Wobbly Chairs Bite!

While scooting my chair closer to the table, my finger received a painful, pinch. Some people are so timid they’d rather drop dead than mention a tiny thing like that. I guess that’s why the waitress was speechless when I shoved my bleeding finger under her nose and complaining, “This chair bit me!”

It’s just the principle of the thing. Eating out should be a safe and pleasant experience, especially when it costs half your monthly retirement check. Besides, what if a child sits in this same wobbly chair? Could take a big chunk out of his finger making him scream bloody murder and his parents dashing to his side yelling law-suit!

After finding her voice, the waitress stuttered, “I’m so sorry! I will have the manager come and talk to you.”

Waiting for our meal to arrive, hubby and I sat talking and laughing with his aunt and uncle sitting across from us. It was Good Friday and the restaurant was packed and noisy. I don’t like noisy. Whatever happened to quiet restaurants playing classical music and everyone talking in whispers? Why do people insist on having TVs and cell phones everywhere they go? Why can’t they just be happy with real live flesh and bones sitting in front of them? Or next to them. Or just in the same room with them. And why don’t restaurants fix their wobbly chairs?

Finally, our meal arrived. Lasagna, my favorite food ever. I can’t help it. I love anything with tomatoes in it. As a kid, I wouldn’t eat till I drenched everything on my plate with ketchup. Drove my dad nuts!

Finishing our delicious meal, a tall, pleasant young man stood beside our table beaming down at us. The manager, just as the waitress promised. Sitting there with a smile as big Texas plastered on my face, I thought, wow! I never had a manager that looked like that.

Okay, I’m old, but I’m not dead.

Offering his deepest apologies and medical help, he told me that everyone’s checks were on him. Even asked me if I wanted his number if my finger got infected.

I wasn’t expecting that! It wasn’t like I’d cut off my hand. Feeling greatly humbled, I thanked and assured him my finger was fine. It didn’t need stitches or a bucket to catch the blood in. Just a tiny band-aid would do.

Tipping the waitress, we left the restaurant feeling happy about the service we received, reminding me that there are still good people in our seemingly selfish world. People who respect others and managers that care that their customers keep coming back.

As we always do when we’re together, we shopped around, laughing and cutting up like four, rambunctious school kids then stopped at Mayberry’s for ice cream. They have wobbly chairs, too. I couldn’t help wondering if they’d give us free ice cream if one of them bites me.  Probably not. It’s like squeezing blood from a turnip for hubby to get a military discount. Besides, I don’t want to find out that bad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking Opens Your Mind

I woke up confused this morning thinking it was Thursday and scolding myself for not walking yesterday. What a relief to discover that it’s Wednesday and I’m not losing my mind.

At the end of the driveway, I turned left instead of right, this time. It’s a little longer and a lot tougher with the hills and all. We live in a pasture. Well, a once-upon-a-time pasture with houses now instead of critters. Some farmers kept their land, though; the ones with the cows, horses, and goats. Pigs, too. But they don’t smell as bad as some of the seeping sewage around here.

See that house on the hill? Hubby and I toured it after it was built. I loved the sunroom, and the basement, and the garage, and the kitchen, and the fireplace in the great room. It even had running water and inside toilets. Not that our house doesn’t have those bare necessities. They just felt more luxurious in a big brand spanking new house.

Trudging up the steep hill, my back whining now, a man with a Santa Clause beard swaying in the wind was unloading a bicycle from the truck parked in the driveway. The kid pacing back and forth excitedly must be his grandson, I mused.

I hollered, “Good morning! I love your beard. My son would be jealous!”

Beaming from ear to ear he chuckled, “Thank you! My grand-kids like it, too. Won’t let me cut it off!”

I’m walking slower by the second, now. Somehow the hill seemed bigger than the last time I walked it; like a Mount Everest kind of bigger.

Taking my mind off my grumbling hips and legs, I spied a tree I wanted to take home with me. It had huge branches perfect for a swing I’ve been pestering hubby to death for years to put up. But none of our trees have branches big enough to hold even my great-grandkids so I guess that leaves me freezing stark naked in a blinding blizzard.

Passing another house, I heard voices drifting from the driveway, a great relief knowing I’m not alone in case I pass out in the middle of the road. Wait. They weren’t just in my head were they?

I’m on the homestretch, now, feeling ecstatic considering the steep hills I just conquered. I wasn’t crawling anyhow. At least I didn’t think I was until a snail passed me, laughing his fool head off. Smart-aleck!

Suddenly, a bug smacked me on the arm. But I didn’t throw a conniption fit. Didn’t want the neighbors peeking out their windows and thinking they have a crazy person living near them.

Trudging up the long, narrow tree-lined driveway now, I didn’t realize it had so many cracks in it; more cracks than we have money to repair them. Then I got this great idea. I’m going to sit at the end of the driveway holding a cardboard sign that reads:

PAVE MY DRIVEWAY AND I WILL FEED YOU

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does God Really Care?

My mother was a mess. A real neurotic, paranoid, yelling and screaming broken mess, striking out at me as if her abusive childhood was my fault. My fault that her mother dumped her in an orphanage. My fault that she had a foster-mother from Hell. My fault that my dad didn’t work, that they were behind in the bills and my youngest brother was getting into trouble every time he blinked.

And I believed it.

I should have been there and punched that wicked foster-mother in the face. I should have been there when her sadistic son molested her in the barn.  I should have beat him up, hung him from the highest tree stark naked in the blazing sun and let the buzzards finish him off.

That’s what I should have done.

And I felt smugly justified in my feelings seeing how broken my mother was. How the fury inside her erupted time and again. How none of us knew how to help her or cope with the hopelessness and devastation her brokenness caused.

I don’t know why I felt so responsible for my mother’s tragic childhood. I don’t know why I thought I had the power to make her all better. Maybe I thought if she could just one time see and feel my love it would be enough.

It wasn’t.  All the love, wealth and happiness in the world wouldn’t have been enough.

But, I never stopped trying to be her “enough”. Trying and failing again and again till I had nothing left to give but a heart boiling with rage.

Carelessly, she used my tender, sensitive emotions to control me; to feel a sense of power she never felt growing up. Oh, how she loved un-zipping her soul revealing the wounded inner child, whimpering how she was beaten till she bled. How she walked a mile to school in snow up to her elbows. How she’d find rocks in her lunch bag instead of food. How her foster-mother hung her pee-stained sheets out her bedroom window for every passerby to see. If I resisted her mad ploy for control, She’d hammer me to the ground with her lengthy crypt-like silence till I finally caved in.

My mother had a china-doll-Incredible Hulk syndrome. Delicate and fragile one minute and a raging, roaring monster the next. My bedroom became my haven, but not for my poor Barbie dolls that were slammed repeatedly on the bed by a raging lunatic. Sometimes I’d even chop off their long, beautiful hair.

I admit I was a hellcat of uncontrollable fury against my mother at times, especially when I entered my teens and began pulling tighter on the reigns. I was a good kid; a Christian kid. I took to heart the morals she pounded into my head. I didn’t chase after boys, or lie, cheat or steal. I hung around wholesome kids and always checked in to let her know where I was. I earned my freedom and trust, didn’t I?

Nope! Nope! Nope!

Finally, the battle of the wills turned into a full-blown war neither of us would ever win.  And the very one who tried her darndest to save her is now drowning in a cesspool of grief, crying for help. But help never came.

No human hand reached out and touched me. No human arms held me tightly as I cried. No human voice whispered in the darkness everything will be okay.

But God did.

For years I ran from Him, though, blaming Him for everything that went wrong. My life was one big question mark of why’s. Why did you let it happen? Why didn’t you rescue my mother? Why didn’t you rescue me? Why? Why? Why?

He didn’t answer all my why’s, but He understood all my pain. He understood my raging fury. He cared that I was a shattered mess. And to prove it, He opened my eyes and I saw His beaming face. He touched my wild, rebellious heart. He held me in His arms like my father never did. He whispered to me in the darkness, “I’ve got this. I’ve got you. I’ll never let you go.”

It’s been a long bumpy ride. At times, it was like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. But, although we never had a perfect relationship, after six years of no contact, we finally had a few civil years before she passed away.

There’s still that empty longing that only a mother can fill. My heart still cries for her. And I can’t help but wonder what a peaceful, loving home life would have felt like. Then, I look at my son and his happy, growing family and I know.

And I feel deeply blessed. Deeply rewarded when I did nothing to deserve it. And I can’t thank God enough for all that He has done for me even when I thought He didn’t care. I see now that through the darkest dungeon of despair, He was there, giving me strength, nudging me forward, teaching me, encouraging me, sending people to love me, picking up the pieces of my life as if they were priceless jewels. He never once left my side. Not even for a second.

I will never leave you nor forsake you (Joshua 1:5).

 

 

 

 

 

Face, to Face

Into the darkness, He came

He whispered my name

He took my hand

And the journey began

Down the steep winding stairwell

Into the dungeon of my soul

Where I dare not tread before

And I was afraid

Of the ghosts from the past

With glaring eyes and scornful frowns

Violent screams pierced my ears

Shattered my soul

Shook my world apart

And I felt worthless

Unloved

Unwanted

And I wept

I wanted to run and never stop

Then I felt His gentle nudge

So we moved on

To the bottom of the stairs

Where I saw a little girl

Gazing into a hazy room

Where her dad sat

Like a corpse

Oblivious to her tears

Her pain

Her longing to crawl on his lap

To fall into his arms

To feel his heartbeat

His love

His protection

From the angry world in which she lived

But he never looked her way

Ever

Then she turned

And saw a face

Shining like the sun

Smiling

Arms extended wide

She ran to Him

He hugged her tight

She felt His love

He dried her tears

And there at the bottom of the stairs

In the dungeon of my soul

I met my Heavenly Father

Face to face

He Was There All the Time

He was there at conception, knitting me together in my mother’s womb, watching me grow, delighted with His handiwork. And He smiled.

He was there when I took my first breath, beaming with joy as my mother held me to her breast and kissed my downy head. And He smiled.

He was there when I took my first step, picked my first flower, and chased my first butterfly through hills of green. And He smiled.

He was there when I grew up, fell in love, got married and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. And He smiled.

He was there when my body was slammed against the wall and vice-like fingers squeezing my neck. And He cried.

He was there when anger consumed my heart, hatred ravaged my soul, and darkness flooded my mind. And He cried.

He was there when I sobbed in the darkness searching for His face, questioning His love, cursing the day I was born. And He cried.

He was there when I ran away, far from His beckoning call, ignoring the thorns and choking vines along the foreboding path. And He cried.

He was there when my heart was shackled by fear when my eyes were filled with tears when my lonely soul was shivering in the bitter cold. And He cried.

He was there when I fell on my knees calling His name, surrendering my stubborn will; deeply grieved that I made Him cry. And He smiled.

He was there all the time patiently waiting to set me free, to prove His love, to draw me back to Him. And we smiled.

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.

 

 

 

Crazy Quilt of Memories

Dear House,

We’ve been together a long time, you and hubby and me. We’ve opened our hearts and doors to family and friends, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and abandoned pets. We’ve made happy memories, sad memories, and memories I’d like to forget.

Like the time my niece tricked me into inviting her and her fifteen-year-old son and their dog to live with us. We hadn’t heard from her in forever. Didn’t even know where she lived. But when she needed a place to stay due to a failed marriage, and having used up all her other options, she knew exactly where to find me. All her silky-smooth promises to get a job and a place of her own slid off her back the second she and her obstinate kid and their untrained dog waltzed through our door. I was never so relieved to kiss two people and pat one dog goodbye in my life.

Then, there was that time my half-sister’s half-brother called me. My sister had a brother? When did that happen? After all these years why am I just now finding that out? My sister had passed away years before that phone call; still, we wanted to meet each other. So that following fall we anxiously awaited their arrival as they made the three-day trip from Colorado to North Carolina.

He had my sister’s baby blue eyes, short bowed legs, and curly gray hair. The four of us embraced like long-lost friends. From the moment they walked through the front door the week-long visit was filled with chattering into the wee hours of the morning, eating out and shopping and laughing till our sides hurt. We enjoyed each other so much that we invited them back again for a two-week stay. Even paid for their plane tickets. But, somewhere between that year and a half wait and absence makes the heart grow fonder, something went haywire.

The first three days, He and his wife were at war with each other. When that war ended, he started a war with me, which was a very bad idea. I told them to leave. My husband, the peace-maker asked them to stay. So the four of us, plus two of my grandkids and a dog, trudged through his grumpy, complaining, sarcastic, rude, insufferable attitude for the next ten days! When the day of good-riddance finally arrived, we rushed them to the airport, making sure they got on the plane, and haven’t heard from them since.

And remember that cold, early morning I got up to find my youngest brother sitting on the porch swing shivering? Though it had been a while since I’d heard from him and his mischievous, little boy grin tugged on my heart-strings, I couldn’t say I was happy to see him. Oh, he was playful and charming laced with a Bob Hope sense of humor. But I knew too well what lay beneath that innocent, enticing mask. He was addicted to drugs and alcohol and crime. He spent most of his life behind bars and leaving a trail of broken promises, bleeding hearts, and confusion.

The white van parked in the driveway wasn’t even his, although he tried to convince me it was. And why was he driving without a license? Foolish of me to even ask. So with a faint, apprehensive smile and hoof-pounding heart, I invited him in wondering why he was here, what he wanted, and when was he going to leave. Hours later, and fearing the inevitable, can-I-stay-here-the-night plea, I kindly sent him on his way. But it would be days before I could shake off the flabbergasting disturbance.

And let’s not forget this summer’s events when our strong-as-an-ox Whippet mix jerked me off the deck making me fall and hurt myself. She liked doing it so much that she did it again when she broke from her leash and again when I tried to catch her. Between over-doing it with the yard work and falling one too many times, sent me to the emergency room with severe back pain. A few X-rays and four painful hours later, I was released feeling like I’d been hit by a bus.

Still recovering from that, hubby’s sister came to stay with us for a month. Never saw that coming! I’ve had many goals in my life, but at the age of seventy-one, none of them consisted of caring for a seventy-six-year-old twenty-four-seven with short-term memory loss and other frustrating annoyances. But when she was abandoned for three days without food or water or electricity, we opened our doors yet again. Finally, after weeks of collecting and getting documents signed and notarized and being put off and lied to by one care giving facility and another, she is finally in a nursing home where she is happy and safe.

After weeks of having our lives turned upside down, we are finally getting settled. I don’t have a strong urge to choke someone anymore and I can finally enjoy sitting on the back porch with my husband, our two dogs, and a hot cup of coffee without interruption. The cool mornings are peaceful and quiet. Hubby and I play with the dogs and laugh at some of the crazy stuff we’ve met with over the past few months. We share our intimate feelings and thoughts with each other. We read our devotions and thank God for the many years we’ve spent together in our house.

But, sadly, House, I’ve been noticing some drastic changes in you. Like me, you are showing signs of wear and tear. Your handrail on the front porch is loose, one of your steps is sagging and the cedar siding is faded. You need new windows, and doors and grass planted in those huge bare places in the front and back yard. And you’re old and outdated. You really need a serious face lift!

But these are just minor things compared to the thirty plus years you have served us. You’ve sheltered and protected us from hurricane winds and rain and ice storms snapping massive tree limbs that fell across the driveway. And somehow within your crowded space, you always make room for large gatherings of family and friends and for lots of rowdy kids to play.

To the world, you’re just a little house that needs a lot of work. But to me, you are my mansion on a hilltop, my castle in the clouds, my sanctuary of learning and thriving and growing and pushing through some of the most difficult times of my life. I’m looking forward to spending many more years within your walls, sharing your warmth with family and friends and continue making a crazy quilt of memories.

For the Love of a Canine

Passing cage after smelly cage, dog after sad-eyed dog,

My hopes, like fat droplets of rain splattering to the dingy floor,

I thought we’d never find the one. I wanted to leave. Then we spotted her

Curled in a ball like a lonely forsaken fawn on a thin ragged blanket

In the middle of the large, cold and desolate cage.

When she saw us standing there, she sprang to life and came running,

Her tail wagging furiously. Oblivious to the deafening barking

And howling echoing throughout the heart-sickening kennel, she jumped

Up and down like a bouncing kangaroo as if auditioning for the role of a lifetime.

Unable to resist her persistent charm, we cracked the cage door, and barely

Clasping the leash to her collar, she pulled my seemingly drunken husband

Through a crowd of bystanders straight to the doggie playground outside.

Squinting against the bright sunshine, we unfastened her leash and like a flash,

She raced around the playground, sniffed a few tattered toys scattered around,

Then like a playful cheetah came charging full speed towards me.

Unable to stop, she slid completely under my chair, backed out,

Snuggled close beside me and plopped her head on my lap.

That’s when I decided that having a Greyhound mix won’t be so bad.

However, since adopting her that day, I’ve questioned my sanity,

Wondering if I would survive this long-legged, faster than lightning,

Over-active, sassy, jittery, destructive chewing, hard-to-potty-train canine.

Now, nearly a year later, Bella has become the absolute funniest, most adorable,

Loveable, playful, snuggling, heart-melting, four-legged joy of our lives!

Click on a picture to start slide show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opposites Attract

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He sees his man cave as orderly as a doctor’s office

I see the aftermath of a hurricane

He wants it done tomorrow

I want it done yesterday

He sees the bucket half full

I see it half empty

He’s cool calm and collect

I’m as nervous as a jack-rabbit

He thinks before he speaks

I spew it out and think about it later

He loves a crowd

I’d rather have a tooth pulled

He likes being on center stage

I hide behind the curtain

He likes sleeping late

I like seeing the sun rise

He likes to cook

I’d rather clean the toilet

He thinks country music is soothing to the soul

I think it’s like fingernails raking across a chalkboard

On and on I could go

But there’s no point

Because with all our differences

Like a crazy quilt of many colors and patterns

Our hearts have intertwined as one

Creating a beautiful

Sometimes crazy marriage

That has not frayed or faded in forty-five years

So I guess opposites really do attract!

 

 

 

 

 

Never Give Up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord

I’m just going to be honest with you

I don’t like myself today

My leg feels like a gang of Ninja Turtles

Is stabbing it with knives

My house is draped with cobwebs

The laundry is piled to the ceiling

My flower beds are crawling with weeds

The dog needs a bath

The car needs washing

And I’m too tired and depressed to care!

Could I please have a new body

And a new brain

Because I’m not feeling the joy right now

Maybe I will tomorrow

Or the next day

Or next week . . .

What’s that you say?

Get off the pity pot?

Not what I wanted to hear

But you’ll have to help me up

Because of my leg and all

And you’ll have to help me to keep

Trusting you because you know

How easily distracted I get

Like when I walk into a room

And start doing something

And walk into another room

And start doing something else

Till the whole house is torn up

Driving my husband nuts

And keeping the dog confused

So help me to stay focused

And to remember the countless times

You have helped me in the past

Through harder times than these

And give me strength to endure the pain

Because mine is all used up

Give me a heart of thanksgiving

Because sometimes the darkness overshadows

The beautiful blessings that surround me

But most of all when clinging to the edge

Of the jagged treacherous cliff

And my fingers are cut and bleeding

And my hopes plunge to my toes

And help seems miles away

Help me to trust and believe in who you are

And the things you have done

And the promises you have kept

And help me above all else

To never ever give up!