Monday, August 27, 2012

Heaven At The Back Of A Bus

She sat alone at the back of the bus, her eight-year-old legs swinging freely from the green vinyl bench seat.  For close to an hour every afternoon they took the same road from school, through the hills filled with expensive homes where the other children lived, until her stop came at the end of the route - the entrance of a modest trailer park.
An hour is an eternity when you’re eight going on nine.  At first, she talked and giggled with friends on the lumbering, noisy vehicle until, one by one, they each grabbed their books and jumped down off the wide bottom step, disappearing behind large, gracious front doors.  Then solitude settled in beside her as, together, they finished the ride down the mountain.
But there was a song in her heart.  She was always singing.  And silence on a deafening bus was an invitation free of curious eyes or mocking faces.  So she sang at the top of her lungs, accompanied by the ever changing gears of a diesel engine, her little heart bursting with joy at the freedom to be herself.  Every afternoon from 3:30 to 4:00 she found privacy at the back of a yellow school bus.
She knew every verse of each hymn she sang.  From The Old Rugged Cross to Standing On The Promises, she poured out the love in her childish heart to the God Who rode the bus with her every day.  With each burst of emotion in her warbling young voice, the words of His love sent roots deep into her heart, assuring her in unshakeable innocence that she was held tightly in His arms.
It was beautiful.  It was holy.  And years later, when loneliness threatens or mocking eyes laugh, Solitude calls her to the Arms waiting to hold her again through another long, raucous journey.  At the top of their lungs, in a world full of noise, they sing.
They're in heaven at the back of a bus.


(Photo courtesy of Chris Breitenbach, flickr.com)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Perils Of The Talking Pea

Once upon a time there was a car who lived on the earth, and this earth was spinning. 
And then the car went towards space and they skidoo-ed into a planet.  And the planet shut.  They thought it was a planet but, instead, it was a crab. And then they were stuck in there for days and days. 
As soon as they skidoo-ed to that crab, they were stuck in the planet.  It was a mean planet, and never let those people in the car go.
One day it opened, and the car ran out and then the planet shut and it couldn’t catch them. They were so fast that the car went off of the road and off the world.  They slide off of the earth and they slid to another planet!
Something was catching their eye.  Something was stuck to their eye.  It was gum.  Somebody had put gum on their eye!  Silly, silly, isn’t it guys?
And they were so exskited—they were in space! They liked space and they went out of that planet.  They skittered out.  They skidoo-ed out. 
Then they drove to the land of food and they picked a small grape and they ate it. They picked a tiny, tiny pea and then ate it.  It was a talking pea. And they were firefighters. They helped people and they saved the pea. And then the pea fell on the ground. Then they blowed it off.  Then they ate the talking pea.
Then they picked a giant cracker.  It was so big.  It was as big as a giant!  And they ate the whole thing.
They learned not to eat giant things because if they ate giant things they would get a tummy ache.  And they learned not to jump in food.

The End.


(As dictated to YaYa by four-year-old Allie and approved by two-year-old Juliet, with a few editorial changes.  Bloggers:  The Next Generation)

In My Right Brain

“You’re too sensitive, Eula,” she said with frustration. “You’re just too sensitive!”
The words hit me unexpectedly, like a punch in the gut.  I stood looking at her face, her eyes filled with rare tears, and heard Jesus say to me,
“Just give her a hug.”
It’s seldom a compliment when someone tells me how sensitive I am.  The observation is usually made more gently, but few seem to find this trait admirable.  We live in a hard world where only the tough survive and feelings must not influence.
Still, I wonder what life would be like without sensitive people.
Will you find the signature of a “left brain” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?  Is it a linear thinker who takes a ball of wet clay and turns it into fine china?  What if Jane Austin had given up because someone labeled her a hopeless romantic? 
Think of it.  Lullabyes would go bye-bye.  Opera would be no more.  If creativity were obsolete, television would be reduced to stock reports and football scores.  Even the evening news would disappear—but that might be a good thing. They never tell the truth anyway. Horror of horrors, Match Dot Com would go belly up!  Who cares if you make a heart connection when the heart is unimportant? 
All that would be left is black and white with no gray.  I can hear the outcry now—we all know that even an accountant needs an office with a window.
So maybe the arts are essential and beauty does matter. Then the question I have is this—how sensitive is too sensitive?  Where is that line?
I may never know and I may never care.  I choose to be who I am.  And will always offer a hug to anyone who has tears in their eyes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Out Of The Desert And Up To Desire

I have temporary wheels.  And they’re pretty dang sporty.
Usually my White Knight, the Tahoe, and I are inseparable.  But through a strange course of events, my favorite SUV is relaxing in sunny Florida while I am home in Arizona vacuuming my rugs.
Enter kind hearts.  Since I flew home instead of driving, my son-in-law loaned me his ride while I’m here, at great sacrifice to himself.  Then a friend offered her car for use while she’s on vacation, which set my son-at-heart free from carpools with co-workers, and parked a sweet sedan in my garage for a week.
Yesterday I looked at this zippy little thing and decided that what we both needed was a road trip.  I craved some ‘mountain therapy’, which means nothing to you if you’re blessed to live in the high country or near it. But my home is in the desert, so I can see the jagged peaks, but going to them is a three hour commitment each way.  I chose to be committed.
You know, it’s true that getting there is half the fun!  I don’t usually drive three hours by myself anywhere.  For most of my life, two hours has pretty much been my max.  But after that cross country trip with Thelma last month, I found out there’s a lot I can do that I’ve never tried before.  I was just plain proud of myself for loading the car and taking off on a six hour round trip drive alone.
There are some pretty hilly places in the desert north of my house, and cruising over them in my friend’s little sports car made me so giddy I was whooping and laughing out loud!  I was a little kid on a roller coaster ride again, cresting hills and dropping off, leaving my stomach suspended mid air.  It was such a joyous journey I couldn’t help but thank Jesus the whole way for giving me a fun day out—a break in the middle of the stressful events my family and I have been experiencing for the last few months.  He and I had a wonderful time zinging up the Beeline Highway to the Mogollon Rim. He got kind of quiet after a while, though. I think I made Him car sick.
I made it to the top, cruised back in toward the hidden treasure known as Woods Canyon Lake, and shared my lunch with a chipmunk on a boulder while I breathed in the fresh piney air.  I watched summer storm clouds gather over the water as I finished off my sandwich, and when the lightning got too bossy, I reluctantly got in the car and drove down that mountain in a raging thunderstorm, all the way back to the sunny desert.  It’s hard to imagine two such different climates only three hours apart, but that’s the beauty of Arizona.
It would have been even more fun if Thelma could have come along, but she’s still recovering from our last adventure.  So in her honor, I decided in advance that if I passed any toll roads I wouldn’t give in to temptation.  And I avoided all eye contact with ice road truckers.  
I want her to be proud of me, you know.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Love Story

He was cute as the buttons on his size six cardigan.  I still remember his name—Bobby Plumbridge.  He made my kindergarten heart flutter with those sweet brown eyes until, finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I waited for him under the pussy willow tree and, as he came around the corner, I gave him the wonderful news.
“Bobby,” I gushed breathlessly, “you’re my boyfriend!”
And he hit me.
This will come as news to my husband.  All these years he’s been mildly jealous of my first grade love, John Jennings.  I was going to marry John because my last name was already Jennings and then I wouldn’t have to change it.  That, and he had cool toys, like Gumby and Pokey.  But the truth is Bobby Plumbridge was my first love.  John Jennings was just a romance of convenience.
I took a break from love when John moved away and Bobby rejected me.  But I couldn’t forget those sweet eyes. In third grade I thought it would be smart to think about the short, brown eyed boy next door, Ted Eschliman, because his mother was my piano teacher and he and I were the same age if not the same height.  But there was no real spark there.  And our religious differences were the final nail in the coffin—you just can’t find happiness with a Presbyterian when you’re a Baptist.
For a while I was content daydreaming about Elvis Presley, although he was my mother’s age.  In fifth grade I fell hard for Mark Kostelic.  But he used bad language and couldn’t stay out of the principal’s office.  I gave him up when we moved out of state the next year.  Long distant romances are too painful, and he didn’t know I had a crush on him anyway.
In sixth grade I liked another John, but he had his sights set on a career as a criminal.  Seventh grade brought a crush on a brown eyed bad boy with a killer smile.  I was beginning to wonder about my choice of men. 
I decided to focus on the boys in my Sunday School class, making an extra effort to be nice to a couple of short ones.  I knew someday they’d be taller than me, so it was worth a shot at paying it forward.  Maybe one of them would ask me to the church Sweetheart Banquet in a couple of years and I could get my hair done at the beauty parlor.  Or maybe I’d keep going stag with my sister  . . .
Which, of course, is how my love life kept panning out.  One failed love after another, including the ex-boyfriend of my best friend.  It’s not that smart to be a stand-in for a rebound.  And, to be honest, I broke a couple of hearts along the way, too.  I officially apologize to that one guy for holding his hand in church and giving him a cold shoulder when my friends laughed at us.  He was really sensitive, too.  I hope he found a nice girl.
Small wonder, then, that when The One came on the scene and I found out he was from Florida—land of plaid pants golfers—I wasn’t interested.  Obviously, I've never had great foresight.  By now, I had decided to look for a cowboy like my dad.  Particularly a brown eyed cowboy who played the guitar.  This guy had hazel eyes and just played a stereo. He was quiet with a nice smile, but was he reckless enough for me? After all, I was a church pianist—a notoriously wild and crazy breed.  He liked poetry and rock music.  I liked limericks and Chet Atkins. And if I wore high heels, well, some people might think I was a teeny bit taller than him. 
He was a Baptist, though . . . oh, I just couldn’t make up my heart.  Until I found the thing we shared in common—baseball.  He liked playing it and I liked watching him do it.  And just like that it was over.  I fell hard and he caught me.
Too bad, Bobby Plumbridge.  You had your chance.  I lost my heart to a pair of hazel eyes from Florida. I’ll never love brown eyes again.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fairy Tales

It’s every little girl’s daydream.  It’s the bread and butter of fairy tales.  A damsel in distress is saved at the last possible moment by a handsome knight, resplendent in shining armor and dazzling white teeth.  Or maybe that’s from some toothpaste commercial I watched recently.
I heard the story on the radio this morning.  A sixteen-year-old girl, happily surfing one moment off the coast of Wales, was swept away by a riptide and caught up in her worst nightmare the very next—stranded, cold, alone.  But her plight was seen by strangers, and their call for help set the stage for a dramatic rescue as a Royal Air Force helicopter circled overhead and crew members rescued the desperate teenager.  Rescues like that are dangerous and thrilling enough, but imagine her shock and surprise when she was brought up into the helicopter and discovered that the pilot was the future King of England, Prince William himself.
It just makes me want to swoon.  Whatever that is.  Maybe swaying with style?
I wonder how many women, like me, grew up reading Harlequin romances, imagining that someday a strong, handsome man would come along, gallantly pick them up in his arms, and whisk them away to a life of love and protection.  And how many of us have failed to realize that it’s not easy to be a knight?
I gave up reading those books when I began to see the unrealistic expectations they built up in my mind.  No man on earth can compare to a fictional hero whose only requirement is to carry the distressed damsel across the threshold of “happily ever after”, leaving the reality of the rest of the story to the imagination of the reader.
Even Prince William didn’t take that girl home.  He already has a wife.
And just like I had to let go of flawed paperback romances, I had to set my husband free to be as much of a normal, flawed human being as I am, his fair maiden.  Why should he be forced to be a Superman when he’s not married to Super Woman?
So what about the days when my heart is breaking, my world is in chaos, and I feel as stranded and alone as that shivering teenager adrift in the Irish Sea yesterday?  There is Someone Who hears my voice, flies in swiftly on the storm itself, “speeding with the wings of the wind,” and reaches me.  He takes me out of “many waters” and delivers me from my strong enemy, because He “delights in me.”   (Ps. 18:6-19)
It’s amazing to be rescued by a king—just ask that young girl in Wales. 
Or ask me.  My King does it every day. 
Well, I’m a pretty good damsel in distress.


(Photo courtesy of katesheets photostream, Flickr.com)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Jumping Hurdles

It’s the second week of the Summer Olympics.  The TV set here is about to throw in the towel and cry “Uncle!” from overuse.  But we can’t help it.  This is a sports loving family.  Usually a golf loving family.  But there’s just something about swimmers and gymnists that draws all of us like a moth to the light in the livingroom.  We’re transfixed by the efforts of athletes who know what it means to sacrifice.
Sacrifice.  I looked it up on dictionary.com just to make sure I knew what the definition is.  You’d think I already know.  But to be honest, sacrifice isn’t my default character quality. I’m an encourager and a pretty good listener, but sacrificial?  Not.
I went to the experts on the world wide web and they gave me twelve possible explanations.  They’re not any better at narrowing it down than I am.  But in the end, the one I liked best, is a baseball term. To cause the advance of a base runner by a sacrifice.
For the good of the team effort, a player gives up what he wants so another player can move on.  In the end, it’s a win-win.  It’s just not a me-me.
I’m having a little trouble with that “me-me” part. In my defense, hormones aren’t making things any easier.  I wish they had an App for that.  Anyway, this morning I went to the Player’s Handbook for a little encouragement from my Coach.  I really like this Guy.  He never puts me down or puts me in time out.  He just puts up with me.  I flipped open the leather bound edition and read a few good words from another teammate by the name of Nahum. Appropriate, coming from a player whose name means comfort. 
Right on the first page of his section of my Handbook, chapter one, paragraph seven, he wrote:
The Lord is good, a Strength and Stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows . . .”
It just stopped right there in the middle of the sentence—He knows.  I guess I was supposed to turn the page to read the rest, but those two words said it all.  I didn’t need to know what else he wrote.
The race is a team effort.  But every athlete still jumps his own hurdle, swims his own race, or balances alone on the beam.  And when the stars don’t align or hormones attack or life is unfair, the loneliness of each player’s race can overwhelm and blur his vision.  It can feel like his needs are insignificant in the greater picture.  Or that they are unimportant and unseen.
But they’re not.
Because He knows.

(Photo courtesy of SouthEastern Star, Flickr.com)