Week 1 of NaNoWriMo November writing contest: Wasting Time (I win! I win!)

Robert and Maria filled up the wooden porch chairs and then some.  Amelia perched on the edge of hers, so emaciated you could almost see through her.

Each had a walker set in front of them.

“Mornin’ folks,” JJ said with a smile, making his way slowly from the door.

“Gonna sit a spell this mornin’, JJ?”

“Just a bit, Maria, just a bit.  Got a new one today.”

“Don’t know why you bother with that mentoring,” Robert huffed.  “Kids don’t appreciate it.  Just wastin’ your time.  Hoodlums, all of ‘em.”

“UmmHmm,” JJ answered good-naturedly, resting half of his skinny butt on the edge of the railing.

“They don’t get that you’re sacrificing your good time for them.  Just taking advantage of you.”

A young man, his long black hair pulled back in a ponytail and wearing a denim jacket with the sleeves ripped out to show a skull and crossbones tattooed on each shoulder, walked up onto the porch and the eyes of JJ’s friends grew wide. 

“Lookin’ for JJ Malone.” His voice sounded like gravel.

“Run JJ, run,” Maria whispered.

JJ chuckled.  “Jonas, how you doin’?”  

He stuck out his arthritic hand and the biker slapped his own into it with gusto, pulling JJ in for a good hug.

“How goes it old man?”

“It goes, it goes.”  JJ’s eyes sparkled.  “Folks, this is my prize student from fifteen years ago.  My very first, back when I was only a beginner at bein’ retired.”

“Looks like a huge success,” Maria observed dryly.  She and Amelia shared a look.

“See what I have to deal with here?  Folks, Jonas went from a  life of crime to his GED, then on to a master’s in Psychology.  Works with veterans now.  His niece is comin’ to get extra help so she can pass her SAT’s for college.”

He relished in the glorious speechlessness of his critics.

“Princeton, right?”

The biker nodded, beaming.  “I can’t thank you enough, JJ.  You saved my life back then.  God bless yah.  I was going from bad to worse, my brother too.”

JJ leaned towards the peanut gallery and winked.  “Wastin’ my time, huh?  No, no, you’re right.  Sittin’ here on my ass waitin’ for lunchtime’s much more important!”

He swung an arm around Jason’s shoulders and headed for the car coming up the drive.  “Let’s go meet this niece of yours.”

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A Righteous Man is OH, SO SEXY!

I grew up in a home where Christ and the Word was taught and believed.  My Dad was a minister for a short time and then became a social worker in the Massachusetts Social Services “Welfare” system because he felt he could do more for more people there.  He taught me to fight for what I believe and to hold firm even when the opposition is strong.  And my Mom, well, let’s just say that I was that kid in Sunday School that every teacher dreads because THEY knew that I knew every story the Bible told and just about every Bible verse that a Sunday School teacher would be asked to teach her little ones.  I was a force to be reckoned with when it came to questions.  I could answer every one.  And sometimes I answered differently than the teacher and I would be right.  I was scary.  Thanks, Mom!

But I grew up thinking that my home life was the norm (don’t we all?) that people don’t get close to each other, they don’t hug or (heavens!) discuss things with each other and whatever you are going through, you need to figure it out yourself because no one else is really interested.  

I am NOT saying that my parents are at fault, nor is that my premise.  This was MY take away from the circumstances within my home and others would have adapted differently.  

BUT I had always – ALWAYS – carried that princess dream in my heart, every night from the youngest of days that I can remember, my eyes would close, my body would not sleep and I would wile away those hours creating stories of my handsome prince coming to rescue me.  I did not have Disney to blame.  We didn’t even have a TV until second grade and then it was The Virginian I was allowed to watch.  Even got to stay up an extra half hour past my bedtime for it!  And at my grandparents before that on weekends there was F Troop and Hogan’s Heros and – oh my! – The Rifleman.  

I grew up with those dreams, and had many crushes, but always on the unattainable “popular” guy, who in my mind would suddenly rise to his true character and be a God fearing, evil demolishing, strong, passionate, hero like Chuck Conners.  

All this time I grew in my faith, and at sixteen I began deeply searching the scriptures and challenging God to show me – if He’s really different than all those other religions, than Buddha and Mohammed and anyone else – show me like IN PERSON, for real that He is real.  I know, I’m a “go way beyond the extra mile” kind of person.  I belonged to a group created to help young people share their faith and become stronger in it because of that sharing and we met every Friday night.  It was more popular than going out and getting drunk for a lot of young people.  It was COOL to belong to Fisherman.  And I’m pretty sure there were more than a few that had no idea who God was, but saw a large pool of available date material.

I digress.  One such Friday night one of the founders gave a compelling sermonette, and people began to confess their sins to each other and cry and hug and – you know, all the things that I’ve decided throughout my short life were not acceptable and to be avoided.  I began to cry myself, which surprised me greatly.  Then I felt pulled to go upstairs from our meeting area, so I did.  At the top of the stairs, I didn’t see anything, but I heard a voice say, “Are you for us, or against us?”

I knew it was the Lord answering my challenges and I responded eagerly, “For you!”  I continued in my journey as one who professed Christ as my Savior, but it was nothing spectacular.  I sang, wrote songs, learned how to play guitar (sort of) and then headed off to college.  Made mistakes.  Had boyfriends, whom I abandoned as soon as they seemed to be serious, the usual fair, right?  

Through it all this one boy I’d met my senior year in high school – best friends with the only boy who dumped me in a relationship, kept popping up.  We dated, broke off, dated again, broke it off, kind of dated, pretended to date, and pretty much he chased me for years.  I finally chose him on my own (I blame dementia, because I would never have that much common sense relationally on my own ever!) and we got engaged for the last time.  (Third, if you must know) And then we were married.

Well, I began our marriage with the “understanding” that I was a mature, knowledgeable, deeply committed Christian and that Hubby was not far behind.  After all, I was kind, compassionate, gentle (aka hated confrontation,) not just patient, but oh, very certainly long-suffering!, you know, the whole Holy Spirit package.  And “everyone” knew this about me.

Everyone it seems except Hubby.  To him, I was cold, dispassionate, harsh, critical and probably a little bit on the “I’m more spiritual than you” side of things.  I didn’t make him feel loved or lovable at all, and I even had nervous breakdowns every time I got the bank statement until I removed the checkbook from his unacceptable, failure stamped hands and tried with all my might to rein him in.  

I told him every day without speaking a word that he was not up to my standards, nor would he ever be, a constant thorn in my flesh.  And all the while, I thought I was being a great support, keeping house, planning meals, showing him how much I loved him by all the things I did for him.  I folded his shirts just the way he liked them folded – how much more loving could I be?!!

God had promised him he would marry me.  I am sure by the end of the first year, or perhaps by the second, he’d decided that God had had a very good joke at his expense and he would be trapped in this hell forever.  

Then I found the note.  

He’d written to God about how unhappy he was, how I would never love him and asking God how he could go on feeling so alone, so unloved, so miserable.  It broke my heart.  For the first time I realized I was hurting him!  So I began to pray that God would show me how to love him, how to be the wife that I should be.  

Two years later . . . yes, TWO.  We humans have an incredible capacity to put up with the crappiest of lives for the longest periods of time without blinking an eye, all the while crying ourselves to sleep and grumbling a lot.  He drove me out to a quiet spot and sobbed out how he couldn’t go on this way and that things had to change.  I’d been trying so hard and still I was hurting him – and badly!  And by this time I understood some of my failings and I just didn’t know how to overcome them.  They were just who I am (or so I thought – don’t ever believe that crap, God is not ever satisfied with how we think we were born and has infinite power to rescue us from ourselves!)  So I offered to him to let him divorce me.  He was horrified.  We talked and talked and I just didn’t see how anything would ever get better, but we made a pact to pray together for God to rescue us from ourselves.

That, I think, was the real key to the situation.  I had been praying on my own, and perhaps God needed those years to begin to change my heart ahead of time to be prepared for praying with Hubby to look for that kind of marriage that I knew I would never be a part of.  Years later after that, we were better, but still struggling, engulfed in the stresses of a new business, severely underfunded and abandoned by those who had agreed to work with us.  I sat in church, an unruly tear daring to escape down my cheek after we had led worship with the praise band, resigning myself to the reality that I would never have that dream marriage where people actually loved each other and felt accepted, no – more than that – fulfilled.  One.  The sermon started with, “With God there is always hope.”  I will never forget that.  In my lowest point, about to give up all hope, God had spoken directly to my heart.

I still was clueless, but God intertwined circumstances with the deepening of my faith to force me to share something I thought was insignificant that had been keeping a wall between me and Hubby.  The moment I shared it, everything changed.  THAT MOMENT.   Sure, we were still struggling, but hope was beginning to seep into Hubby’s heart as well.  

Then I got sick.  Well, we discovered my sickness.  This discovery brought doctors into my life who prescribed drugs and within a week I woke up and realized – hey!  This is how everyone else wakes up in the morning!  I’ve been depressed my whole life and didn’t even know it!  Well, the problem was much bigger than that and they don’t tell you that the drugs work for a time and then they stop.  What?!!  Oh, yea, they prescribe a lot of drugs without actually having a clue what they do and how they work, just that they work at least for a time and then you move on.  Moving on meant steroids – and I did my research on that.  Not going to happen.  God rescued me again with another drug, which continued to work, but after almost three years, I had to get off it.  

All this is to say, that much of “this is just who I am” was really me – suffering from my body not functioning properly.  Feeling tired, depressed and overwhelmed by life all the time is not really a good base for interacting with your husband and being physical.  Every day life tired me out and we were not just living ordinary every day life – we were killing ourselves to keep the business alive.  Unreal over the top circumstances piled on from work life, home life, church life (they kicked us out – not too stressful,) physical life and on and on it went.

Through all of this Hubby and I continued to see God’s hand, albeit still like infants, but there were some pureèd carrots and peas making their way into our diet.  Our faith deepened and we both longed to be better spouses, better parents and better children of God, and to our own parents.  I began to learn how to be friends with people – girls even!  There were mission trips, awesome Bible studies, leading high school sunday school, and then later learning I no longer could lead a high school sunday school, men’s and women’s retreats – loads of experiences.

But we began to feel that our faith was missing a component.  It just didn’t seem to be all that it should be.  Were we failing God?  Hubby came to me and said, “I’ve been doing my devotions and praying and I keep hearing the word, “Abiding.”  I don’t know what it means or how I’m going to figure it out, but that’s what I’m hearing.  I was ecstatic.  (see the title of this overly long post)  And so I began to pray about abiding too.

We were in a band and had an opportunity to play in this guy’s back yard.  (It’s a really really BIG backyard at the top of a mountain.)  Afterwards we were offered the opportunity to attend a small group of select couples for a “Marriage Retreat” at this man’s home – at the top of the mountain.  How could we refuse?  We got there, opened the material and I could not believe my eyes!  It was entitled, “Abiding”  There was probably more to the title than that, but that was all I could see.  I was not only floored, I could feel the excitement building inside me that God was doing something VERY, VERY cool!

That weekend, I believe, is one of those stones in our Ebenezer pile.  It’s a point, a stone, that we can look back on and say our lives changed.  We learned not only how to study the Word differently and more effectively, but we began to learn to work together to grow our spiritual lives.   I studied the Holy Spirit, feeling like the church rarely talked about it and that I had always been afraid of touching the subject for fear of “accidentally” committing the unpardonable sin.  Turns out ignoring the Holy Spirit just might BE the unpardonable sin!  

Slowly over many years we have grown together to a point where I can honestly say I have the coolest marriage ever.  I married the prince and just like in Pretty Woman, with God’s help, he rescued me and I rescued him right back.  When I see him make tough choices, when I hear him stand for his faith, when I watch as he lays down his musical “genius” to enable other fellow musicians to utilize their gifts and grow in their faith, when I see him go to someone he’s hurt or he’s been hurt by and actually work it out with them, see actual humility forming in his relationships with people – WOW! – I AM SO TURNED ON!  I don’t even know if its okay to say that in Christian circles, but it needs to be said.  Men who honor God in their lives, who take the hard road, that one less traveled, and put others above themselves and listen to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to transform their lives . . . THOSE MEN ARE SEXY.   MY MAN IS SEXY!  

And I am so grateful that all those years ago he didn’t give up, didn’t throw me away, didn’t decide “that’s just the way I am” or accept that as an acceptable answer!  Hey!  It just dawned on me.  Maybe I will be sexy some day, too!   Maybe I AM kind of sexy now?!!  

Marriage is hard.  Two broken sin-filled people trying to find their way in the dark without a manual . . . or are they?  I think my Manual* is Alive and Well and working just fine! 

*In case you aren’t sure what I mean . . . it’s the Bible.  : ) 

Posted in General Ragging | 2 Comments

Daddy Issues

It’s been twenty years, going on twenty-one and the struggle has been for the most part through out the full twenty-one years.  At first, we were young and – let’s be honest here – we were stupid.  We had high ideals and grand ideas and we worked nearly all twenty-four of the twenty-four hours available to a human in one day.  I had to give that up pretty quick, but hubby, no, he pressed on hour after hour, day after day, the pressure of huge bills and closing sales and the ever evil press of paperwork to be completed, driving him forward.  His sheer will forced him to learn techie things that even a high school geek like him hadn’t anticipated.  His capacity to sell drew in large customers, political customers, and his compassion drew in the needy and the oppressed.

We worked hard for our money and sometimes, especially at the beginning, we worked hard for no money.  Okay, maybe we weren’t stupid, but we were perhaps foolish.  And certainly to the world around us, we were down right crazy.

And even after twenty-one years, we press on.  Not because we are all that and a (very big) bag of chips . . . no, because we know that even though we fail, even though we can’t possibly anticipate the wending of competitors mixed with market changes and innovations galore, even though we grow exhausted and weary of the never-ending pace, we are loved by a God who has no weariness, Who watches over us without sleeping, Who cares deeply for me, for hubby, for our vendors and our customers, our children and our friends.  

That’s not to say that bad things don’t happen to us.  Have you been listening?  We’ve been in the war of the self-employed in a highly competitive market that believes with enough money we can lower our price enough so that even though we are losing money, we can drive out our competition enough to kill them off and then have all the market share – or at least a much bigger one.  We are not those people.  We are the competition they hope to drive into despair, to rip our precious customers and new sales from our worn to the bone fingers and smash us into hopelessness until we give up.

But we don’t wage this war alone.  Nor would I ever attempt it.  I don’t know how people who do attempt such a thing exist.  It’s not my world view and I confess I can’t wrap my head around that world view.  

The Creator of the Universe and beyond, Alpha and Omega (that’s beginning and end for us English speaking folk,) He CARES about ME!  Why would I ignore that?  If my earthly father owned half the world and devoted himself to my every need, would I just go, “Ah, heck, Dad, I’m good” and walk away?  I am pretty rebellious, but not that much!  God the Father gets me.  He knows who I am from the inside out and back again.  He really gets me!  I don’t know me as well as He knows me – and so sometimes I ignore His advice, because – like we established up above – I’m foolish (okay, stupid, but just let it go – its not nice to keep reminding me of it!!)   I like going my own way.  I like trying out the way that looks different, unadvisable, maybe even dangerous – though I am a bit wimpy.

I did marry a man who is NOT wimpy and danger is often his middle name, so I guess I’m not all that wimpy – I just needed a scape goat.

But I digress.  Or do I?  Because every time I make one of those “inadvisable” choices, God is there.  His plans are not thwarted by my ignorance, nor does He wait with glee to point out my failures and bad decisions.  No.  He’s the Father standing by the gate, day after day, running with joy as he catches the slightest glimpse of me returning home, head hung low, totally defeated with shame.  Or just a shrug and an “almost apology” – “I did it again, Dad, sorry.”  

There’s the image of a young child at the mall, walking along side their Dad, tiny hand in his big calloused one.  The child is jumping and bouncing and almost dancing – carefree, soaking in everything around him without a care.  Why?  Because he KNOWS Dad is holding his hand.  And if he breaks free and runs into something or someone scary, he knows he can turn around and run back and his Dad will scoop him up in his arms and make it all okay.  That’s the kind of Father/Child relationship God wants with us.  Scripture says in more than one place that He delights in us.  

So I know that while I am going through ridiculous hard times, God is not walking away in disgust, He is not throwing up His hands and saying, “I told you not to do that!” and He is not disowning me, making fun of me, or lacking in compassion for where I am at right now.  He is standing with me.  Sometimes He is standing there to help me walk through that hard thing, sometimes He is wrapping me up in His divine Comfort in my grief and sometimes He is working in and through and all around me to work Miracles for me.  I say sometimes, but the reality is more like all day, every day He is all those things and more for me.  Given what I’ve seen Him do, I’m pretty sure there are so many rescues and healings going on all around me all day, every day, that I am not even aware of – so many things happening on my behalf that I have no clue about and then I am anxious about so many petty things, while He’s weaving Love all around me.

So I am still self-employed after twenty-one years – hopefully a little less stupid than when I started out, but regardless I have learned to rest in His faithfulness and I hold up my hand to take His Big Daddy hand and I try to remember to just soak it all in and look for His miraculous care on my behalf moment by moment, day by day, year after year.  

I don’t know where you’re at – if you know Jesus, if you acknowledge there is even a God who sent Jesus, whatever . . . but I encourage you, wherever you are at, soak it all in – watch for His hand and if you see it don’t shut your eyes and keep going it alone – reach up your hand, let Him hold it and just enjoy the walk for a while.  He DOES care, not just in passing, but in a “come to earth as a helpless babe, live thirty years and let them kill you in order to save them” kind of care.  So let Him have His way.  Let Him Love you, lavish you with His guidance and provision and say, “Thank you, Daddy,” to Him as often as possible!

“Thank you, Daddy!”

Posted in General Ragging | 2 Comments