Friday, August 12, 2011

Well Water Runs Deep

It's a refreshingly beautiful day after a stretch of intense heat and I am sitting on my porch swing enjoying the balmy afternoon breeze. All decked out in her brightest swim suit and playing on the deck is my youngest grandchild Maggie. Her blond, natural curls are more tightly wound from the humidity of the past few days. The outside spigot is turned to a sizable trickle and there is enough water for her to repeatedly fill and empty her neon pink bucket. Occasionally she bends forward to sip the ice cold water snaking through the faded green hose, well water that runs deep within the earth on our three acre plot.

I  had the joy of watching Maggie grow for the past year and a half. But in a few days she will be off with her mother to start a new life in California. I am already feeling the familiar deep sadness of parting. Saying goodbye is never easy for me. Whether by death or a new life, moving across town or leaving the country to live in a tropical paradise, each parting holds its own melancholic circumstance.

The former days of 'goodbyes' quickly hoist the main sail and set me on a course toward nostalgia. I miss my own babies and waves of memories crash upon me.

Suddenly I am washed up on the shore of the 'other' house. There my family spent endless hours in our swimming pool. City living in the August heat with no air conditioning made us all thankful for that round pool of water. Sometimes we would swim until midnight to cool down before bed. Summer Sundays after church were almost a regimen with the kids enjoying their dad's secret recipe hamburgers on the grill and swimming all day. Once he made a giant burger. I still can't figure out how he flipped it without breaking it into pieces. I remember one morning I found a small hole in the pool wall. I imagined the worst when I discovered a bullet at the bottom of the water. To this day I am still grateful none of my babies were swimming when that 45 was fired. That experience was the biggest reason we sold the 'other' house. 

An old gray stockade fence outlined our tiny back yard edged with flower beds. My only son plucked those flowers from their bed to give a tiny bouquet to his kindergarten teacher. When his baby sister was born he took a picture to show Mrs. Margis and a bully on the playground ripped it out of his hands. David punched him right in the nose. 

An audience of daisies and lilies watched as my little Theresa and I played catch with a beach ball nearly as big as she was. The magnolia tree that was a Mother's Day present flowered twice in one summer and a lilac bush in the corner became a fort for David and Rachel to spy on the neighbors. In that yard we designed and built a wheelchair ramp for our oldest daughter, Sharon. The ramp became a sledding wonder in winter. Once, our Doberman Pinscher, who thought my children were her children, jumped over the aged, weathered fence to protect them from a fight between opposing school students. 

 David and his baby sister, Rebekah

Theresa and the beach ball

Heidi, the Doberman guardian

The most special Christmas Eve at the 'other' house was when Theresa was born. She was my joy baby. After the trauma of Sharon's birth and all the hardship that followed, I spent seven years questioning, grieving, and living with the fear of another 'bad' doctor delivery. But Theresa's birth was natural, uncomplicated and pure joy. That night in the hospital they brought her to me in a bright red stocking. Santa couldn't have picked a better gift! The saddest Christmas Eve was after my father-in-law passed away and I saw the pain and loss in my children's eyes for the grandpa they loved so much. 

 Me, Sharon, baby Theresa, and Rick

The last of five children, my baby, Rebekah, was born at the 'other' house. She was my healing baby. My mother passed away and on top of that I was deeply hurt in the church we were attending. When Bekah was born, I needed her as much as she needed me. I remember the day she was knocked off her bike by a neighborhood bully. He ran over her fingers and she had a bump by her left eye. The police officer who answered my complaint gave her a teddy bear for being so brave. Teddy was part of the Bear With Me program set up for children in crisis situations. Bekah's crisis was minor but I appreciated Officer Freeman's compassion.

Hubby and I literally saved our quarters at the 'other' house to build a one car garage. Whenever we had a few spare dollars we converted them to quarters and dropped them in a huge glass piggy that took up a corner of our bedroom. We often stockpiled our glass deposit Pepsi bottles to get our quarters back just to feed piggy. Eventually the garage was built and our little Rachel pushed her nose up against it in a pout more than once. One winter a giant heater kept that garage warm while Rick and I painted a sign on my father-in-law's old work van that we inherited for our business, "Mokry Carpet Service". 

 Rachel and the cutest pout ever

The kitchen in the 'other' house was small but we managed to squeeze all seven of us around the table for dinner. We had a patio door to the backyard which made the little mess hall feel bigger but our driveway was the only view from the side window. That landed a memory the day my blond haired little boy stood there singing an ode to the big, yellow sun. Even at the tender age of three he revered its warmth.  It's no wonder to me now that he has chosen to live in Brazil. 

Before we finished the basement in the 'other' house the sewer backed up and destroyed pictures, journals, yearbooks, and other sentiments. I cried while I mopped up the stale water and sopping mess. After some repairs I dried out the basement and my tears, then built a giant pink bedroom and a bathroom for our girls. Sharon loved the independence of the new back door with remote opener, and an electric lift on the basement stairs so she could have wheelchair access. Theresa, David, Rachel, and Rebekah found hours of entertainment using the lift as a carnival ride. We still laugh about the time their dad and I raised the lift and trapped them in the basement and David scaled up and over it to free his sisters.

I remember the last bittersweet summer in the 'other' house ended with a For Sale sign crowned with a big red Sold. Sweet water memories were washed away with the pool the new owners didn't want.

A giggle of Maggie's laughter pulls me from my nostalgic journey and I return to 'this' house. A 130 year old homestead that houses its own memories. Good, bad, tragic, sad, funny old memories. Memories as deep as a well, pulled up in the watery bucket of my mind to be poured out for my children and grandchildren. Because some day they might sit on their own porch swing and journey back over their life in the 'other' house or 'this' one where well water runs deep.   

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Snap, Crackle, Pop Bubble Wrap

It was 3:45 am on the morning of February 19, 2004. That was the as time I arrived at the airport to make the flight to Atlanta, and from there onto El Salvador. It was my first missions trip as well as my first trip out of the United States.

Leaving the freedom of America to arrive in a country where guards stand ready with rifles was disturbing to say the least. I handed my passport over to the customs official and was struck with the gravity of giving away the little book that held my American identity. Then I glanced down at his desk and saw a tract. The official looked up and our eyes locked. 

Speaking English with a heavy Spanish accent he asked, "Are you a Christian?"

Without hesitation I answered with a smile, "Yes, I am."

To my delight he said, "Me too!" 

In that moment God erased any fear and uncertainty that marked my heart. I knew I was in the right place at the right time with my Righteous Companion.

Boarding a bus I left the city streets lined with open markets and traveled through green and luscious country. Flowers and plants sown together quilted the land while giant parasol palm trees shaded the countryside. Inactive volcanoes were mountains that had blown their tops, and tapestry rock walls hung like draperies. The beauty that surrounded me made it hard to believe the country housed such poverty.

Shanties made from tree posts and ribbed steel marred the landscape. Some hung precariously on the crags as if bemoaning their tenants to onto life by their fingertips. The inhabitants were people too poor to buy even a candle to light their house at night. 

Amidst this poverty I was grateful for the missionary directing my team. He was a big Norwegian with a bigger heart and a delightful character. He loved the people he served and considered the country of El Salvador a book of tales to tell. With five languages under his belt and a wealth of knowledge he told grand stories. But the story he told about the children was the most heartbreaking.  

Seeing them in his words changed my life forever. I wept when I heard about the dirty, lice infested, and hungry little waifs without homes. More than 400,000 children were orphaned or unwanted. They lived in herds like animals and fended for themselves. They survived on what they could find and dug in garbage heaps to fill their hungry bellies. Right then with God's help I was determined to make a pocket sized difference in the few short days ahead.

My team's job was to build small houses made of block in a dirt poor, mountain community. There the children would shyly peek over the small wall that housed us and our supplies. Sad and curious dark eyes questioned our intentions yet yearned for a smile or a piece of candy. Over that wall is where I first saw Lupe.

A mess of strings and curls framed her beautiful brown eyes. Her blue t-shirt was grimy and worn, her tawny skin smudged with dirt. Unlike the other little ones she was wary of my alien presence in her world and would not peer into my surroundings. Instead she sat on the ground playing with a discarded syringe and watched from a distance.

The next morning armed with licorice and a warm, wide smile I coaxed her playmates inside the area. Lupe watched and after a few cautious minutes she approached the wall. Folding her small arms, she rested her head upon them and peered over the blocks. Her round eyes betrayed her aloofness. The curiosity and desire for candy and attention was clearly visible. Later that day with a little help from her friends Lupe wandered into my space and heart. But it wasn't the Twizzlers and hugs that made Lupe smile, it was Bubble Wrap. 

Over the next days with the children playing in our living space the team and I needed to childproof. One of the first precautions we took was to wrap the re-bar. While wrapping the rods with air filled plastic I couldn't resist popping a few bubbles and glanced over to see a troop of young eyes watching with wonder. The widest of them were Lupe's. Bubble Wrap had cracked the code to her world and earned her trust. She sat on the dirt floor happily popping bubbles and before long we were repeating together 'snap, crackle, pop bubble wrap!"

The last day in the small village was bittersweet. I was exhausted and ready to return to my own family, but I knew I would miss Lupe as well. I helped to load the supplies and finally it was time to leave. The little clan of miniature Salvadorans came running to say their goodbyes. At the head of the pack was Lupe. She ran straight to me and wrapped her sweet honey arms around my neck. Happy, sad tears filled my eyes. I enfolded her in my love and from behind my back I pulled a small roll of Bubble Wrap, a gift just for her.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” And when he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. (Matthew 19:14 NIV)  

My missions trip wrote a new chapter in my life. I have gone on from there. I've realized that more than my life or my work, God wrapped His love for Lupe in Bubble Wrap. He used the snap, crackle, pop to make a pocket sized difference in one small life. Not so different from another time in a poor, rural stable when He wrapped His love for you and I in swaddling clothes. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Bouquet of Newly Sharpened Pencils

One of my favorite movie quotes hails from You've Got Mail. “Don’t you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies...".

I don't live in New York and the days of school are far behind me, but I still love parading the aisles of school supplies. There before me lies a delicious buffet of Autumn goodies too good to pass up. The table is set with paper place settings and stylish utensils of pens and highlighters. Rainbow markers call out "sit here". In the center of it all is a chipper bouquet of newly sharpened pencils.

In these academic treasures come bite size lessons for life.

Rows of spiral notebooks line up with their coats of many colors. They remind me that even when I am deep in the pit and it feels like things are spiraling out of control, God holds the pages of my life together.

Sometimes things are dull and the manna tasteless. Highlighters cause the blessings in my life to stand out. The neon accents give attention to the small miracles that I might otherwise overlook.

Staples large and small call to mind the Great Provider. He provides me with the staples of life, and all things for my enjoyment. But greater still for the strength to face adversity.

Gloriously bright markers color a rainbow in my heart. They mark a place for me to remember the promises set forth by the One who never breaks a promise. Great is His faithfulness!

Overload is a natural part of life and stress is unavoidable. Clip-its of all sorts and sizes snap my attention. They help me remember that nothing can separate me from the love of Christ. I am forever clipped to the One who always has a grip.

Post-its, those cute little stickys that hold a quick note make me take note of important things. Love, acceptance, and forgiveness should stick with me every day.

And finally at the center of it all, a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils. I am given an endless supply of ability to express my thankfulness. The lead of gratefulness keeps my relationship with God sharp and points me in the right direction. When I stray, the eraser end tells me of the grace my Heavenly Father uses to rub out my mistakes and give me a fresh start.

The store shelves are lined with necessities for learning. All of those Autumn treats usher me into a new semester of knowledge. And God is the teacher who gives me something to take home besides homework. 

"It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Money, A Room, and Fiction

Virginia Woolf said, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." I have neither. What I do have is two articles in the August issue of the Ruby for Women Ezine. Yes, I am excited about this.

You see, I was born way back in 1952 to an abused mother, and a father who excessively indulged in alcohol thereby multiplying his angry and mean nature. My maternal grandfather lived with us as well, and he was also fond of the 'devil's brew'. There was a lot of abuse in my family while I was growing up, some of it done to me.

I know, I know, there are those who say "get over it!" But that is something I will never get over. Thank God! It gave me strength to deal with more heartbreaking adversity and made me who I am. I struggled and dragged myself through some pretty tough territory to get to greener pastures. The kind my Lord "maketh me to lie down" in right next to the "still waters."   

In my early years I was too busy surviving life to write about it. After I married and my first daughter suffered a birth injury at the hands of the Obstetrician, I did even more surviving. If you've read some of my past blogs you have an idea of what I'm talking about. But these days I survive less and live more. I find a few free moments to jot down my thoughts here at "The Best..." and I thoroughly enjoy doing so.  

More often than not I stumble along, some days staring at a blank computer screen and other days thinking, "can I write that?" Then I remind myself, 'it's my bloggy and I'll write what I want to, write what I want to!'

I love my blog, I love to write, and I am still learning to love my life. Now, if I just had money and a room of my own I might write fiction :)


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