and hurt in the past – a tale for another time.

As I seek the Lord's leading and wait for my queue, I have a strange sense of calm blanketing the bubbling anxiety. I have to wait…just wait…the answer is in the making. Things are going to come together, I can feel it.

“But, what if this, or what about that?” Tell the yapping, faithless voice in my head to be quiet and wait.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
— Hebrews 11:1

Then it happens. My cell phone buzzes with an incoming text message. It’s my sister – the one that has been asking me if I’m going up to be with mom during her surgery. The one that has a very full plate of her own, and a looming trip to her favorite place on Earth – her little house in Idaho.  She informs me that she is leaving in the morning to make the drive up to mom’s and will take her to the hospital and stay until she is settled back home in a day or so. Then, she will make her long drive back home in time to load up and make the family road/hunting trip to Idaho.  God bless my sister richly!

Thank you, Lord for answered prayer and another chance to tune my spiritual ear to hear your still small voice. But, most of all for your patience with me as I learn patience and build my faith in You.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
— Hebrews 11:6

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Call

My cell phone rings, I check the caller ID as I pick it up to answer. Weird, I don’t recognize the number. But, it is the same area code as my mom, so I’ll answer it to find out who is on the other end.

“Hello, Tami?” a woman’s voice says on the other end. “Yes?” I answer my mind racing with who this could be.

“Hi, it’s Leta, your mom’s friend. Is this a good time to talk?” she asks.

“Oh, yea. Hi there,” I say with my heart jumping into my throat wondering what is wrong with mom.

“Your mom has some health issues,” she continues. “I told her that I was going to call you with or without her permission.”

“Ok,” I say waiting for the other shoe to drop. My heart racing and breathing becomes a challenge as I listened to the details. Searching for a piece of paper to scribble notes on with information that I know my brother and sisters will want to know. I thanked her for risking my mother’s wrath and calling me.

After hanging up, sitting like a wet rag in my office chair, I try to process it all and prioritize my thoughts and next steps. A cancerous lump on her neck, another seizure last week, surgery next week, she has been dealing with this for almost a month now - a nine hour drive from me, the nearest relative - with her friends doing their best to get her around (she doesn’t drive). The words swirl around in my head like wind-driven leaves. Gaahhh!

Call my husband! Call my sister! BUT FIRST – send out a prayer request to those faithful prayer-warrior friends of mine. You know, the ones that were put in my life to bless and love and encourage me.

Wait, why am I in such a panic? Hasn’t God known this was going to happen before the foundations of the universe? Before He lovingly knit my mother together in her mother’s womb, He knew, and He was already there. He knew… He was already there. He inhabits all of eternity and watches over His creation. He cares and is deeply involved in every little detail.

Aahh…they must be praying already. I can feel that ‘peace that passes understanding’ covering me like a sweet oil running down from the top of my head to the souls of my feet.

Yes, Lord. This is the day that you have made. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it! ALL for Your glory.

Psalms 91:1-2
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."