Quit, and You’ll Pay for it!

A committed jogger for seventeen years, I decided to quit one day. Dumbest thing I ever did. That was thirteen years ago and I’ve been falling apart ever since. I’ve gained weight, become a sugar junky, and can barely walk a flight of stairs without getting out of breath and my legs feeling like spaghetti. I can blame it on my age and aches and pains; even use my ailments as excuses for not doing better. But I can only blame myself. I’m the type of person that if a doctor ever told me I’d never walk again, I’d not only walk, I’d run straight into his office wearing an “I told you so” sign around my neck.

But, today I’ve thought: am I angry with myself for getting old? So angry that I’m punishing my body by giving up on it and thinking who the heck cares anyway? Is it self-pity? Loneliness? Depression? Or have I just gotten too fat and lazy to care anymore?

Feeling discouraged, I messaged my son on Facebook this morning. This is what he wrote back:

“I know for myself when I’m out running and training I feel alive, free, and have internal peace. There is a sense of accomplishment each and every time. Not so much in the training but in overcoming all the mental thoughts about why I don’t have to today, or I’m too busy, or my body needs a break and so forth. Once I’m at Hobby Park I look around, and I see the trees, I hear nature, I feel the elements, and I say to myself, “I did it. I’m here.” No one made me, no one encouraged me, no one else had anything to do with me being there, but me. I’ve learned, not in a narcissistic mindset, that really so much that happens in my life is the result of choices I make; good, bad, or ugly. I’m not being anti-dependent upon God, I’m fully dependent upon Him, but even He does not overcome my “flesh” for me. I have to exercise authority over it. Every time I go to Hobby Park I rejoice for overcoming my flesh because I know how difficult the workout is going to be because I control the workout and they SUCK every time, but the sense of accomplishment is awesome. I finish, I look around and it’s just me. No fans cheering me on, no designated finish line and a medal waiting to be placed around my neck; no one even really knowing how difficult the training is I just completed and how I had to push through my body shutting down. But I know!!! God knows!!! The birds, trees, and elements know because they cheer me on! They smile down at me like a father takes pleasure in seeing his son overcome a difficult challenge and not quit. God, His heavenly host, and creation cheer me on and that’s enough for me. Love ya mommy dearest!!!!”

I got off my lazy, fat butt and went for a thirty-minute walk. My body hated me for it, but my mind was grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long, over-due relationship with walking and feeling strong again.

Seasons of the Heart

When I was a child, going to Sunday school and church was as much a part of me as putting on my clothes. I wasn’t made to go, I wanted to go.

Childhood memories flood my mind with Billy Gram crusades, Oliver Green tent revivals and meeting in the preacher’s house, then in his garage, then in a circus tent while the church was being built. Laughing, I remember the preacher’s rattle-trap van bouncing me up and down and banging my head against the window as he drove through deeply creviced ditches to pick up poor kids for Sunday school. Mr. and Mrs. Sterling were more than preacher and wife; they were our family’s best friends.

Mr. Sterling often brought us bags and bags of groceries telling mom that God told him we needed them. He prayed over my baby brother one day who suffered a bowel obstruction. When mom sat him on his potty, everything broke loose and he never suffered bowel problems since.

I felt safe in the church; like I belonged there. I enjoyed being with my friends, memorizing scripture, having Bible drills, and singing and playing my accordion. And I liked that the church was plain and simple, not big and fancy that seemed more like a morgue than a church. It was a little, cinderblock mission where babies were allowed to cry, Baptisms took place in freezing cold creeks under God’s blue skies, and get-togethers were hot dogs and weenie roasts and kids wading in the creek and catching tadpoles in jars.

I always felt that people needed to be in church and always encouraged my brothers to go, thinking that it would somehow change their lives. And I’m not saying that it doesn’t change people’s lives, but it’s not the church that changes people, it’s a repentant heart and the cleansing power of Jesus Christ. And there are many people sitting in their pews thinking that because they go to church they are going to Heaven.

Sadly, along with many years of attending church, come heartaches and misunderstandings, gossip and quarrels, cliques, and favoritism, frustration, and burn-out. Instead of being the perfect place for coming together and working things out, some leaders prefer to sweep conflicts under the rug and hope no one notices there are problems in the church. And then they wonder why people emotionally and physically drift away.

I feel that many in the world today are either looking for something they long for in church or have lost hope of ever finding it and given up. And many may never find Christ as a result of it.

I’m thankful that I grew up in church and remember the good times. I’m thankful that I asked Jesus into my heart when I was five years old. I’m thankful that we have a warm and loving relationship and that He is always by my side regardless of whether I’m praising Him in church or sitting on my back porch or in my living room in front of a cozy fire.

I wish I could say I miss going to church. The truth is, my heart is totally at peace with not going. Many don’t understand why I feel the way I do, but God does. He knows and understands the deep hurt and the tears I’ve cried over things that destroyed my trust and turned my heart away. And where I expected to find love and understanding and let’s sit down and talk about this I found cold indifference; a total lack of concern.

After more than three years, I’m still struggling with hurt and anger and confusion. Call it a bruised ego, an unwillingness to forgive; whatever you want to call it. I call it a grieving process; and as with all grief, it takes time, for some longer than others.

And if anyone comes to the conclusion that the only way you can be a real Christian is to attend church, where does that leave our shut-ins and those in nursing homes?

I don’t apologize for my feelings, they’re mine and God allows me to have them plus all the time I need to work through them. Just like life itself, the church has its ups and downs, hurts and confusion, but it’s how it deals with it that matters in the long run.

 

 

 

My Accordion, My Best Friend

I was such an introvert growing up. I’d rather stay in my room with the door shut, singing and playing my accordion than chasing boys in the neighbourhood. Many times I’d storm into my room bawling while strapping on my accordion. Once I started playing and singing, the blues slid off my back and slithered out the door like a snake.

My accordion was my best friend. It helped me get through some of the toughest times of my life, like sitting in school wishing I was anyplace but there. Compared to everyone else I felt brain-dead till I learned to play the accordion. Even the teacher called and asked mom what she had done differently because I was doing so much better in school.

Yeah, my buddy did stuff like that for me. It gave me self-confidence. Heck, If I could learn to squeeze the bellows in and out, figure out which little black buttons to push and play the keyboard all at the same time, I could conquer the world. Well, maybe not the whole world, but my little world at least.

I realized that God was looking out for me. He knew I needed an outlet, something special that I could do, so He gave me the gift of music. I was never Lawrence Welk or Liberace on accordion and piano. I was just plain me. Like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way.

My accordion gave me the courage to sing solos in church, too. Sliding my arms through the shoulder straps, feeling the weight of the accordion against my chest was like wearing a shield of armour. My hands got sweaty and my voice quivered, but I was less afraid with my buddy leaning against me.

I began playing the accordion when I was twelve. Mom bartered the preacher’s wife to give me lessons in exchange for cleaning her house. That only lasted a few weeks. I couldn’t help it that I played what was in my head instead of what was on the music sheet. She shouldn’t have played the stupid song for me before starting the lesson and then again before I left. Not my fault.

She quit. Said I had perfect pitch, whatever that meant, and that she couldn’t teach me. That really made me feel smart. Couldn’t teach me? I thought preacher’s wives always spoke the truth. That’s okay. I didn’t want to figure out all that math and follow those little black notes dancing all over the page anyway. It was so much easier to hear the song and just play it and be done with it.

I was happy that I didn’t have to waste my time practising anymore. It was cramping my style; taking away the joy of playing from my heart. So what if I wasn’t doing it right. It made me feel right and that’s all that mattered to me.

My buddy didn’t mind either. We had a good thing going and didn’t want some impatient accordion teacher messing it up.

As soon as I’d come home from school, I’d play my accordion, sometimes for hours. It was my happy pill when I felt down, my antidote against anger and frustration.

Shortly after I re-married, I bought a new accordion; shiny black, electric, came all the way from Italy. A real beauty. But it could never take the place of the one that saw me through the tough times of growing up. It was faded and worn and stained with tears. The bellows were leaking air, and the leather straps were peeling and cracking. But the most expensive accordion in the world could never replace the memories my best friend and I shared so many years ago.

I guess I can still play the accordion if I’d get it out of the closet. But fifty pounds way back when was light compared to now. But I didn’t stop playing it for that reason. It’s just that other things have taken priority, like a husband and two dogs, digital designs, and doing laundry and cleaning the house. Okay, I’m lying. The truth is I just got out of the habit. Like jogging and walking and eating right. I think I need to get back in the groove.

So tomorrow, If I can still lift it, I’m getting my accordion out of the closet and play it. I miss it. Who knows? It might make me feel twenty again. Heck, I’ll settle for fifty!

Well, this is tomorrow. I dragged my accordion out of the closet. It felt like it weighed a ton, and putting it on was like wrestling an octopus. And just as I knew they would, Bella ran and hid under my husband’s computer desk, trembling and Pepper stood there sniffing it to death.

Ten minutes later, I finally got it on, unhooked the snaps fastening the bellows together, slid my hand under the thickly padded strap attached to the Base and began playing. Just like riding a bike; once you learn you never forget. However, it didn’t make me feel twenty again, not even fifty. I guess nothing can work that kind of miracle!

 

 

 

 

True Love

Growing up, without saying a word, my dad taught me men are not to be trusted. They sleep late, work when they feel like it, and treat women like dirt; expecting them to do everything, be everything, and keep their mouth shut. That’s when anger gave birth to the Incredible Hulk. That’s when a sweet, faint-hearted child became a strong, courageous woman fighting against injustice toward women and all the underdogs of the world. No womanizing, woman-abusing anybody-abuser was safe in my world.

It’s no wonder my ex-husband and I didn’t stay married long. His big mouth was as abusive as his rough hands slapping me till my ears rung and slamming me against the wall squeezing my throat. He just didn’t realize he had a tiger by the tail until he dragged his butt home from work one day to find his bags sitting outside the door and the locks changed.

Now, holding my nine-month-old son on my lap, my cynical, twenty-year-old heart told me I can trust no one. I can depend on no one; not my family, not my friends, not my church, no one. I’ll have to buckle up, woman-up and stand on my own two feet.

As a single mom, divorced and back in the dating scene I soon discovered that guys only wanted one thing from me, and it wasn’t my keen mind. Fueled by the memory of being molested at the age of thirteen, sexually harassed on the job, and nearly date-raped one horror-filled night, the Hulk inside me grew increasingly fierce and strong; fighting all men and needing none because no “real” man existed in this so-called man’s world!

So I stumbled along, alone and raising my son the best I knew how. He was my little man, my hero; the only living soul my heart truly trusted and believed in. Still, my heart yearned for the right man for me. I was too young to go through life alone, and besides, my son deserved a loving father. But the wall of steel protecting my untrusting heart would take the strength of Superman to break down.

One Friday summer’s night out with, my niece and five-year-old, we dragged up and down Main Street in Debbie’s bright yellow, 69 Mustang. It wasn’t my style to do such a teeny-bopper thing but that night I decided to go along just for the fun of it.

Then we spotted them. Two neatly dressed, good-looking guys sitting on the hood of a fire engine red, 63 Ford. Immediately, boy-crazy Debbie pulled into the service station where two curious guys slid off the hood of the car and strutted towards us like a couple of peacocks.

I had just broken up with a church-going-God-professing-born-again Christian who proved to be a druggie, a liar and a cheat, and just plain crazy! Shortly after our break-up, he barged into my apartment waving a gun. I never felt as afraid for my child’s and my life as I did that day. You can only imagine my relief when he said he was going to kill himself and stormed out the door.

So I was far from ready to strike up a conversation, let alone a relationship with Prince Charming poking his head through the car window.

However, soon after meeting that night, Buck and I began dating. But my heart was never off guard. Not even when I saw how much he loved Robbie. Not even when he knelt beside me, gazing into my eyes with the love I’d never seen before. Not even when he asked me to marry him.

My brain said he was a good man. My heart said he’s just like all the others. My brain said he’s good for me and that I can learn to trust him. My heart said when he finds out how I really am, he’ll run, just like everyone else. My brain said to give him a chance. My heart said it will never yield to any man any time this side of heaven.

Six months later, we got married.

This man saw the worst anyone has ever seen in me before and loved me in spite of my suspicions, fears, and insecurities. He held me when I cried, he supported me during counselling, he talked to me, he listened to me, he encouraged me. He lifted me up high and taught me how to fly. No one except Jesus has ever loved me like that before.

He weathered the storm. He pushed through the barriers. He broke down the walls of steel with his stubborn love, his gentle strength and patience and longsuffering. He won my heart.

I thank God for our forty-five years together and for the love and happiness that few people share simply because they don’t push through the rough times. Most of all, I thank God for revealing His unconditional, steadfast, unwavering love for me through my awesome husband; the man He created just for me.

I still have trust issues. I still view the world as being more evil than good. I still, and always will have a fighting spirit against injustice. But because of one man’s stubborn persistence, I finally know the meaning of true love.

I’m Old But I Ain’t Dead!

Sometimes I wish I were still that little girl, sitting on the kitchen counter, feeling moms firm touch as she slides my socks and shoes over my chubby feet. I wish I could run through the woods with my brothers, chase butterflies, and walk along the banks of the clear, trickling streams. I wish I could turn over one more rock, one more time with my brothers, looking for lizards and taking our precious treasures to the creek and watch them swim away. I wish I could see the bullfrogs plopping through the thick, green grass near the spring house. I wish I could swing beneath the limbs of the old giant oak tree, feel my long red hair blowing in the breeze; my feet nearly touching the sky.

Childhood memories; enthralling interludes between the confusing times of trying to figure things out for myself and having a real sense of belonging in a world so big and mean.

In school, I felt so out-of-place that I might as well have been on the moon. Had I not been so afraid of the consequences, I would have run away every single day. Like the chainsaw massacre, a cloud of doom hung over my head, causing my heart to tremble with fear. And as a shy, insecure six-year-old, nothing was more fearful than a shrew for a teacher and a classroom full of Einstein’s and social butterflies.

It seems that from my first gulp of polluted air in this chaotic world I’ve been plagued with this never-good-enough-something-is-wrong with me feeling. I didn’t ask for it, I don’t want it, and I’ve spent nearly my entire life getting rid of it. But it’s stuck like superglue inside my brain.

I guess that’s why being old is so difficult for me. The bigger everyone else’s world gets the smaller mine shrinks. Like a withering flower, old people are viewed by many as losing their charm and beauty and usefulness. We’re too slow, too forgetful, too out of touch with young people’s lingo and technology. It’s as if being old means our feelings are dried up, our ears are deaf, and our physical and emotional desires are dead.

And I wonder: is this how my mother felt when she was seventy-one? What about my dad? They didn’t share their feelings with me; especially not my dad. And the feelings my mother shared were always negative and meant to make me feel responsible for all her woes. So I have no gauge to go by, only my gut telling me that old age just ain’t fair.

The only consolation I have is that all young people if they live long enough, will be old one day. They’ll experience aches and pains, grief and loneliness like never before. They’ll say more good-byes to their family and friends than they ever thought possible. They’ll look in the mirror and not recognize the person looking back at them. They’ll feel forgotten, neglected, at the bottom of the totem pole where old people just don’t fit in. I guess only then will they understand that as long as people have air in their lungs their feelings, needs and desires are still alive and worthy of love and respect. Only then will they scream from the top of their lungs to a cold and heartless world, “I’m old, but I ain’t dead!”

My Four-legged Girls

We’re sitting on the back porch, Bella pressing her regal nose against the screen watching the squirrels and Pepper curled contentedly on my lap sniffing the air.

Bella’s eyes are like those of an Egyptian Princess; only hers are naturally and perfectly lined in black, melting my heart with her wide-eyed expressions of love every time she looks at me.

Pepper is jet black, except for the white on her chest and dainty paws. Looking up at me, rolling her big brown eyes, it’s as if she’s looking straight into my soul. I press her head against my chest and whisper how beautiful and precious she is to me.

That’s when I got to thinking.

My girls don’t need to take thousands of selfies to prove to the world how beautiful they are. They don’t have to wear the latest fashions, walk with a strut, talk like the Queen, or become members of a Country Club to prove their self-worth. They don’t need hundreds of fans on Facebook or thousands of likes and comments on WordPress to boost and encourage their ego.

My girls don’t need to be painted up, jewelled up or prettied up in any fashion to be dazzling to the eyes and pleasing to the soul.

My girls are lovely and gracious, loving and forgiving, fun and playful. My girls take life as it comes and remain beautiful in spite of the bad things that have happened to them. My girls are strong and loyal and truly excited to see me when I get up in the mornings or come in from being outside for a few minutes. My girls treat me like I’m the most important thing in their lives.

And that’s why I love them. They don’t try to be anything. They don’t try to prove anything. They just are.

Our Fur Babies

We rescued Bella from the Animal Shelter over a year ago. One dog has always been enough for us to handle at a time. But, this summer, when we rescued hubby’s sister after being abandoned for three days without food or water or electricity, we couldn’t resist rescuing the puppy as well.

She was light as a feather. Skin pulled over bones. More dead than alive. How could anyone be so cruel? There were other dogs, too. Thirteen in all. But we could only rescue this little one. We called Animal Control for the others.

It was love at first sight for Bella and Pepper. The two are inseparable as if they know they share a common bond of being abandoned and left to die. We love them both and are so glad we made room for them in our hearts and home.

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