We’ve been counting down the days, purchased the costumes, not just for the seven year old but Mommy and Daddy also. There are lights and orange and black garland around the front door. Three carved pumpkins will finally glow. The plastic pumpkin filled with candy and Halloween shaped pretzels is so large it always draws comments. Lights and another pumpkin around the mantle. Pumpkins here. Pumpkins there. Apple pie, trail mix, and cupcakes on the table awaiting guests. Cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents will soon be here. Following will be a party at Emi’s. Costume contests are taken seriously. There will be a cash prize. A bonfire and s’mores. Not only is the American tradition a perfect Fall night, it welcomes in the official holiday season. Take your mark. Get set. Trick or treat. Smell my feet. Have fun! And be safe!
The heaviness was beyond fog, a thickness and darkness of air and soul. Graveyard of the damned. Dark, lifeless trees towered over the ground, keeping out any glimpse of sky. Row after row of headstones. There are no visitors and no flowers placed among these graves.
Beckoned from the damned, I rise. I scratch and claw and arise from the dirt. I crawl. I slither among the ground like the worm that I am. My stomach, my legs, my chin have been rubbed raw. My finger tips bleed. Eyes closed, I smash my head into another headstone. Pushing my body under a large overgrown vine, I slither on and beyond. I slither out of the graveyard.
My eyes still closed, I have no wisdom of my whereabouts. Like a new discovery, I bend up to my knees and elbows. I crawl. I find it to be much more productive. Tall trees surround me. A thick forest. They grow thick overhead and shield any sight of sky if my eyes were open to see. There is a thick underbrush. I seek no path, I seek no comfort, but I crawl on my hands and knees through the thick brush. Hour after hour.
My body begins to twitch all over. I seize. Suddenly, with no thought, with no realization of the action, my eyes open. I see I am twisted in the thickness of the brush. I crawl toward relief. I now travel on a path. My eyes are open, it is not a thought, it just is. I can see. I do not comprehend. I do not look around. But I see and I crawl on.
Jerking, my legs begin to push in. I fall. My body attempts the movement again. Using my new sense of sight, I crawl to a tree and use it to push my legs in. My entire body hugs the tree as I push and force my body upward. Slowly, painfully pushing my face against the tree and scratching my raw face, I achieve an upright position.
Arched over, head down, arms flopping, I travel on. My eyes look down. I am quite pleased with myself. I am in an upward position and my eyes watch the path. I travel on. Hours and hours. No rest. I drag my legs, swing my arms and I walk on. Then I have a thought. It is something that I am starting to do now. I think. It hurts my head at first, but I press on. I walk and I think. I walk and I think. I see that the path has changed. The path is flowing. I flop my foot forward for the next step. It splashes the path. The flowing part of the path shines. It forms an image. With my proud new vision, I look. I swing my arms. It imitates. I think again. It is a reflection. I see myself. I see myself hunched over. I push at my back. I stand.
I stand upward. I stand straight. I press my chest out and push my head up. I walk. I walk with something that is quite a new sensation. Confidence. I walk. I see. I think. As I walk on, the trees begin to thin. Something shines through the top. I squint. It is bright, I have never seen that before. The sun shines down on me. My body begins to drop dirt. It becomes clean and pure. My matted hair falls down and flows long and clean and free. My raw bleeding skin heals and is of the purest cleanest beauty. My rags radiate a white flowing gown.
I run. My body presses on with strength and beauty and confidence. I break through the edge of the forest into a wide clearance. The sun kisses my body, a flock of birds spring and fly matching my speed. Flowers blow in the field, complimenting my beauty. I have been resurrected from the damned. My Lord has beckoned me, I run and do not grow weary. Transformed, I persevere.
Interview on “Brews and Views” with David
Blah blah blah. Driving down the road. Slowly through the city. Chatting with James and Madison.
“Stop! Stop!” I have spotted a doggy in distress. An old, but small, dog has squeezed through the railing. The owner is chatting on his phone and does not notice the hanging, literally hanging, dog. He is seconds from death.
James screeches to a halt. I jump out and run over to the doggy. All in a minute, I lift the dog up to the owner that has now turned his attention my screaming way.
As I grab the dog to save his life, he shits all over me. I mean stinky all down the front of my clean clothes.
Am I mad at him? No. The dog was scared out of his mind. If I could go back in time, would I change what I did? No.
I have had similar situations with people. I help them, I save them, I give to them, I forgive them. And they shit all over me. But that is beside the point.
Despite what everyone else does, I am only responsible for me.
Sore, tired, driving home from an eight hour trip, I was ready to be home. We pulled into town after dark. There was one thing left to be done. Since we passed home, I dropped of James and Madison at home so they could start unpacking and getting a late dinner ready. I headed out another thirty minutes to pick up our doggy, Tucker, from my sister’s house. Zoned out, running through my check list, driving down a busy road, and suddenly, I am wide awake and pressing hard on the brakes.
The tiniest, I am guessing around a month old, kitten is running as fast as his little legs will carry him through the intersection. My heart starts bleeding. Plans change. I turn around, pull into a dark lot, get out of my car, and start searching. I am so happy and relieved to see the little bitty adorable kitty made it across the road, he is only about 5 feet away from me. Slowly, slowly, I walk carefully as not to scare him. Immediately in my head, I am taking him home. Madison is wrapping him in her arms and giving him an adorable little name. The next day we are buying kitty supplies. There will be catnip wrapped under the tree in a couple of months. We will take his picture and send it to all our friends. And we welcome the little guy into our home as a new family member. BUT.
But, he immediately runs into some tall grass and brambles. I turn on my cell phone flashlight and continue to call and try to coax him out. I am not here two minutes, when a police officer shows up. I think help has arrived, but no. After I explain the situation, I get the speech, “Cats are funny things. He wants to live there in the tall grass. He is ok. Leave him alone.”
After no success, I finally give up. Sad, I am defeated.
Ya know? This world is a bunch of lost kitties. Jesus tries to coax us out from the tall grass and the brambles. But we are scared and we think we know better. The rest of the world tells Christians to shut up and leave those people where they are, they are quite happy there. But if this lost world could only see the warm home and the loving family and the safety from being away from the street. If only Christians would be a true reflection of Christ’s love to the lost, we could bring a lot more kitties home.
“Dear sweet baby, it is ok. Everyone messes up. EVERYONE. What matters, is what you do after you mess up.” I do not know how many times I have said this to my daughter. I have begun to learn to say it to myself.
Remember Peter? Peter of the Bible. Peter, the disciple of Jesus. Peter, the Rock. The rock on which Jesus would build his church. Jesus knew he was about to be crucified. Peter swore to him, “I will not deny you. Even if I have to die with you, I will not leave you.”
Just a couple of hours later, Peter was standing in the courtyard.
“Hey, You were with that Jesus,” said a stranger.
“No. I don’t know who he is.” How quickly the tune of Peter changed.
“You. You are a follower of Jesus,” it came again.
Peter was getting really mad now, “I have no clue who you are talking about.”
Another voice, “Oh yes, I saw you with Jesus.”
“Damnit! I have no clue who Jesus is!” yelled out the voice of Peter.
At that point, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Jesus, that was covered in blood, whose body was disfigured because of the torture that he had endured. The Jesus to whom Peter had just that very night pledged his life. Jesus looked at Peter.
What do you think his eyes looked like: I told you so? I am disappointed in you? I hate you? Go to hell?
I have a daughter. If, because of her, I was taken out into the streets and tortured. If I was spit on and left to die and it was all brought on because of her, if I was one breath before death, and I got to see her one more time, if my eyes could lay on her for my final breath, do you know what I would want to say? I love you. It does not matter what you have done, I forgive you. All of your mistakes, it does not matter. I love you.
And I am not Jesus. So, I can only imagine all the more, how much Jesus’s eyes knew Peter and loved him.
Peter screwed up big. He denied the God of the universe. But know what? God was not finished with him yet.
Jesus, that died, his heart stopped beating. He had no more brain waves. He was dead. But he is God. He is alive! Three days later, he walked out of that tomb.
He found Peter and said to him, “Feed my sheep.” He said to him, it does not matter. You are human. You screwed up. But what matters, is what you do now. Peter, get to work. I have forgiven you. Now go, tell others how they also can be forgiven.
“Caroline, You have screwed up. You really messed up this time. I don’t care. I forgive you. What matters is what you do now. Do you know that? Do you really believe that? When your husband makes you mad, do you hold it against him or do you forgive him, like I forgave you? When you lose all patience with your daughter, are you serving yourself or me? When you judge that woman that walked by, do you not see her as my daughter that needs you to wrap your arms around her and tell her that it is ok. Tell them, I know what they did. I forgive them. I love them.”
Jesus healed the blind. He took the hand of a twelve year old dead girl and told her to stand up and she did. He walked on the water. Jesus was tortured and died a horrible gruesome death. He was dead. But then he walked again, talked again, and ate again. And Peter saw him. It is foolishness to those that do not know him. But try to convince Peter otherwise? Peter was tortured and died in the end for Jesus. Know why? Because he knew it was truth. He knew Jesus.
A few thousand years later: Jesus took a really screwed up sinful, sick, Caroline, and made me into his princess. I know him! It is foolishness to those that do not know him, but you can not convince me otherwise.
“It must be wonderful to write,” she said to him one day, thinking of the verses he wrote so easily.
“Well, if you really want to write, why don’t you start with a journal?” the Canon asked briskly, always ready to start something new.
“But what should I put in a journal? I don’t do anything exciting.”
“Why, everything that happens – the places you visit, people you talk to, stories you hear. It isn’t so much what you write – it’s doing it regularly that counts. And the more you write, the easier you’ll find it. Do try it!”
And I hold “Nothing is Impossible. The Story of Beatrix Potter” by Dorothy Aldiss to my chest. Such cherished words. I feel them.
Life is just that: life. But we all have it. What will I give?
Writing captures the emotion of life. It creates. It captures. It defines. When we write, we take something from this life and we proclaim that it matters. It is valuable and treasured, if not only in our solitary souls. But that is enough! And that is why I feel so alive when I write because it is me announcing:
This. Me. My heart. My life. My connection with you. My God. My creation. It matters and it is beautiful.
Dark. Loud explosions boomed occasionally and a constant high pitched spray of bullets. Inside my head was a constant whirling and confusion. My vision blurred as I looked around at the casualties and wounded. One tangled in barbed wire and bent backward into the trench. His body occasionally shook as the enemy shot again at his exposed legs.
“He is dead!” I yelled out in frustration and anger. “Leave him alone!” I think I yelled it out. Maybe it was all in my head.
I turned. I ran as fast as I could. I began dropping gear. I ran past some other soldiers standing firm at their post. A girl, a young girl of about ten, was bandaged where one arm used to be, but she stood in such confidence. I ran past her.
Another aged man, laying inside the trench with many fresh battle wounds on top of old battle scars. He shook his fists at the sky and cursed God.
I ran and ran. Each soldier a different scene. Some shot, young, old, fixed, soiled pants, mixed descriptions that do not belong in a war. Then I stopped. I froze. Something was moving within a bundle. Tucked within a nest of rocks. An infant hand poked out. Bending, I folded back the dirty burlap blanket. A baby. Dropping completely to my knees, I yelled out, but then threw my whole body over the infant as a bomb whirled over my head and exploded nearby.
A sound began softly in my ear. I took my finger and tried to clean out my ears, only making the sound louder. “Stop! Stop!” I covered my ears. It sounded like a sweet music box. “Stttoooooppp! You do not belong here!” Turning my head in the direction of the music, I see it.
Pretty girls and well dressed gentlemen. Well fed, clean, protected. Just a short distance from our battle was another world. A high-class party with all the finest embellishments. Occasionally, a head would turn in the battle’s direction, it would cock to the side, take a few steps toward us and give a pitting sigh. Out came trays of food, dancing, laughter.
Inside my head spun faster and faster, the battle spun in the other direction, the party spun. It all grew louder and louder. I clasped my head between my hands and shut my eyes, trying to drown out what would not go away. Toppling backward, my hands reached out desperately to grab the now screaming baby. As I fell my arm was cut by rusty barbed wire and then I hit my head on a sharp rock. Pain. I lay in more pain than can be described.
Laying, waiting to die, my spirit leaves my body. Pain leaves my body. But I remain. Strength enters me. Clarity, healing, power seep into my body. I stand. I stand firm. A gold belt of the truth is buckled around my waist. I understand. My healed breast is covered in righteousness. Readiness covers my feet. I hold the shield of faith. All fear is replaced with confidence and my head covered with salvation. I can not be harmed. Tightly grasping the sword of the spirit, I am invincible. I turn to help the baby and automatically a covering protects her. A yell escapes my body but fear and pain have been replaced with confidence. It is a battle cry. A call to arms.
I did not chose this. I woke and found myself here. Cancer is my battle. But with a strength that is not my own, I stand firm.