SHE LOVED ME

Excerpt from my latest manuscript.

 

We spotted the half-buried wagon wheels from a quarter mile off. The tired clapboard home was washed mostly in the shade of mighty white oaks. My grandma was out on the front porch watering her potted plants. The front porch ran the entire length of the front of the modest wooden home with the curling wooden shingles. It was four faded and weathered wooden steps up from the grass, weeds, and patches of rust colored dirt. The worn steps were on three sides. One centered on the front door that was wide open, the loose wire mesh on the screen door flapped faintly in the breeze, another two sets of stairs on the sides of the porch. A rainbow of brilliant colored flowers sat on the twisted top of the picket railing and on make due stacked wood stands flanking the front door. Two bigger, non-matching terra cotta, pots sat on both sides of the front steps with plants that looked more like bushes.

image courtesy of trip adviser.com

My grandma Jonas looked out over the top of her glasses. The golden chain around her sagging neck hung down like upside down rainbows on both sides of her peach colored plastic glasses that rested just short of the end of her tiny nose. Her thin red hair had faded like old paint since the last time I’d seen her. I could see from the gravel driveway her light brown eyes that were almost gold in color. She was hunched a bit more than the last time I’d seen her as well, even after setting down the tin water pail. I took note as she walked to the edge of the top of the steps and used her liver spotted and bright green veined hand to block the sun from her face as she gazed out at the unknown visitors.

I got out and stretched awkwardly and waved. My Mah-Mah opened her mouth with a perfect circle then covered it with her frail fingers, “Oh! It’s my Danny Boy!” She almost yelled to herself as she got down the splintered steps as quickly as she could muster and almost ran as I walked toward her. She held her arms out before she was half way across the yard. I could see the tears running down her frail and weathered face. I was her youngest and only daughter’s oldest child. That made me way more special to her than I was, but I knew she loved me like her Bible, and that was sayin’ something.

BEFORE AND AFTER

Everyone loves the “before and after” pictures. Well, the ones with positive outcomes. The problem is that the road from before to after isn’t always pretty. In fact, it can be down right ugly… even if the physical outcome is pleasing to the eye.

before

Here a while back I posted a picture of a house I was building, the stairs in particular. The problem I related to in that post is that while it was gratifying work, it was so difficult and dangerous, I cussed to myself in the process.

What does our spiritual health look like before and after? I guess it varies from time to time, season to season.

We get so caught up with the before and after pictures of ourselves and or our possessions that we neglect the mental snapshot of our spiritual health.

As I get older I realize that to look like Prince Charming or like Princess Jasmine doesn’t mean much if the inside isn’t humble.

It was a day and weekend of toil. I don’t work with my hands as much as I used to… Maybe I romanticized the good old days of working hard with my hands. Thinking back, I do remember losing my cool… and often. Peculiar how it takes the same actions to bring the real life memories of the past back without the mental airbrushing.

I failed today like I did so often in life. The “after” picture of what we’re changing will be spectacular, especially compared to the “before” shot. But if it takes ugly to attain beauty… then it really isn’t beauty… at least to my Biblical way of thinking.

and after

Gaining glory in the flesh for the “before and after” things mean little if our soul would have been better off before we kicked against the goads…

 

RIDING A BIKE

It’s been so long since I’d written anything, I wasn’t sure I’d remember how. I guess you could say writing is similar to riding a bike; once you learn how you never forget. But just ’cause you can ride a bike doesn’t mean you won’t crash, just ask Bill.

image courtesy of dreamstime.com

It was a beautiful Spring morning that was bursting with promise. I busted through my morning rituals like all of us have to. I popped in my contact lenses, brushed my teeth, rinsed my sinuses and smeared some sunblock on my face – one that shows the effects of a lifetime in the desert.

Before I could put my shoes on, in the breakfast area, because every normal person knows that leaving their shoes there when they switch to flip flops the night before is proper etiquette, my right eye felt like it had an eyelash trapped between the lens and my eyeball.

I pawed and pulled at my lid trying to find relief… to no avail.

I pushed on through the morning rituals; I counted out my vitamins and supplements that could choke a horse. Literally. In the morning grind I dropped several, a lid, and fought palm loads of those annoying little packets, the things that are designed to keep the little pills from sticking together. It’s peculiar how they consistently out race the pills to the neck of the container.

By then it was too late to check my emails, but I did have to send a a file via Drop Box. It never went. I finally gave up and headed for the door. Just as I got to the laundry room to grab a water to go I mumbled to myself, “I’m not doing this.” I headed back to where I started.

I pulled the contact from my eye and discovered it was torn. “Well that explains it,” I said. When I begin to talk to myself out loud I’m close to my breaking point.

I grabbed a new “Right” lens, clearly aggravated and not happy that five packs would now not be even.

I’ve been wearing contacts lenses since I was a teenager. That means I’ve put well over ten thousand contact lenses in my eyes. You get pretty good at something when you do it that often… but sometimes things just go wrong.

I tried to pop the new lens back in my eye over and over. The gift of rapidly installing my contacts was suddenly gone. After five or so tries I lost it… the new contact lens first… then my temper.

“I guess I’ll just stay home today!” I yelled knowing that wasn’t a real option.

I can ride a bike… but this one time I couldn’t get my right bike shoe unclipped on a fresh knee surgery. The street hurts worse now than it did when I was a kid. I lost my temper that day and flung my new ultra light bike…

I can write, but not nearly as well when I’m dialed in mentally and living a life that strives to honor God first.

Losing one’s temper isn’t so different than others things we learn in life.

Life is full of habits – good ones and bad ones. Once we learn how, we never forget… just like riding a bike…

HEARTBREAKS AND TEDDYBEARS

Repost from March 2013

I see it in my daughters, I remember seeing it in girls growing up, along with my sister and even my mom in hindsight. Girls naturally played with dolls, nurturing their God given instinct to care and love. They; like all women loved with a strong passion to be loved. Loved by someone special who would be willing to lay down their life for the purpose of true love. It doesn’t seem to matter how old girls get… They’re still little girls who love deeply and yearn to be loved deeply.

Likewise, little boys get older, more sophisticated, a bit cynical, and insecure enough to hide true feelings and hide behind the mask of indifference; but it’s just an act, they too are still living with the hopes, dreams, and desires they were born with. We played cowboys and Indians or army and pretended to fight and die for a just cause.

How many little boys have said the now famous words, “Look mom!” Sometimes it was said while holding our hands toward the sky while peddling our bikes, sometimes it was on top of something we’d climbed or conquered – whatever it is we were showing our mothers was for the same reason; we wanted to be acknowledged for our courage and bravery for that built in need of being respected to be fulfilled.

How many marriages melt into vapor because a woman doesn’t feel loved and/or a man doesn’t feel respected or significant? We’re all in need of the same things and our actions point to the fact that it is the desires we were born with.

All those things ran through my mind as she walked across the crosswalk. I could see the little girl in her even though she walked with a bad limp. Her clothes were worn and dirty along with her jeans faded to threads. Her white top and tennis shoes were dingy, gray and stained.

The vicious wind whipped her long gray hair back from her face revealing deep lines and age. She was carrying her life’s belongings in a cloth sack opposite her bad leg. We watched her walk into a drug store parking lot while I waited for traffic to allow a left turn.

My conscience wouldn’t allow me to drive on without trying to help the little girl who lost her dreams and was now old and homeless… No matter – she’s still someone’s daughter and child of the King. The little old girl was cynical, “We don’t want anything – we just want you to have this.” She finally lowered her cynical gaze, accepted the gift and answered, “God bless you! – God bless you for this!”

HEARTBREAKS AND TEDDYBEARS

The little girl is older now. So am I, but we’re still children – God’s children. I just needed a reminder that day of heartbreaks and teddybears from our Father. As the aged little girl limped across that street with her things in a knapsack, the big brown and dirty teddy bear she held to her heart like a child was my heart’s reminder…

A VICIOUS STORM

a viscious storm

THE TREE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING

A vicious storm ripped through our neighborhood earlier this week. It blew roof tiles off the house, ripped apart an umbrella that was closed, and turned tables and chairs over in the backyard.

As if that weren’t enough, it tore down shrubs and trees, blew water under the front door and crowned it’s show of strength with a lightning strike to the neighbors tree directly across the street.

Our neighbors had the half of the tree that got blown off by the lightning cut up and hauled off the same day as the storm. I was impressed. I was less impressed with my timeliness responding to the clean up effort.

It’s been a busy week. I have plenty of excuses. They all sound pretty good, but I’m having a hard time convincing myself that any of them have merit.

It dawned on me as I looked at the mess day after day this week while putting off the inevitable, that this was a good example not only of our physical world, but also our spiritual one as well.

How many times in life does a storm pass through and leave a disaster in our hearts and lives?

Most of the time in life I’ll have the same response spiritually as I have this week physically. I’ll live with the mess in my spiritual life. I’ll step over debris, or kick it out of the way. Just enough so that I can still function without tripping over the mess.

To start the clean up process in either scenario, whether within or without takes one very important ingredient… Action.

I’ve also found in life that in either case procrastination usually makes things worse, and the clean up process more difficult.

I finally got around to cleaning up the backyard yesterday. It didn’t take too long, but soon after I started the regret of procrastination was again a reality. If I had cleaned up the same day of the storm like my neighbors did, I wouldn’t be burning my hands on hot metal furniture.

The shredded umbrella canvas wrapped around the bottom of its stand had become the new home of a few ants and spiders. It had also become a new target for our dog Larry to mark as “his territory”.

“Sure wish I’d cleaned this up sooner,” I said to myself out loud. I knew Larry was listening and I was hoping he felt bad. He probably did, but he just can’t help himself. I’m glad he couldn’t answer, the last thing I wanted to hear from him was, “You should have cleaned it up sooner.”

I hope I learn a lesson from this incident, I need to be a man of action in my physical life, but more importantly in my spiritual life.

In fact, I think I’ll start getting ready for the next storm in life today. I’ll batten down the hatches and secure all things inside and out.

I’ll seek God through His Word in study and in prayer.

This won’t stop the next storm, the storms in life are inevitable, but being prepared spiritually assures the weathering of them.

When the next storm blows through leaving some spiritual damage, I think I’ll try to get my spiritual house in order that same day.

Putting off the clean up process only makes matters worse.

Maybe I should get some gloves too…