Life is a Puzzle

By Katy Curry©

 

Life is a puzzle.  Have you ever felt that way?  You think you are doing things right, then you get comfortable, maybe a little too comfortable.  Before you know it, things are not doing so well!

Take this week, for instance.  I knew we would have just enough money to pay the monthly bills, pick up some Christmas presents (what you get for a thirty-six-year-old son who pretty much gets what he wants is a challenge) and plan a crown rib roast for Christmas Dinner.  All was somewhat good in Curry-Land.

Sunday night the phone sounded off with its normally merry tune, but this time it sounded something ominous, I didn’t want to answer it.  It was son number two.  Lord, give me strength.

“Alloooo,  Moooom.”  Ok who was talking?

“Frank?  Is that you?”  I responded hoping it was a friend with a mouth problem.

“Yeah,  I’mmmmm  shorrry di no get ovvver.”  These sounds only a mother could decipher, I could hear the background music of that TV show The Twilight Zone.

“What on earth is wrong with you?”  I was still in hopes that this new venture into a time of mystery and the unknown would end without too much pain or expense.

“I ha a toof ache, really urts.  Can cloth my mouth.  Gum ith all swollen aroun it.”

Ok, it was time for Rod Serling’s voice over to begin and the climactic music to begin playing.

(Don’t get me wrong, I love my son dearly, but God Bless Him, he has never put money aside unless he wanted to buy a “toy” for one of his hobbies.  He definitely doesn’t have a dentist.)

“Frank, you have got to go to the dentist.  I will make some phone calls.

My dentist called and with my sadly lacking explanation, he decided Frank should come in immediately.  Frank got there before I did and it was worse than the doctor had feared.  There was no time to set him up with an oral surgeon to do it through anesthesia.

The cost of removing the top and bottom molars, the jaw bone they had fused to, replacing the removed jaw bone with cadaver bone, insert drains, cutting away diseased gum tissue was around four thousand dollars.  In my mind, I saw Christmas trees sprout wings and fly off ‘til they were but dots in the distance.  No music this time, just flying Christmas trees leaving the area in droves. No wonder those Christmas trees had flown away so fast.  The standing rib roast shrank and shrank until it disappeared with the best animator’s “POP!)

Doctor Aswan and I talked; he showed more compassion than any man I know.  I shared the tremendous challenges this year had already presented, he then excused himself and went back in his office; shortly, the girl who did the billing called me over while doctor went to work on another patient.

She explained he had brought the bill down to just over thirteen hundred dollars.  I swallowed hard and said, “Go ahead, do what he needs.”

Frank could speak better;  asked me to sit with him.  It was obvious he understood this was a serious situation and that scary things were going to be done to him.  He was not just a little scared.  It if had been me, I would have been shaking in my boots and crying just a little.

The procedure began and just the application of the numbing agent prior to the Novocain was painful to him.  When Dr. Aswan arrived, I took that as a signal to leave.  Much as I love my son, I could not bear to watch what was about to happen.

For the next two and a half hours, I heard him moaning and gurgling in abject agony.  The Novocain was not as effective as all had hoped.  Slowly the teeth came out, in pieces, and with them the fused jaw bone.  Then came the replacement bone, the sewing, the cutting away of dead gum tissue and all that goes into such an operation.  It was done not once but twice!  The same procedure was mirrored on the upper jaw.

Christmas would be a bit more humble this year, but the first Christmas was very, very humble

My “Twilight Zone” experience was perhaps a lesson that was an answer to the puzzle of life.  Don’t forget who is really running things and in all things act in humility and obedience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aroura’s Storm

©Katy Curry

 

Jesus sat quietly at the simple table in the cottage as a storm raged outside.  He was waiting for a soul he had watched for some time.  The wind began to howl, the branches lashed and the cottage windows with a threatening fury.  The sky turned an angry grey and vicious lighting struck the road that lead to the cottage, at the cottage itself.  One particularly vicious band of lighting struck the house with a deafening crack.  Sparks flew and the smell of singed shingles permeated the air.  The lightning seemed to be warning whoever was in the house to stay there.  That warning seemed to be coming from the wind and rain that targeted the house.  Jesus looked out the window and the fury and raised his hand,

“Away.” He commanded.

With a final whip of ferociousness, the storm moved away from the cottage and began to target a figure struggling down the road. Jesus turned his attention to the pitiful lone figure that stumbled down the road.  It was a young woman.  She was in her early thirties.  Her hair had once been a thick, shining halo of chestnut curls.  Now it was matted, pasted to her face and head with rain and a stinking viscous mud that clung like globs of ugly glue.   The wind whipped at her clothing, her thin frame bent into the storm.   She was pushed by the force of the wind from one side of the road to the other, looking something like a drunk who stumbled from one side of the road to the other.

The road was studded                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  with stinking pits  mud and the relentless whipping wind drove her into each vile, stinking pit.   She would fight th relentless wind and cry out in anguish and disgust each time she slipped and fell into yet another of those stinking pits.  Each time. The sticky mud would pull at her as she would struggle to climb out.  The mud clung to her, in spite of the driving rain, its stench making her gag.   If she did not get help soon, the storm and the mud would claim her.

Jesus walked into the storm.  It parted in front of him as he walked.  When he reached her, he held out his and helped her out of the stinking mud.  She sank to the ground too weak to move.  Jesus removed his cloak and wrapped it around her drenched and trembling body.  As she gained strength, he helped her up and led her to the cottage.  He sat her near the warmth of the fire and brewed a weak broth to give her some strength. He knew she was an “almost”.

The “almosts”  were those who heard the message of salvation and experienced an emotional rush they believed to be salvation.  They followed for a time, then the lure of the world drew them away, their faith and prayers withered as dried out husks.  These were the ones like the seeds from Jesus’s parable that fell on the rocky ground.  They would hear the message with joy, but because they had no root, they would wither, the cares and glitter of the world would pull them away.  Jesus knew this “almost” was different.

In life, Aroura was married. the mother of four children, held down a full-time job as a teacher and volunteered for every good cause that came her way.  She was frustrated, guilty, and filled with self-doubt.  She resented her situation, resented her husband for his patience, and tended to she distracted and short tempered with her children.  This was the result of her guilt and self-loathing.  All the good deeds she tried to do to atone for past and present sins never seemed to make improved her self-image or her feeling of failure.  Instead, her over-commitments to family, job, activities had taken over her life, leaving her distracted and ineffective; filling her with more frustration and guilt.

That day, Aroura’s storm began she  returned from work burdened with tests to be graded and recorded.  Her children followed, continuing the bickering that had started in the SUV and clamoring at once for her attention.  Each needed to tell her about the day at school, show off “A” papers or new artistic masterpieces.  She answered them distractedly which increased their frustration and bickering.

Her husband, Tim walked in a few minutes behind her announcing that tonight was the big company dinner and he hoped she had a pretty dress ready.  As Tim’s words registered; she shook her head and leaned against the counter, overwhelmed.  He began to pick up each of the children, attach the papers they proudly waved in his face to the refrigerator, give each a kiss and send them outside to play, happy that they had been seen and recognized.  He turned to talk to Aroura to speak and the phone began to ring.  With a frustrated sigh, Aroura answered, what else could go wrong?

“Hello Caroline….. What, tonight?  Oh, I couldn’t possibly; I have tests to grade, Tim just came home and said the company dinner is tonight!  I don’t have a dress to wear; where am I going to find a babysitter? ……. You will?  ….  Are you sure?   …  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate…..Yes, yes, your daughter will be here in thirty minutes. I will order pizza …  Thank you, thank you so much.”  As she hung the phone up, Tim tried to get her attention.

“Aroura, you’re trying to take on too much, look, you forgot about the office dinner party tonight, forgot about the Women’s Bible Study, our kids are unhappy, fighting.  I don’t even know where we stand.”

Aroura answered him distractedly; “Uh-huh.”  She resented his attitude even though she knew he was right.  She was frustrated that he seemed to handle the kids so easily, that they seemed to go to him more, but again, she knew it was because he showed the patience and made the time.  He made it look so easy.  She resented him all the more for it.

Tim shook his head and turned toward the coat closet.  He did not see the soccer equipment on the floor, stumbled, lost his balance, and fell head first into the closet door, gashing his head open, losing consciousness.  She screamed and ran to him.  Her oldest. Eleven year old Tim Jr. came in at that moment and in a panic told him to dial 9-1-1.  As she held her husband, sobbing and calling his name a neighbor came in to help.  She felt herself loosing consciousness and began to experience the storm that was of her own making.

As she sank in that disgusting mud a man appeared, not at all bothered by the storm.  When he took her hand and helped her out of that pit she immediately felt safer than she had ever felt.  She felt a peace, even a love that she had dreamed of, longed for, but never thought was real.  She did not know who he was, but she automatically trusted him.  He covered her with his cloak, so odd, who wore a cloak nowadays? But it sheltered her from the storm and seemed to give her strength.  Once inside the cottage. The chair and the fire seemed normal.  She was safe and gratefully sipped the broth he gave her.  Slowly her shivering gave way to warmth and comfort.

Jesus urged her, “Tell me, child.”

Words tumbled out as she confessed her abortion as a teenager, the unplanned pregnancy a year later, her unwanted marriage, and resentment of her husband.  She confessed her feelings of inadequacy as a wife, a mother, a teacher.  She emptied herself of her shortcoming, her guilt, her perceived inadequacies.  Each time, this kind man asked if she repented and each time she responded with a heartfelt “Yes.”

Jesus asked his final question, “Aroura, do you accept me into your heart as your personal savior?   Do you renounce sin and Satan?”

Aroura’s eyes were opened.  She recognized Jesus. “My Lord and my Savior, please forgive me. I am yours.”

The deep circles around Aroura’s eyes disappeared, her hair returned to its glorious halo of chestnut ringlets, the vile. Stinking mud was gone.  Her heart began to warm with a love she had never known and peace wrapped itself around her body and soul.  She was filled with her Lord’s peace and filled with his perfect love.

Jesus smiled and draped a white veil of delicate gossamer lace over her head.  It looked so delicate she was afraid if she touched it. It would be ruined, Her print dress was replaced with an impossibly white gown, studded with pearls and diamonds.  She felt treasured, beautiful, and special.  Such was Jesus’s love for her.   Jesus helped her to stand.

“You are a beautiful bride. Aroura,”  he said, then he handed her a brass oil lamp.  “Keep this lamp trimmed and ready, for one day soon I will come.” Jesus said.  The storm that had been so threatening and viscous subsided, giving rise to a magnificent sunset.

Aroura found herself back in her house.  Tim Jr. held a cool compress to her head.

“Mom, are you alright?”  Tim Jr. asked with fear and concern.

“Thank you, Timmy,” she smiled at him.  “I am much better.”

During the next few weeks, Aroura made some major changes to her life.  All the out-lying groups were dropped. She brought order into her home in cleanliness, organization, and social structuring, and established a new routine for herself that brought God    first.  She revamped her work schedule so she had more time for her students.  She was in church Sunday (to give praise, adoration, thanksgiving) Monday (Ladies Bible Study)  Wednesday (Mid-Week Service).  Her Christian friend and support base grew.  Her husband and children watch, amazed at this new woman who was their mother and wife.  The children came over and each accepted Jesus Christ first.  She was so proud of each of them.  Some months later, Tim literally took the plunge and was an enthusiastic new Christian.  By her obedience, Aroura had brought blessings for her entire family.

Winter came and went, the blessings continued as did Tim and Aroura’s growth.  As spring came, so did “spring cleaning day.”  With a brave sigh, Aroura took on the task and began in her and Tim’s room, The closet was a mess. Unorganized. Over stuffed, it had to be dealt with.  It took quite some time, but she was proud of the result.  She was about done and she spied something in the back that she had not seen before.  It was not easy to get to, but eventually she pulled it out.  She unwrapped it and stood in awe.  The storm had not been a dream;  Jesus  had been with her on that dark day months ago.  He had been the one to bring her to salvation and had been pouring his blessings over her family ever since.  She held the veil Jesus had placed on her head, buried her face in the diaphanous material.  A tear crept down her face.  “I will keep my lamp trimmed, Lord.”

Lydia’s Stand

southern belle

By Katy Curry©

 

She appeared as delicate as a porcelain doll that warm spring afternoon; dressed in a soft pink day dress with fresh roses at her bodice.  She sat somewhat precariously on the veranda swing and lifted her head to catch the small breeze that blew unexpectedly onto the terrace.  As the breeze faded, she reached for where she remembered her fan to be and leaned forward reaching with her other hand for the lemonade sitting  on the table.  In her off balance state, she took a tumble and was left looking about quizzically from the veranda floor.

She smoothed her skirt, picked up her Battenburg lace fan and looked up at her man-servant as if the floor was where she had planned to be all along.

“Look, Mathias, I have found my fan.  However, I could use some fresh lemonade.”

Mathias shook his white-haired head, a smile lighting his walnut toned skin.  “Now Miss Lydia, we can’t have you sitting on that floor.  Let me help you up..”

Lydia gratefully held up her arms so Mathias could help her to her feet.  He placed her back on the swing so gently one would think she might break.   He smiled at Lydia with the tenderness of a father.  Her gaze returned that affection and trust.

“It’s time for you to come in, have some tea and scones; Martha made some fresh today, and practice your music.” He gently reminded her.

“Jack left to fight for the South almost ten years ago, Mathias; I don’t know if he is even alive.    The others came back years ago.  Do you think he will return?  I know his name was never on the death lists, but if he wound up in Andersonville, well, we may never know.”

“That’s true, Ms. Lydia, but that’s just the point, we don’t know.  Besides, we need to keep yo’ fingers in shape, You would not want to disappoint Parson Kendall, he needs you to play those church tunes.”

Lydia sighed; “You are right, as always, Mathias.  I just miss Jack so much.  We were to be married seven years ago.  I should be enjoying children right now and here I am, a spinster, in love with a ghost.”

“Now you stop that right now, Ms. Lydia.  None of those other yokels out there has turned your head, and they gots nothing to offer you.  You be patient, wait for God’s good time and you will have those children soon enough.” Mathias reminded her.

Martha, Mathias’s wife, walked in carrying a large silver tray with tea, cream, and a plate of scones.  Lydia could smell the fresh scones, and her mouth began to water.  She espied the coddled cream and clapped her hands in excitement.  The three sat around a smallish table to enjoy afternoon tea together.

All eyes turned to Martha for none dared to eat until she gave thanksgiving for the bounty they enjoyed.  It wasn’t that long ago that all of them had gone to bed hungry more times than not.

Martha bowed her head, hummed to herself for a few moments and began:  “Jesus, we give you thanks for how you have taken care of us.  You have looked after us and protected us.  You have blessed Mathias and me with this precious child.  Help us to continue to raise and guide her in Your ways, so she stays in your will.  Thank you for this home and for teaching us the value of your blessings.  Keep us safe, for I fear more trouble is coming.  ”

Everyone responded with “Amen.”

“Martha,” Mathias began, “what was that you said about more trouble?  What have you heard or seen?”

Once the war had ended, the plantation had been devastated.  Fields were in ruins, cattle, horses, goats, cows; even the chickens were all gone.  The taxes were triple what they had been.  Most plantation owners lost everything.  Lydia was frantic.  She had been in her father’s corner office on the first floor and in frustration, had beat her fists on the bookcase.  Something felt different, and as Lydia stared in amazement as a section of the cabinet opened to reveal a small room.  She screamed for Mathias, who came running with loaded gun thinking she was being attacked by local vagabonds looking for food, money, shelter, and were not too particular from whom they stole.   They found the equivalent of a pirate’s treasure of gold and silver coins, pearls, rings and all manner of loose stones.

Mathias had not been surprised about the new found wealth and seemed more relieved.  There was no keeping the secret anymore and he had sat Harry Swan’s daughter down and told her the story of her swashbuckling father and the fortune he had laid aside for his beloved daughter, Lydia Morgan Swan.

He had been known as Pirate Harry and had been commissioned by the English government to raid the shipping lanes.  He had turned over just enough treasure and captured sailors to keep Parliament happy but had held back a portion of each bounty claimed to take care of his soon to be born son.  That son made a surprise entrance as a girl.    Harry’s wife, Delores, had succumbed to fever shortly giving birth to Lydia.  That put an end to Harry’s privateering.  He had sold his ships, taken his daughter and trusted first mate, Mathias, and moved to Virginia as a gentleman plantation owner.  Harry had the right temperament to play the role of a plantation owner.  He was educated, slender, but well muscled, was able to entertain with captivating stories of his exploits, had a sharp business mind and knew how to appeal to the ladies.  In truth, Harry had no interest in running the plantation, called Swan Acres.    Mathias had the knowledge and knew who to coax or purchase to get the best value and workers.  He had successfully run the estate from the beginning.  Harry was devoted to his daughter, Lydia, but grieved deeply for his wife and his seafaring days.  Finally, when he could ignore the call of the sea no longer, He left his daughter in Mathias and Martha’s  charge and traveled to Boston looking for an opportunity on a whaling ship.  He had never been heard from again.

Mathias and Martha had not disappointed Harry’s memory or trust in either the success of Swan Acres or the raising of Lydia.  He diversified the crops based on the not only the topography and soil of the land but on the changing demands of the market.  His decisions significantly affected the profitability as plant numbers could be increased or decreased depending on weather, market demands, futures prices, etc.  Lydia had been raised to appreciate the work and planning it took to run a plantation, had been employed next to field hands to appreciate the work it took.  Martha had undertaken to hire the best tutors in comportment, music, Latin, philosophy, mathematics, writing, literature and more.

Lydia was, indeed, Harry’s daughter.  She relished a day of work, decidedly unladylike riding her favorite gelding, bargaining and bartering over crops, land, just about anything; yet when she put on her gowns and fixed her hair, all one could see was a very delicate young lady who needed protecting.

Although now eighteen, Lydia remembered what life had been like before discovering the treasure.  Carpetbaggers and others had taken all there was to take, the carpets, dishes, even Lydia’s crib had been claimed to pay the new taxes levied since the end of the Civil War.   A  damaged wall had led to the discovery of Harry’s treasure.  Mathias had taken the discovery in stride, almost as expected.  With creative banking to hide the new wealth, taxes, and needed repairs happened.

Together they had decided to improve the living conditions of the workers by providing better housing and more food.  Lydia insisted on setting up a school for the children through the eighth grade.  Mathias had worried it would slow down harvests, but the parents more than made up for what the children would bring in.  Lydia had also insisted on proper medical care.  She was the first plantation in America to make such arrangements for field hands.

As they were enjoying their afternoon tea, there was a sharp rap on the door, then, a few seconds later another one.  The impatient guest raps fully three times before Mathias got to the door.  He opened the door and stared at the two men in their elegant suits and top hats.

“Boy; took you long enough to answer the door.  If you were my house boy, I’d whip you for keeping Ms. Swan’s guests waiting.  Now take Mr. Blankenship and myself to her and none of your chatter about not bothering here.  We have a most important matter to discuss with your mistress! “

His eyes were snapping with anger; Mathias strode formally into the front room where Lydia and Martha were finishing afternoon tea.

“Mistress, May I present Mr. Blankenship and Mr.???”

“Mr.  Arthur Gordon, Mistress.”  interrupted a righteously indignant junior attorney.

As the two men beheld the scene in front of them; a black woman having afternoon tea sitting as if she was an equal to Miss Lydia, they were dumbstruck.  Finally, Gordon Blankenship found his voice.

“We have some essential items to discuss with you; there is no need for the servants to remain.”  Gordon frowned at Martha and swung his gaze around, so there was no mistaking his intent.”

“Ms. Lydia, I will leave Sir Boniface with you while to talk with these …gentlemen,”  Mathias said to Lydia.   She clapped her hands at the news.

“Yes! Yes!  Please bring him; I haven’t seen Sir Boniface all day!” Lydia exclaimed.

“Madam, this discussion does not require the presence of, your barrister!”  The door opened, and Mathias led it a massive black dog who stared and growled at the two men.  Lydia held her fan up to her face to hide her amusement at the men’s reactions.   Sir Boniface settled heavily at her feet, “talking” to her as pit bulls do.   His appearance, noises, and huge teeth kept the very self-impressed men far from their intended prey.

“Miss Morgan,” began Mr. Blankenship, “are you aware that that darkie in there has been transacting the business of your plantation in your name?  He was seen with large sums for cash hiring men, selling harvested crops. Why he was even observed signing a contract in your stead! Mr. Blankenship finished drawing in some badly needed air.

“Now, we can understand your shock at such news, Miss Swann,” Arthur Gordon continued.  We are here to help you take your plantation back from these impudent sla-  excuse me, darkies, and put it solidly back in your hands.  Further, we are in a position to help advise you about crops and potential profits.  We can help you take care of this terrible situation, teach those darkies how to work  and all for a mere forty-five percent of the profit after expenses.”

Lydia was amused as well as insulted by their assertions.  She wanted them gone but could not let them go without a lesson they would not soon forget.

She clapped her hands together in mock horror.  “Mercy me, I had no idea!  Gentlemen whatever shall I do?”

Mr. Gordon warmed to his argument and continued on his tirade without noticing the gleam in Ms. Swan’s eye or the sardonic way her mouth had begun to twist.

“If you will but leave that in our capable hands, Miss Swann, we will turn the main crop back to cotton instead of all these more work intensive smaller crops.  We will shut down that ridiculous school, imagine, a school for darkies!  The children can help work the fields and bring in the crops. ”

Again, Mr. Gordon failed to notice the body language of an angrier and angrier Ms. Swann.

“We will take that overbearing houseboy, Mathias, I believe you called him, and a good whipping will teach him some manners.   Thus, we will free you from his and that woman’s control and leave you free to make decisions with our sage advice.  There are profits to be made here, Ms. Swann, and  we can guide you in the best way to use your farm and employ your field hands!”

“Well, Misters Gordon and Blankenship, I do believe we need to handle this situation once and for all immediately!” Lydia stated, and rather imperiously, picked up her bell and rang it stridently until Mathias presented himself.

“Mathias! ”  Lydia said, “It has come to my attention that you have been handling the money of the plantation and making arrangements to sell crops among other dealings on the farm.  Is this right?”

Mathias nodded his head, “You know I am, Ms. Lyd…” but was stopped short by her upraised hand.

Well, sir, I believe you are going to have to have a lesson in being fruitful and uppityness! These two fine gentlemen have a plan to move us to a one crop farm and putting those lazy children to work!  They will also do all of this for a mere  forty-five percent of the net profits.”

Lydia gave Mathias a conspiratory smile.  “Can you, Sir, explain what you have done and answer for it?”

“Yes,  Ma’am.  We doubled our profits by diversifying our crops and meeting the needs of a variety of markets, switching out the crops helps the soil so it can grow more.  Our workers are turning out half again as much work because they are happier workers and want to give us a fair days’ work.  We can afford to be picky about who we hire. ” Mathias answered,

Lydia turned to Mr. Blankenship.  “Sir, what kind of net profit do you believe we can expect using your methods?”

Taken aback by the direct financial question, Mr. Blankenship swallowed and did some quick calculations in his head.  “I do believe you could easily count on ten thousand dollars before our cut.”

Without missing a beat, Lydia turned to Mathias; “Did you hear that?   I could make five thousand five hundred dollars a year!  What do you have to say to that?”

Mathias kept his eyes on the floor as looking at these fools would have made him burst out in guffaws.  “Ma’am, I don’t know if we could meet that number.”  He stopped for a moment.

Gordon and Blankenship exchanged triumphant looks for about ten seconds.

Mathias continued, still looking at the floor.  This last season, after expenses, the plantation made seventeen thousand four hundred eighty-six dollars. ”

“Mathias, how can you explain this?”  Miss Lydia persisted.

“Well Ma’am, I think we can blame those numbers on smart use of land, happy workers, and good negotiating practices to sell the crops by this ‘uppity darkie.'”

Lydia turned back to Gordon and Blankenship.  Gentlemen, I fail to understand why I should give up over double what you believe you could produce for me?  Why I do think you are fast talking jackanapes!       You have tried to hoodwink me!  Sir Boniface, get these thieves out of my house!”  Lydia ordered.

Sir Boniface beamed at the order and ran toward the two carpetbaggers.  They ran, he kept them rounded up and headed for the door.   In their haste, they tumbled down the four steps outside the front door and again down the six steps to the ground.  They cut a funny picture as they beat the dirt from their suits while running down the road.

Lydia leaned out the window and called to them.

“If you come back, Sir Boniface will beat you to the door and welcome you himself!  We have no time or interest in thieves such as you!” Lydia called to them.

She would not realize for another couple of months what enemies she had made.

CHAPTER 2

Sir Boniface 4

Sir Boniface

 

It was the height of the growing season, the middle of July and Lydia saddled her favorite
horse, an appaloosa gelding she called Pirate to survey the crops.  She rode through them at least once a week to check on potential problems such as blight, weevils, grasshoppers, etc.  She instinctively understood that something that seemed harmless at first glance would render a crop useless in a matter of days.

While she rode and checked her crops she sat proudly atop Pirate.  She knew what she needed to do and how to do it. Lydia hoped to be done by noon as the afternoon heat would make things most uncomfortable.  She was immersed in her tasks and did not notice two men at the edge of the woods across from her.

The two scam artists, Blankenship, and Gordon, sat in the woods across from the plantation watching Lydia.

“We need to bring that girl into line.  Swan Acres is the key to this entire plan.  We have to stop her from taking care of these darkies so well, a school for the kids?  Who ever heard of the like?  Those brats are going to have a better education than all the white kids around here.”  Blankenship said.

“We need to talk to her one more time, let her know what she is going up against; how badly this could end for her and her darkies,” Gordon responded.  There was a grin on his face that promised this would not be a good meeting for Lydia.

“She’s alone in that tobacco field, now is a good time.  Let’s see how well she handles things when she doesn’t have that ugly mutt and that old man to run interference.” Blankenship urged.

outlawsThey both sank their spurs cruelly into their horse’s sides and took off for an unsuspecting  Lydia.  She heard them when they were a far ways off and shaded her eyes from the glare of the sun to see who was coming.  She let out a high pitched whistle that sounded more like a bird call.  The drop in the tone told Sir Boniface to come up to her quietly and not to expose himself.  They had taught him to do this during the Civil War to keep him safe from soldiers.

Lydia double checked the small five shot she had in a holster in the pocket of her riding outfit.    She looked around and wished some field hands were working, but the fields had been tended last week.  Lydia led her horse, Pirate, to the supply building, tied some tobacco leaves in his reins, and found some oil and matches.  She whispered in Pirate’s ear and slapped his haunches, sending the Appaloosa gelding back to the plantation.  Once Pirate came home without her they would know Lydia was in trouble and help would come.  The tobacco leaves she had tied to the reins would tell them where.  She just had to keep the two men at bay until help arrived.  No small task with only a small five shot and no extra ammunition.  She grabbed a canister of oil and started to pour it around the backfield of tobacco.   If a fire started, the backfield would cause the least amount of damage.  She had done all she could to prepare.

She whispered in Pirate’s ear and slapped his haunches, sending the Appaloosa gelding loping back to the plantation house.  Once Pirate came home without her they would know Lydia was in trouble and help would come.  The tobacco leaves she had tied to the reins would tell them where.  She just had to keep the two men at bay until help arrived.  No small task with only a small five shot and no extra ammunition.  She grabbed a canister of oil and started to pour it around the backfield of tobacco.   If a fire started, the backfield would cause the least amount of damage.  She had done all she could to prepare.

With Sir Boniface hidden nearby, his menacing growl barely audible, she stuck a match and lit her tar covered torch. and waited for Blankenship and Gordon to approach.

“Well, well. look what we have here, Gordon!” drawled Blankenship.

“I do believe it’s that uppity slut from Swan Acres.”  said Gordon.  “I bet you’re  going to be more likely to listen to reason out here all by yourself.  May as well put that torch down, we don’t scare that easy, Miss Lydia.”  He leered at her in a way that made her feel cold and dirty from head to toe.  Lydia hoped help would come soon, she could not hold out long against these men.  She was sure they had much worse in mind than ravaging her.

“Gentlemen, a ruined plantation would do you no good at all.  I am prepared to do just that before I sign papers to hand it over to you carpetbaggers.  I have refused your offer, I have not changed my mind. so you should go. ”  Lydia had lifted her chin to show she was serious and lowered the torch toward the tobacco crop.

Gordon laughed, an evil laugh that told her he put no stock in her words. “You just go ahead and burn the place to the ground, little lady.  We will replant, you will still have what we choose to give you.  We have the agreement here and we have some time.  So let’s all go into the shed, we will pleasure you and you can sign the agreement.  Why you might make an extra twenty dollars on the deal.  That is IF we are pleased with the pleasuring.”

Blankenship had worked his way up behind her while his cohort kept Lydia distracted.  He tried to wrestle the lit torch from Lydia’s hand. but had not expected the strong woman he found, rather than the weak, passive southern belle he anticipated.  Lydia had worked every part of the plantation alongside the field hands, sometimes as the only field hand.  She was strong and capable.

The torch went flying, but into the tobacco.  It began to burn with a heavy smoke that would bring others quickly to put out the fire.

Gordon cursed and slapped Lydia viciously across the face.  “Think you are so smart, missy?  When we are done with you, you won’t even be able to work the local whore house!”  He ripped the sleeve of her shirt exposing her arm and her camisole.   He was about to rip again when a great growl came from behind him.  Sir Boniface, seeing his mistress being attacked, leapt and landed on Gordon’s back.  He sunk his teeth into the man’s shoulder and shook his head back and forth violently.  Gordon gave a great howl of pain, immediately letting go of Lydia, trying desperately to reach behind him and get the dog off his back.

Blankenship jumped to help his partner but found himself facing the muzzle of a small, but powerful five shot.  “Now, now, Missy, no need for that now.  We

“Now, now, Missy, no need for that now.  We was just having some fun.  No harm was done.  You just put that peashooter away.  Call your dog off and we’;; leave you in peace.  All’s well that end’s well.”  coaxed Blankenship.  He kept his eyes on the gun, looking for an opportunity to overpower this slip of a girl that seemed to be more capable than many men he had known, swindled, and killed.

Lydia whistled a strange set of notes and called, “Bonnie, come here.”  Gordon was screaming behind her and when she backed up enough she could see that his shoulder was in shreds and probably dislocated.  “Good boy, Bonnie.” she said to the hulking pit bull.

“Now you two get on out of here.  I will keep those horses you so sorely misused as payment for the damages you have caused.  Get off my land or I will set him and the rest of the hounds on you!”  Her voice was cool. clear, and there was no  mistaking her intent.  She meant every word and seemed to know how to handle the two men.

“Your dog nearly killed me!” screamed Gordon. “You need to pay for my medical attention and that dog should be shot!”

“You go to Doc Thornbury in town and he’ll fix you up, tell him to send the bill to Swan Acres.  Don’t have time to shoot the dog, he’s due at the orphanage to play with the children.  They always look forward to playing with old Bonnie, he is so calm, let’s them pull his ears, just about everything you can think of, such a pushover.”

The thunder of hooves could be heard as men who had seen the smoke came to save what they could.  Mathias and half a dozen field hands arrived and were shocked to see Lydia with half her blouse torn, pointing a five shot at two men who were starting to leave on foot.  They took in the sight and the field hands let out a roar of fury and lit out after the two men.  Mathias immediately went to see to Lydia’s needs.

“Call them back, Mathias,” said Lydia tiredly.  “No point making more trouble for ourselves than we already have.”

Mathias called the workers back and sent two to carry both men to town where they were dumped unceremoniously onto the road in front of Doc Thornbury’s office.

CHAPTER 3

The carpetbaggers stumbled into Doc Thornbury’s waiting room calling out loudly that they had an emergency and needed medical help immediately.

“What’s all this ruckus?”  came a gruff voice.

A tall, thin man with salt and pepper hair, a white mustache and goatee ambled out from the back room.  He had impossibly long arms and legs and had often been mistaken for long gone Abraham Lincoln.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

n

 

Hope

Hope

 

Hope, it is an interesting word; one that can be used as a noun or a verb.  Hope has kept a people going when it seemed all was lost.  Hope has allowed man or woman to laugh at impending death and face it without fear.

Miriam Webster defines hope as to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true.  That kind of makes it sound like believing in Santa Claus.  But, if that were the case why does it have such a remarkable effect on us?  We need to explore this concept further.

Paulo Coelho stated:  “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”  So here is another concept of hope, it encompasses the concept of love and what love inspires people to do.  It is true that for love of another, for love of a land, for love of a people, or an idea people strive with hope and commitment to achieve a goal.  Is that not why in the late eighteenth century hundreds of men and women fought and died so that this country, the United States of America, could gain its independence.  It was that belief, that hope in a future free of the dictates of the King of England that made these people face the overwhelming odds they did and win.  So perhaps love has something to do with hope.

Let’s look at another viewpoint of hope.  In the Bible, the writer of Hebrews in the New Testament states that faith is “the assurance of things hope for ” (Hebrews 11:1). Hope, therefore, is the object upon which we direct our focus and energies.

As a Christian, hope is my trust in God’s promises.  It is a conviction that God can take this life that I have used so poorly and turn it around to accomplish something wonderful, something that will advance His will and His Kingdom.  It is the trust that not only will I be in heaven because I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, but that those members of my family will come to accept Christ as their savior as well  In this is evidenced a natural trilogy of faith, love. and hope.  Eath one neech the other to exist in its whole.

Such was Jesus’s message.  It was given in love and invited each of us to  take His words as truth and accept them in faith so that they could provide us with hope in our own future .  

To accept Jesus as your personal savior truly gives you the beginning of hope.  My faith and hope in Jesus’s saving grace has born fruit.  My husband has returned to Jesus. his faith deeper than ever.  Hope?  You can find true hope in the name of Jesus Christ.

Pain of Loss

©Katy Curry

There are different kinds of pain; physical like when you stub your toe,  mental such as when you see something horrific and are helpless to do anything about it, psychological such as facing the loss of some one you love.

The pain of knowing you will soon loose a loved one becomes so palpable it literally becomes physical.  The hurt makes your heart explode, then explode again, and again.  Sobs wrack your body as you wail, the pain too deep, too intense to verbalize to another.  You are so alone yet so need company; not to cheer you up, just to be there, to hold you while you sob your pain, your feeling of loss, then maybe to pray with you for comfort.

That kind of pain is hard to share.  How do you tell others?  How do you verbalize what has no words, only feelings, emotions, and pain.  You try to reach out to others, yet somehow the blame falls back on you, the lack of verbalization of something you can’t put into words.  You wind up feeling even more seperated from those you trusted than ever, the pain intensifies as you realize you are even more alone.

The loss of a loved one is deeply personal, deeply emotional and creates a psychological and emotional pain that is beyond words.  The person experiencing  that loss needs understanding, acceptance, and someone who will not try to cheer them up or even necessarily try to give them hope.  I am watching my husband die, slowly.  I cannot begin to verbalize the sense of loss, the deep pain that cuts through the core of my being.  I cannot verbalize it, cannot pick up the phone and just share.  This gut wrenching pain is beyond that.

Should you know of someone who is a caretaker for their husband or wife or child knowing they will not help to heal them, but will eventually loose them, try just to be there, not to cheer-up, just be there.  Don’t wait for a phone call. it will not come.

If you have not been through this, you will not understand, I know I didn’t.  So I urge you, don’t wait for the call, be the one to call, be the one to hold her through the sobs, the pain.  This is not for the faint of heart, but know, as you allow her to pour out her grief, yours yours will be the arms of Jesus and through you, He will pour His perfect comfort into her heart and soul.   Will you allow Him to use you to bring comfort to someone going through loss?

SMILE! BE HAPPY!

THUMBS UP

Katy Curry©

When I first met my husband I worried about this and that, pace the floor and he tried to calm me.  He said: “Babe, all your worry is advance interest on things that probably won’t happen.”

Tell me, what will worry do for you?  Will it save your job or keep you up so you are not at the top of your game at work?  Will it cause you to lose weight or eat emotionally and put on those extra pounds?  Will it help you with your relationships or cause even more problems with those you care of your preoccupation with what might happen?  Worry saps your strength, your looks, causes premature aging, makes you grumpy and warps your outlook on life.

Do you see what I mean?

SO, to avoid worry what sage words of advice are there?

The best advice

is to keep your priorities straight.  God, Family, Job. First comes God.  Yes, God.  You see, He puts things in perspective.  His Words are pure wisdom and easily found. The most well-known advice is Proverbs 3:5-6.  That tells you what to do, but you have to keep reading to find out how.  What did that passage say again?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

The only way you can submit to God is to read His Word.  It isn’t hard, just a little at a time.  The advice in there about honesty, money, work, attitude is the same advice these motivational gurus hand out with a worldly spin and get right from people hungry for the magic key to health, wealth, and happiness.  It is all right there for you!

The second priority is family.  You may wonder why it isn’t first.  Without the peace of God, without the wisdom He gives you, you will mess up.  I guarantee it.  Even with in family there is a hierarchy.  You must put your spouse first and as a team you put the children first.  Your children need to see that unity of Mom and Dad.

As humans we are all selfish, we get tired, worn down, feel unappreciated, don’t know how many times we can say the same thing, we get frustrated!  Learn to take it all to God.  Lay it at His feet and you will often find answers present themselves in short order.  They may not be the ones you want, but have the humility to accept them.

The third part of the priorities is your job.  Once you have that open communication with God, you have your home in order; once those priorities are taken care of you are free to concentrate on your job and have the distractions of problems on the home front or problems with bills.  You can focus all your attention on your work.  This leads to further success.

Please don’t take this as a promise of no problems.  There are always hills or high points in life as well as valleys or challenges.  You will still face your fair share.  But, if your priorities are right, you will know where to turn in time of joy and in times of sorrow.  Give Him praise for all, He will hear your prayers and grant you what you need.

I leave you with Jesus’s own words:

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.    Matthew 6: 28-34 NIV

Submission

We are an odd lot.  We hear God’s Word and respond to it saying we want to follow it; we ‘repent’ of our sins.  We may be in a small group of two or more, or we may be alone, on our knees but with that final “Amen” we close our Bible, our daily devotional, wipe our face, blow our nose, and continue on with life as if nothing had happened.  Sometimes we will remark to a friend, “I don’t know, Nancy, I pray and pray but I feel like they don’t get  any higher than the ceiling.”  Even if we try to figure out why, we don’t always recognize the reason or if we do, we dismiss is because it is something we do not want to face, give up, walk away from.  I battle with such sin all the time. If it is, and it always is, doing something our way rather than His way, we are out of His will and then we are in sin.  It is not intentional, at least until we recognize the behavior and refuse to change.

We often look at purging this behavior or thinking pattern as “giving it up” which implies a loss; we fail to recognize what we will gain in a closer walk with Jesus and allowing Him to bless us. .  When you “give up” something to draw closer to God, you are giving nothing up; you are making a choice, you are choosing God.

“13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those                         who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

The Book of Acts states one should not present him/her members (body and all its parts)   as instruments for sin (unrighteousness).  That means we need to deal with the sin in our life first.  When we cast off the weight, the guilt,  the loss of communion with the Christ, the Son of God, the Maker of the Universe that came with that sinful act, He can and will bless us in so many wonderful ways.

This is where I start to get excited and my serious language goes right out the window.  When we exchange our rebelliousness, our stubbornness for obedience to His will for us we receive a peace that truly surpasses all understanding.  We receive a joy that cannot be taken away by the most challenging of life events.

You see, God, Jesus, so loves you and me.  He wants to bless us, but we have to put ourselves in a position where we can receive that gift.  He never tires of blessing us, he never tires of forgiving us for with each baby step we take, He shows us yet another area where we need to submit to Him.

Submission.  Even as adults we bridle at the word.  Our jaws set, our backs become stiff, we are so like Frank Sinatra’s song; “My Way.”   Our desire to do it “our way” is what leads us to that discussion in the beginning of this article.  It is such a hard, hard thing to do.  Just watch your teenager or remember how they were.  It was a daily fight, was it not?  Yet we act that same exact way when Jesus shows us His will.

Do this with me.   Close your eyes and imagine you are lying in soft grass, the singing of the birds in the nearby trees and the gentle gurgling of the brook that runs with clean, cool water lull you to relax.  Your shoulders that were so tight start to loosen, your neck … oh that feels so good.   Now little by little the muscles in your lower back relax.  That pain you had been dealing with?  That’s the one, right …  there; it’s gone.  The scents of the flowers growing near by, the gentle bird calls, the babbling of the brook with an occasional splash as a rainbow trout leaps out of the water have so drawn you in that pain and discomfort you have come to accept as normal are gone!  Now your thighs relax, your knees (oh and how they have ached).  even the calves of your legs, your ankles, your toes.  You wiggle your toes in that soft grass, loving the feel of it against your bare feet.  Keeping your eyes closed you stretch out your arms and feel nature rejuvenate your spirit.  You never want to leave this heavenly place.

Something is nearby, not threatening, not dangerous, just there.  You slowly open your eyes and see the most beautiful blue sky you have ever seen;  you turn your head and there, there is a deer!  You lay quietly but she does not seem afraid.  The both of you are at peace and she moves closer, closer yet.  Her nose bumps your head and you feel a thrill as she languidly investigates your hair, your face, and then moves a few steps over to drink from that cool, clean water.  You lie there never ever wanting to leave.  This, this is your place beside still waters.  This is the peace you have always sought.  This is the gift of submission to Jesus.

What I described is my special place, I get to visit there so seldom because I am so busy doing things my way rather than God’s way.  Oh what fools we are!

Do you want that special place?  Determine to submit.  Make Psalm 19 your matra.  Memorize it, tape it to your refrigerator, your bathroom mirror, your door.  Pray it, drop to your knees and pray it, remember it.  Submission is not a bad thing, not when it comes to Jesus Christ.  Practice it, let Him bless you.

Not it is up to you …

1-2 Job, you challenged Almighty God;
    will you give up now, or will you answer?

A Lesson in Forgiveness

Katy Curry©

Those boys!  Her foot pressed ever harder on the accelerator while her brow furrowed in anger and frustration.  Tears ran down her cheeks while her mouth was set in a firm grimace.  How could they?  She had worked so hard to make everything perfect!  The leg of lamb, garlic smashed potatoes, asparagus garden salad would have been perfect.  They were her favorite dish; dessert was homemade lemon meringue pie; perfectly browned.    She set the table as beautifully as her mother had taught her and planned everything for a quick and easy clean-up so she could enjoy the day with her family.    It was to have been, should have been HER DAY!  Mother’s Day!

She stood on the brakes and pulled off the road as she realized her rage could make a bad situation worse.  “Get ahold of yourself, Kathy.” She scolded, and then allowed herself to collapse into the steering wheel in a cascade of tears.

She was furious, scared, angry, disappointed, horrified, and hurt and so much more all at once.  She did not know how to react first.  Her son, her youngest, got himself arrested Saturday night.  ARRESTED!  Thrown in jail on a marijuana charge!  His brother had come over to tell his parents.

She and Frank had been sitting in the living room, watching their favorite Saturday night show when their older son had burst in and sat down on the couch, clearly upset.

“Mom, Dad, I have to tell you something.”  JR started.

“What’s wrong, Bud?” Dad sat up straight in his recliner.  “What’s happened?”

“It’s Jackson.  Jack has a problem.    Well, more than a problem, um, he’s in trouble.”  J.R. managed to get out.

He had Mom’s full attention.  “What is the matter with Jackson?  Is he hurt?”

“No, Mom, he’s, he’s, Jackson was arrested and is in jail!   But if we go down we can bail him out, I called and checked.  We can make it all right.  He had a roach, oh sorry, marijuana…”

“I know what a ‘roach’ is, J.R.” Mom said tersely.  “I thought he was at work.”

“Well, yeah, he was, he was delivering a pizza and lit one for the drive, but then he ran a red light and got pulled over,”   Frank explained.  “We just need to pay his bail, and he can get out.  His bond is six hundred dollars so we can bail him out for sixty dollars and get him home!”

She had sat there in disbelief.  Drugs.  Jail. Bond.

Mom reached out her hand as only she could.  “Give me the phone.”  She commanded.  She dialed the non-emergency number for the sheriff’s department and asked for the jail, gave the man her son’s name and asked if he was there.

“Yes ma’am, “responded a bored jailer.  “If you come down to the jail you can bail him out….”

She cut the jailer off, “Can you give him a message for me?  Can you tell him to enjoy his night and he can figure out how to get home because no one will come?  He buttered his bread, and now he can sleep in it.  It is his mess.”  Her voice was tight the fury barely under control.

“Yes Ma’am, I’ll be happy to give him the message!”

She thanked the jailer, got off the phone and pointed at J.R.  “Don’t you dare bail him out!  He can figure his way home, do you hear me?”

“Now, Babe, don’t you think that is a bit harsh?” Frank, Sr. suggested.  “After all, it’s not like he robbed a bank or killed someone.  J.R. and I can go down to the jail in the morning…..”

“I’m going to bed.” She said and walked out of the room, took her shower, her sleeping pill and climbed into bed in a fury of motion.  She had suspected both sons were smoking pot, and it angered and terrified her.  She said one simple prayer that in its own strange way would be answered the next day.  “God, get me through this!”

Mother’s Day dawned, she got up, went to church, left through the back door so no one would have the chance to talk to her, ask where Jackson was, wish her Happy Mother’s Day.  At home, she went through the motions of preparing the Mother’s Day meal, but her heart was no longer in it.  About noon, J.R. walked in and behind him was an exhausted and chastened Jackson with a bouquet of flowers.

“Now Mom, I didn’t bail him out, he was released on his own recognizance.  I just couldn’t leave him to out there; the jail is in the middle of nowhere.  Look, he has flowers for you; you know how you love flowers.”

Mom looked over at Jackson; ice and pain were in her eyes.  “I don’t want those.  I don’t care what you do with them. “

Jackson reacted as if his mom had struck him.  Never had he expected this type of response from his mother.  She was always the one who had fought for him in high school, always the one who spent the extra time to get him to do the homework he tried to hide from her; she had championed him from his earliest memories.   She had always seemed to understand.  Other kids had wanted a Mom like he had.  He got his answer quickly.

“How could you?  Everything I have done for you and you repay me with, with this?  Arrested?  Drugs?  You were brought up in the church!  You were taught right from wrong!  Now you do this?  Get out of my sight!”  Mom was sobbing.

Jackson tripped over a chair as he backed up, struck a second time by the physical blow of her words.  “Mom, I’m sorry,” was all he could say.

Almost hysterical, she grabbed her keys, stormed out of the house, jumped into the car, and taken off.  We join her as she drove maniacally into an undeveloped area where she knew she would not have to watch for people or dogs.

As she sat, sobbing into her steering wheel, beating it with her fist there was a knock on her window.  She looked up, and a sheriff’s deputy parked behind her, light’s flashing.  Oh great, they always show up when you don’t need them.  She wiped her face with her hands and lowered the window.  “Am I doing something wrong, Officer?” she asked.  She had pulled over in a deserted area, so she knew she was not disturbing anyone.

“No ma’am.”  He answered carefully.  “May I see your driver’s license and registration?”

“Oh sure, sure,” she answered; wishing she had not quit smoking as now would be a very good time for a cigarette.

He studied them for a moment and made some notes, then handed them back.  “We got a call from a very concerned family about you, ma’am.  I am glad I found you in one piece.  I need to call this in that you are okay.  Can your family come out and talk to you?  They are pretty upset.”

“THEY are upset?  THEY!”

“Your son told me about what he did.  You know, he isn’t the first kid to get into trouble.  As bad as you feel right now, I can guarantee you he is in worse shape.”

“Oh yeah, I bet.” She answered, bitterly.

“Jackson said you go to church, over at Freedom, right?  My wife and I just started going there.  Good Pastor.”

“Yes, I go to Freedom.  Not that it did my family any good.  What did I do wrong?  What didn’t I do right?”

“You were fine, I am sure.  Kids are kids, Kathy; may I call you Kathy?”

“Sure, that’s my name.” she answered with a ghost of a smile.

“I don’t want to preach, I’m a cop, not a preacher, but something that struck me was something that Jesus said.  He said in Matthew that we should forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven times.  I think that means every time.   What do you think, Kathy?  Did Jackson sin against God or you? “

“Well, both…..”

“You are right there, but his sin against God is between him, and God and his sin against the State of Florida is between him and the State of Florida, right?  So that leaves just him and you.”

Kathy had no words; she just stared at the deputy wondering at the wisdom he had shared.

“Now I don’t mean to overstep here, but my guess is you have had to say you were sorry a few times.  Now your son wants to tell you in the worst way how sorry he is.  Jesus said seventy times seven….  Looks to me like you have a pretty simple decision to make, whether or not to show him, Jesus.”

Kathy stared at the officer as the truth entered her heart.  It was true.  Jesus had already forgiven Jackson.  She knew she had to, not only because of Jesus teaching but because of her love of all of her family.  She needed to forgive all of them as badly as they; especially Jackson needed to hear her forgive him.

Kathy looked over at the Sheriff’s Deputy; “Deputy  … D’Angelo?  Are you a deputy sheriff or an angel here from God?  I want to thank you.  You helped me to realize something I needed to remember.  Thank  you, and God Bless you.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Deputy D’Angelo smiled.  “Now I really have to go, seems there’s a problem that needs handling.  You be safe now.”  He climbed into his patrol car, turned around, and well, where did he go?  Kathy shook her head, wondered if she had just had a conversation with an angel, there was no trace a police car had ever been there.

Kathy put her car in gear, turned around, and drove home.  She walked in the door and Frank Sr. and Jr. and Jackson looked up at her.

“Mom…” Jackson started.  That “Mom” hand stopped him.

“I need to say something to all of you.  I let this get out of perspective and punished all of you for Jackson’s mistake.  Dear, I should have let you finish what you were trying to tell me last night, but I was too angry.  J.R., you did the right thing by getting your brother when he was released this morning.  Jackson, thank you for bringing me flowers, it was very thoughtful.  I know you never meant to spoil Mother’s Day, I know you made a bad choice that you will have to deal with.   I am sorry I was so harsh to you, and I need to ask that you forgive me, that all of you forgive me for behaving so badly.”

Jackson was up and had his mother in a bear hug.  “I am so sorry Mom, so sorry, forgive you?  Please forgive me, I was so stupid….”

J.R. was there to giving his lop-sided grin.  “It’s okay Mom, no harm done.”

Frank Sr. sighed with relief.  “Jackson, where are those flowers you got for your mother, let’s get them in some water.  J.R.; let’s get the water on for the asparagus.  I don’t know about the rest of you but I am hungry!”

“Oh, one other thing, I was surprised the police were out looking for me, I didn’t think they did stuff like that.”  Mom commented.

The three men looked at each other confused.

“Babe, we never called the police, why would you think we did?” Frank asked.

“J.R., you know the deputies around here,” Mom said.  “Do you know of Deputy D’Angelo?”

“Uh, no, or he’s new, but there is no D’Angelo that I know of,” J.R. answered.  “Why?”

Mom smiled, she remembered that angry statement she had made as an excuse for her evening prayer.  “My prayer last night was answered in an unusual way.  Now let’s get this meal going so I can love on my family.  Where are Joe and Irene?  Jackson, will you say blessing today with a special thank you for blessings received?”

Jackson gave his huge smile and gave Mom another hug.

The doorbell rang, and Joe, Mom’s eldest son, and his wife, Irene were there.

“Come in!  You’re just in time for dinner!” Frank said as they came in.  “We have had quite a time here.”

“Talk later, food now!”  Jackson said.

Everyone sat down, Jackson prayed, and Mom watched her family and realized what a perfect day it was, because of God’s answer to prayer.

CLOSING THOUGHTS:

Part of this story is autobiographical.  Jackson (not his real name) continued to have problems with drugs and ‘graduated’ into cocaine.  I only wish I had had that angel when “Jackson” was arrested for possession of under 20 grams of pot and possession of paraphernalia.  The next ten years were to be the most challenging and frustrating Frank and I had ever faced as we struggled to get our son out of the drug scene. 

The following year, on Mother’s Day Eve, sheriff’s deputies showed up at the house to arrest Jackson on a violation of probation from that original drug charge.  I asked them if they knew what Sunday was.  They had forgotten and were somewhat sheepish as they confessed they had forgotten to get cards and flowers for their own moms and wives.  I asked if I guaranteed Jackson would be waiting for them Monday morning, would they let me have him for Mother’s Day.  They agreed.  Jackson was taken into custody that Monday morning.  He called me at work to tell me they were there.  I warned him to be cooperative; his voice shook with nerves and shame.  That will be another story.

 What I can tell you is this.  Love your children where they are.  Don’t sugar coat, don’t try to protect them from consequences of their actions, but don’t turn them out.  Tough love is not kicking them to the curb.  Tough love is loving them through earned consequences and being there to try to provide guidance, reassurance, and most importantly, unconditional love.  They need you, more than you know and more than they will admit.  It was love that brought Jackson back.  Love from God and from his family who never gave up on him. 

Verses referred to:

Matthew 18:21-23 (NIV)

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Hebrews 13:1-3 (NIV)

13 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

 

The Holy Highway

This is a piece I submitted in a writing contest.  I would truly appreciate some critical feedback so I can improve my writing.  Promise, I won’t get mad.  In this setting, I did expand some description in the story, but not much.    Thanks.

highway_to_heaven_wallpaper_by_vuenick-d5193zf

 

Isaiah 35:8-10New International Version (NIV)

And a highway will be there;
    it will be called the Way of Holiness;
    it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
    wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
    nor any ravenous beast;
    they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
10     and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

The air was thick with fear, the trees and fallen logs made for slow going and he needed to move fast.  He needed to get away.  He vaulted over some fallen logs and ran, ran as hard as he could; his breath coming out in ragged gasps.   The crashes behind him suggested whatever it was in pursuit was huge and fast.

“Bad, Bad, LeRoy Brown, Was the baddest man…..”

Matt sat up with a start reaching blindly for the cell phone.  His heart was pounding; he was covered in a cold sweat, felt it dripping down his back.  He sort of remembered the dream, he remembered the terror that had crept up his spine.

Finally his fingers closed over the phone.   Hullo?”

“Matt.  It’s Frank, from church.  Listen man, we need to talk…”

“Hey Frank.  Listen, I just woke up, I’m late.  I gotta go.  I’ll give you a call later.”  Matt cut Frank off with a promise he did not intend to keep.   Church.  No time for it.  A small bit of guilt pricked at the back of his mind, but he had been explaining it away, the guilt was less and stayed around for a shorter period of time.

“Sure, Matt, but don’t forget.”  Frank’s voice belied the frustration he felt at Matt’s avoidance.

“No problem.  Call you later.”  Matt replied without thought and hung up.    He looked at the time, 10:46 AM.  He could sleep for another hour; and let himself fall back onto the sheets that used to be white but were now grey.  He caught the sour smell of sweat, body odor and knew he needed to put fresh ones on the bed.  Maybe tomorrow, if he thought of it.  He was back asleep in moments.

The dream began again; this time, Pastor Frank was running alongside of him.

“Hey, what’re you doing here?  Shouldn’t you be doing ‘church stuff?’” Matt asked.

“Ain’t no more church, Matt,” Frank panted.  “Some monster out of hell devoured it.  It’s gone, I called you,  remember?”

“I remember, I was tired, haven’t been sleeping, keep having this dream … watch that log” and they both leapt over it.

“Beast from hell?  Sounds like what ‘s behind us,” Matt panted as the roar of an ungodly being rang through the woods.  It was hungry, hungry for souls.   “I can’t run much longer, we need a tree, a big one. “

They saw one in the distance and made for it with all the strength they had.   As they sat on the branch the creature burst into the clearing; it presented the most terrifying sight either man had ever seen.  It was a dull greenish-gray,  like  sick Spanish moss.  Tendrils that ended in sharp pincers dangled from it as did long octopi arms with suckers on the inside and eyes on the outside.  It’s mouth was a circle with rows and rows of sharp dagger-like teeth.  It was six feet tall and almost twice as long.  It was the ugliest most fearsome thing they had ever seen.  “R-R-OU-WGH-R!

 The sound was furious,  so loud it hurt their ears and the evil behind it spit right into their souls.

“What is that thing?”  Matt whispered.

“Do you remember what I talked about when we last met?” Frank asked.

“About the highway?  Yeah, you called it something … the, holiness, that when we got to it we would be safe. You were talking about salvation.”

“Yeah, that’s right, the Highway of Holiness,  from Isaiah.”  I explained that as you drew closer to God, Satan would attack to keep you from that Highway of Holiness.  He had promised it to the Israelites and He promises it to us.  You don’t get it.  You’re so close and Satan is after you.  You must be something special because he has set his beast after you.  You’ve been called, in a very big way.

“Your mother had a hard time.  She dreamed she was in hell; saw the people, heard their screams, felt their despair and hopelessness.  Now it’s your turn.  This is your wakeup call.   WAKE UP!!!!”

Matt sat up with a start.  He looked at the time, 10:53.

He sensed the malevolence; there was a smell, brimstone?  “It’s time to see Frank.” He decided and began toward the shower; caught the flash of movement, a tail?  Then the growl, so familiar….from his dream!  Something told him to get down on his knees yet he continued toward the bathroom.

 “DOWN ON YOUR KNEES!”   The force knocked him backward.  He fell to his knees just as the demonic beast jumped toward and over him, tendrils and octopi arms reaching, eyes staring, mouth agape, teeth grinding.  He prayed to God, rededicated himself.

“Dear God, Jesus!  What is this thing!  Okay!  I have messed up, first it was the job, then when I did have a Sunday off I got lazy, wanted to sleep in.  God, you got my attention years ago and had to let me put myself in a bad spot.  Now Satan is after me.  God, I’m your man.  I promise, no more messing around, no more being lazy.  Please, Jesus, you were then and are still my Savior.  My sins can only be forgiven through your blood sacrifice, I know that, there is nothing I can do to earn heaven, so I accept your gift of salvation and will honor it and you.  With all my heart, Christ, I swear!  Amen and…”

The beast had been facing him sizing him up, preparing it’s final assault .  As it leapt toward Matt, Matt finished his prayer with “Amen!”  The hell-bent creature had started with a great roar but ended in a scream of pain as it seemed to try to protect itself from blows or something causing it pain.  It just disappeared and with it the stink of brimstone and sulfur.

“Oh, Wow!  Talk about spiritual warfare!  Thank you angels!”

Matt stumbled back into the bedroom, picked up the cell phone and dialed.

“Frank?  Yeah, man, I’ll be right there.  We need to talk.”

I am Pro-Life and Why

In high school, I wanted to be a nun, a bride of Jesus Christ.  Not just any nun, but a Maryknoll nun.  One who would minister to the poor, bring them the knowledge of Jesus Christ.  I loved Jesus, loved my rosary and did not fit in too well with others.  I was unsure of myself and quite shy.  There were stresses at home that added to that.  I graduated high school never having been asked on a date, never attending my Senior Prom, still waiting for that first magical kiss.  I was afraid to tell anyone I wanted to be a nun.  After all, they were smart and I wasn’t.  They expected you to go to college, learn Latin.  No, that was nothing someone like me could do.  So you can see, I had a self-image problem, from the very beginning:  too fat, not pretty enough, not good at sports,  not good at school work, few friends.  I had no idea what kind of future I could have not with a pedigree like that! There she was, no skills, few friends, no social life.  She discovered a place where none of that mattered, where she could just be, she found dance clubs.  Finally, she was not a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.  The local military base made one club her favorite as was no shortage of handsome young men to dance with, sometimes take her out on a date.  It did not happen often, those dates, but going to those clubs made her feel more like a part of life.

My parents had sent me to secretarial school, but my typing was sad and my shorthand worse.  Before they kicked me out, I dropped out.  I did not want my parents to know that I wasn’t smart enough to do what my mother had no trouble doing.  It seemed better to look the rebellious teenager.  So Mom and Dad got me a job at a local bank.  There too, it seemed I was another square peg in a round hole.  The other tellers only talked to me if the absolutely had to and would make sure I knew I was not part of the group.  Well, I quit.

In the process I did find a place where I fit in, on the discotheque or dance club scene.  Every now and then I would actually have a date.  One Saturday night my date stood me up.  I announced to no one in particular; “Well, I am going out anyway.”   Mom warned me that it wasn’t right, a lone girl going into a bar alone. “ Oh Mom, it isn’t a bar and I know everyone there.  Besides if he shows up I don’t want him to think I didn’t have anything better to do!”    I had no idea how right my mother was, but I had gotten into the habit of arguing and doing the opposite of whatever my parents said.

I headed on out to my favorite club which was a ways from home, but it was near a military base so obviously to an eighteen year old, the best possible place to go.  When I got there I waved to the owner and the bartenders and then saw a young man I had been wanting to know better.    We made small talk for a bit and then he asked if I could run him back to the base so he could grab some more money, he was running light. It was a pretty common thing so I didn’t think much of it.  One had to hold a certain rank to be permitted a car and many of the non-coms just hadn’t been in long enough to make rank.

When we got to the car he reached for my keys,  “I’ll drive,” he said.

“Oh no you don’t,” I said laughing.  “You’ve had too much to drink.  I don’t want my car wrecked!”

SLAP!  The blow landed hard across my face and almost knocked me to the ground.

“I said “I’ll drive!'” he said again, anger edging his voice.  He picked the keys up from where they had fallen out of my hand onto the ground and opened the passenger door for me to get in.  Now, I should have ran immediately back into the club screaming my head off, but at eighteen I was nowhere near as sophisticated or street smart as I thought myself to be.    I got in quietly, afraid to argue more, too naive  to be smart.

He be-bopped around her car and slid into the driver’s seat;   “Boy, you have short legs,” he remarked as he pushed the seat back.  They were not bucket sets so the entire seat slid back.  I did not respond, just looked out the window and wondered if she was going to have a black eye.  I will never forget him trying to joke me into a party mood.

He maneuvered the car out of the parking lot and turned right.   “Wait, the base is left, why did you turn this way?” I was afraid he would hit me again, but was afraid he had forgotten his left from his right.  He wasn’t drunk, he knew exactly what he was doing.

“Oh, just a little something I wanted to show you.” he remarked casually.

I had heard of these tryst spots and did not want to have anything to do with one.  What went on in those spots was something I was not ready for and did not want to learn about.  “I don’t want to see, let’s just go to the base.  I promise I won’t say a word about what happened and you can get another ride back to the bar if you want, I just want to go home.”

“Aw, come on, I promise, nothing will happen, it’s just a nice quiet place, you’d like it.”  He never took his eyes off the road.

I felt  helpless and lost and moved closer to the door wondering if I could just open the door and fall out of the car.  I looked around and didn’t recognize anything and was too afraid to jump from a moving car.  So I stayed put and hoped for the best.  I just wanted to go home.

He stopped in a deserted area facing a swamp that opened eventually onto the Atlantic Ocean.  She was truly lost.  There was no water to see,  just cattails that belied the wetness of the area.  He had driven pretty far in so they were surrounded I couldn’t tell other than by the back of the car which way we had come in.

He reached over and tried to pull me to him.  I resisted.  He chuckled and moved across the bench seat himself and began to try to seduce me with gentle kisses; but those gentle kisses became harsher and angrier as I tried to push him away.

SLAP!  POW!  I saw stars.  The slap had not been too bad but the punch, I had never been hit so hard in my  life.  I was terrified.  I didn’t know what to do next but knew what he planned and what he would do.  So there I was, in the middle of who knew where with a man who had no problem beating me up to get his way.  How far would he go?  How much did I want to get hit?  I stopped, stopped resisting, stop responding in any way.  I just laid there.   This was my  first experience with a man and I was beyond terrified.

After a time, he seemed satisfied and sat up and started the car and drove to the base.  No words were exchanged until he stopped the car in front of his barracks.  “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that,” he began;  “If I ever want a date with a really nice girl I will call you.”

I just looked straight ahead.  Again I could have called for help, could have told an MP what had happened.  I was still so afraid, and now so ashamed.  Mom had been right;  now I was used.

On the way home, my car started to act up with loud backfires and billows of black smoke.  I   got as far as my girlfriend’s house.  All the lights were out but  the car would go no farther.  The entire family got up.  I scrubbed my face with my hands, put on a smile and asked if I could spend the night.  Once in Deb’s house, I ran upstairs to her bedroom and looked at my panties.  Tthere was the proof of innocence stolen, they were covered in blood.  I screamed  a loud, horrified scream and fell on the bed sobbing.

“Is everything alright?  What is wrong?  Did something happen to you?: Mrs. Rizzi called up the stairs.   Deb ran to the door.

“Everything is fine, she was just a little nervous and then tripped and scared herself.  She is fine,” Deb called down, trying to cover for me.

Mr. Rizzi called my dad to advise where I was.  He shared that he thought something bad may have happened.  Kate had not realized how bad she had looked, pale face, in a state of shock.

The next morning  mom and dad came out to pick me up.  They wanted to see the condition of the car and what it might need.  The car engine had blown up and the men decided there was no point even having it towed home so the appropriate arrangements were made.  I climbed into the back of Dad’s car and  did not utter a word all the way home.  Mom and Dad tried to find out what had happened but I stayed tight lipped.

In in those days, a girl was either good or nice.  A good girl was a virgin, married a nice man and raised children.  A nice girl was the town tramp.  I was no longer a good girl, I was a tramp.  With that in mind I began to act the part in the way I dressed, talked, and acted.

Dad found this out, what I had become when he  was talking to someone who was new to the town.  He started to talked about a town tramp he had heard about who was pretty friendly.  He only knew her first name and had a general description.  As he described her and finally gave the name, her father froze.  The man had described his daughter, Kate down to her name.

Mom and Dad tried to get me into counseling which I refused; they tried to restrict my activities by locking me out if I came in too late or threatening to kick me out.  I would give them a blank stare and say  “If that is what you want.”  I didn’t figure I deserved much else.

Finally I became pregnant.  My parents had no regard for the man I had been dating.  I was in love with him and had daydreams of us raising this child in a land of rainbows and lollipops.  Dad ordered him to marry me.  Well you didn’t order Frank to do anything.  He refused.  I was in such a state of confusion and denial I just sat there.   Dad and Frank had a pretty bad argument and Dad decided I would never marry him.  I was whisked off  out of the country for a very illegal abortion.

He was a real doctor and did a number of abortions for people in the States.  He was all business and never thought about the placement of the equipment.  The vacuum tube ran right next to my face.  As the babe was pulled into pieces as the suction machines do, the tube would vibrate as larger parts of my now  dead baby were pulled through the tube.  I will never forget the sound or the vibrating of that tube. suctioned out.  In the recovery room I cried the tears of a mother who lost her child.  In my mind an entirely new persona was forming.  I had been just a tramp.  Now I was a tramp and a murderess.  I was worse, I had murdered my baby.  What could possibly be lower or more disgusting?

This all took place a few days before Christmas.  When I returned home, I slipped out of the house to return Frank’s Navy sailor shirt and other things to him.  We sat down on the steps at his rooming house and he apologized for everything and said he thought we should get married.  I responded with one sentence; “It’s too late.”  We sat in silence for a while and then I got up and left.  The next night we found ourselves at the house where he rented a room for Christmas Eve.  Mom and Dad were trying to get me to leave the room where Frank was and sit in the dining room with them.  My deviant behavior kicked in and I began to jump up and down as hard as I could.  I refused to stop and the more people told me to the harder and faster I would jump.

I started drinking heavily and had a brush with alcoholism.  I quit drinking for two years but prior to the shock of possible alcoholism; my hard drinking would drown out either what was happening to me or give me the false courage to drive my car into the big oak trees that grew in my neighborhood.  The car would never seem to cooperate as my suicide weapon and sometimes I would scream in frustration and fury.

Even though I stopped drinking, my destructive behavior continued and Mom and Dad finally talked me into seeing a psychologist.  He did not seem very caring or interested so I put on my show face.  I was sent to a  woman but I was having no more of it.  They couldn’t change what was or had been and in my mind they were putting me down, pointing figers at me.  Secular psychiatry offers a hurting person no help, no answers, at least it didn’t for me.  They did not see what I needed.  I needed to have my soul treated first.  They were starting in the wrong place, putting the cart before the horse as it were.  No one realized I still wanted to be a nun, dedicate my life to God, but a murderess, a killer of babies?  I deserved hell and I knew it.

Years went by and she produced another pregnancy, out of wedlock.  I was forced out of the Navy, harassed by the Navy wives, abused by the doctors who would examine me and I found myself back home with Mom and Dad, this time an unwed mother at twenty five.

When I let it be known that the baby’s father was Philippine I was told I had to put it up for adoption.  Besides, it would be better for the baby, what could I possibly offer it, someone like me.  I was loose and a single parent.  I had finally found an obstetrician who treated me with kindness and compassion.  He gave me permission to keep the baby.  Erick’s birth did not fix me.  I was still the tramp who had killed her baby.  I was a good mother or tried to be but I always saw myself as garbage.

I married Bob, a monster.  He beat Erick to a pulp, this made my final failure complete.  I had allowed a monster to beat and possibly permanently damage my child.   The marriage lasted five months.  Again, she was back with her parents, dependent on them as she could not earn a living wage to feed her and her precious son.   He had become her identity, for she had none that she was willing to look at.

As a single parent, I was shunned by married women as a threat to their marriage.  I knew they had nothing to worry about, but evidently they were not secure in their marriage.  I hated them for that and had “fun” with their attitudes and insecurities.  Deep down it hurt so much, but  I was used to it.

I met Frank number 2 and we married and I had two more children.  I asked Jesus to come into my heart, to be my Lord and Savior, to forgive my sins.  Jesus did, I did not.   I lived under the guilt of what had happened so many years ago.  Eventually I lost sight of why Jesus could possibly love or forgive me.   I would reach out to Him – I knew then and know now that he is truth and salvation, but how could I have that I was a  murderess, worse, the murderer of my own baby.

The trials of life continued, my younger sons made  disappointing choices, I buried my parents, suffered merciless nightmares begged God, apologized to Him, became unbelievably defensive.  I was coming undone, not much was mattering any more.  All she could see was baby killer.

One sad night Jesus came to me,  a dream a vision, I can’t say, but He was there.  He dressed me in a white gown and put the most beautiful white veil on my head.  He told me I was pure just as my name, Kathleen meant.  I shook my head and He stopped me;  “You are pure because of My blood.  You are my bride and you are pure with no stain of sin.”  For forty eight years I  had punished myself for that act; longer still for the rape.

Sexual sin, be you the sinner or victim damages you for the rest of your life.  I was that girl, I am now that woman and fir the first time in almost fifty years I am beginning to put that sin, the sins it led to, the guild it caused behind.  I still give praise because Jesus took what was broken and through His love, mended it, mended me.  I am still mending.