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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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?