In the Shadow of Forgiveness-Part I

In the light of Eternity and in the shadows of cancer, soul searching is an important inventory to keep. Forgiveness is a concept with which I struggle a lot lately.

I have written about some of the difficult times and circumstances in our lives. It is funny that when I write and then read it, I think, “Wow! That is really bad!!”  I suppose the mind is funny about keeping things repressed until the heart and soul can safely handle the intensity of the emotions.

Lately, I have taken time to research “Forgiveness”. I was always taught that you forgive and forget.  Humanly, it is impossible to forget the actions that become like hot brands used on a soul. There are things in my life that seared so deeply into my heart that, if I allow it, I would never attempt forgiveness.

My brother always said that he didn’t get mad, he got even; and he usually did. He, his wife and I discussed a particular vexing situation that he had with the leader of a gospel band in which he played guitar. He had just cause, but because it was a “gospel” band, he didn’t want to act badly. It wasn’t his nature to fly off the handle like “some” of us did. (See me with a halo. *smile*) The longer the situation went, the angrier he got.

His wife and I suggested that his anger might find release if he would write a “hit” letter. That is a letter in which you tell the person how you truly feel about them, the situation, their parentage or anything else you felt inclined to grouse about. I explained that after writing it all down, you take the letter out to the fire-pit or fireplace, light a match and burn it….Not my brother…

He wrote the letter and then he mailed it…yes, he did. Then he proceeded to take back everything, including instruments that he contributed to the band….he was done. He could genuinely smile, greet them kindly and be totally free from any hostility.

Of course, those in the band were quite uncomfortable around him, but they would not engage in such honesty because they needed to keep their “righteousness” intact. My brother knew this. He had already anticipated their behavior. He was free from the anger and he was done with the band…

My mother was different. She would overlook the transgressions over and over until an invisible line was crossed. When the line was crossed,  that would be that. She would never treat the person impolitely, fail to greet them will a “Hello” or say a cross word about them to anyone. However, she was done….stick a fork into it kind of done. There was nothing anyone could say to cause her to allow the trangressor back into her good graces. Done.

The only people that had half a chance to uncross the invisible line were her children. Even for us, it could get to a point that the relationship would not return to its orginal state. She didn’t love us any less, she just didn’t trust us like she did. She forgave you, but she never forgot how ugly your words or your actions were. Her wisdom instructed us that when you find yourself confused, look to the actions. If they were the same as the words, then life was true. When the words walked a different path from the actions, then believe the actions. Actions were more of a true indicator of the heart…I have found her wisdom true.

For me, I can forgive and I can lie to myself and say that I am able to forget the infraction. It is only over time and in my explosion of anger that I learn that I never truly forgave. That usually causes a lot of guilt for me. I always wanted to believe the words more than the actions. In my younger years, I thought my mother was just “old fashion” and the words were more true. Silly, I know.

In today’s society, forgiveness seems to be granted before it is asked. In the justice system, the punishment is abated before the crime is even charged. Forgiveness seems to be considered so lightly and its insincerity cheapens the word and action.

Personally, I truly wanted to forget as well as forgive. I wanted to forget the pain, the humiliation or the fact that someone could be so callous. Also, I believed that forgetting was the way God would have me to forgive. I believed that He would have me “release” the person from the offense and carry on the relationship as if the transgression never occured…that is what I wanted.

Lately, I have learned that forgeting was never a part of the act of forgiveness. Forgiveness did not erase the crime. It released the offender from the punishment by granting a pardon, but the crime still stood.

I also learned that there were three degrees of forgiveness and that there were steps or criteria that had to be met before forgiveness could be granted.

Firstly, the offender had to ask for fogiveness. There was no such thing of talking around the subject or just ignoring that the offense occurred. The words had to be said. My grandfather never uttered the words, “I am sorry” in his long life. When he would gamble or play cards, he would come in the door with a new dress for my grandmother. That was his “Sorry”, but hearing the words was never an option.

The second part was that the offender had to stop doing the offense. Intent was not enough. There is no such thing as saying that you are sorry and then contining on with the offending. That denotes a lack of remorse of any kind or a lacking of change in the heart. No action to follow up the words meant absolutely nothing.

The third component was that they had to make restitution. Something had to be given or an action of some sort had to accompany the remorse. I think that my grandpa went straight to this part of the process….and grandma didn’t complain too much, she just knew that he was guilty.

Without all three components, forgiveness was not to be granted. According to the author of the article of explanation, to grant forgiveness without meeting the criteria  promotes evil in the greater community.  In light of today’s headlines or leading news story, the concept of cheap forgiveness promoting evil makes some sense. The crime still stands and the punishment is dispensed or pardoned in the making of the plea deal. Somehow, we have confused forgiveness with mercy.

When all three components were met, the criteria for granting forgiveness was satisfied. With that satifaction, an obligation to grant forgiveness was required.  To withhold forgiveness was committing a sin or transgression as serious as the original offense. No one could say, ” I’ll never forgive you for that.” if the offender had met all of the requirements.

Accepting that the person satisfied the requirements, forgiveness was granted. It was a moral obligation to forgive. No emotion required. That was the first kind of forgiveness.

The second degree of forgiveness is when the person that was wronged empathizes with the offender. This seems to be easier for some than for other. This deeper kind of forgiveness involves the heart of the one offended and can make life easier on all involved.

The third kind of forgiveness is reserved for God. It is called “atonement” and it is when the crime is not only forgiven after the person meets the criteria, but it is totally forgotten. When it is forgotten, the relationship resumes as if the offense never occurred. Atonement is reserved for God alone because it is humanly impossible to totally forget offenses done to the heart or to whose heart you offended.

After all these years of attempting to grant atonement for offenses when that person never ever admitted that they committed the transgression, I realized that I had it all backwards. That is why I would want to believe that I had forgiven. I confused myself further by believing that I had forgotten the transgression only to act out and reveal that I truly never forgave. I was trying to be God.  No wonder I messed everything up!

I understand that the New Testament teaching doesn’t agree with this concept, but it was a great help for my own understanding. I really had this forgiveness thing warped and I was the one paying and satifying the crime on the part of both parties… Now for the really hard part…

Just how do I forgive???

All I can say right now is that I am working on understanding more about this very important concept and action. The offense held to the heart is more damaging for the one offended than to the one who committed the transgression. I suppose it is like the death sentence that the Romans  pronounced when they strapped a dead body to the guilty person until the decay and bacteria caused the living to die. Unforgiveness is that deadly…

I am still learning and I truly want to forgive. I want to forgive rightly and whole heartedly, but I am still in the shadows of forgiveness…..

Lela’s Story Part 3

A while back, I received an email containing the story of someone’s realization that the most important information contained on a person’s tombstone is represented in the dash between the dates of the birth and death. The sum total of the life experience is contained in the dash and in Lela’s life, the details between Lela and widower are found in the “dash”.

After the incident, We know that Lela’s days of cleaning houses for the welfare woman were over. She was hired at the local department store downtown Springfield. Her long  days full of manual labor were over. For Lela, her life, the one that belonged to her was just beginning.

We know that one of the first things that Lela did when she worked at the department store was purchase curtains for Polly’s shack. She hated that everyone could look in on her life and there was nothing to keep prying eyes out. Of course, it was of no interest to Polly whether there were curtains. To Lela, they represented accomplishment, her own accomplishment.

Along with curtains, Lela’s next accomplishment was to marry. We must delegate these details to the “dash” as well. His name was Durment. She married him around her 16th birthday with a baby girl to follow at 17.

Lela’s life was found on the wrong side of the tracks. Durment was a drinker. He wasn’t a happy one. We know that, when he drank, he became violent. Once again, Lela had to defend and protect herself and her daughter.

We understand that Lela tired of Durment’s drinking, throwing his dinner in the floor and then escalating to violence by using her as a punching bag. One night, Lela knew what was coming and she decided to give Durment a taste of his own medicine. She beat him within an inch of his life. Lela wasn’t proud of this, but this was a product of her life.

With her marriage ending in divorce, Lela found herself again providing a life. This time is was for herself and her daughter in a less than forgiving society. At the turn of the century, poor, half breed divorcee’s were not welcomed in polite society. Lela found herself further down on the wrong side of the proverbial tracks. It was those very tracks that held her future.

Lela went to work at the “whistle stop” restaurant. Every town had a whistle stop restaurant. The railroads were the lifeblood of the Midwest and at each intersecting train depot, there was a hotel, a livery, a general store and a restaurant.

It was at the Whistle Stop that Lela eked out a meager living for herself and her child. It was at the Whistle Stop that Lela caught the eye of the available young men. There were two men in particular that hoped that Lela would smile in their direction.

One was a traveling salesman that found himself in the restaurant for “pie and coffee” as he made his appointed rounds. Each time that he would ask Lela for a date, she declined explaning that she had to get home because her mother was caring for her daughter.

Then there was the “railroader”. Railroaders were the land based version of sailors with reputations that they had a woman at every depot. Lela was warned away from becoming involved with any man that worked on the railroad and she heeded that advise.

So, every time this handsome, first generation British, young man asked, Lela politely refused his invitations until New Year’s Eve.

Lela had to work that day and the salesman came in for his usual pie and coffee. He invited Lela to come with him for an evening of celebration. This time, Lela said for him to meet her at the restaurantat 8:30 PM.  That is when she got off of work.

Later in the afternoon, everyone noticed that the whistle on the train engine was blaring its shrill pitch. Non stop for over an hour, the train whistle was blowing and everyone in the town was wondering what was the problem.

The police arrived to investigate the cause of the disturbance. There, they found a slightly inebriated young railroader who had tied the chain of the train whistle to the outside railing. When they inquired as to why he had tied the whistle off, he replied that he would not untie the whistle unltil Lela agreed to accompany him to the New Year’s Eve celebration this evening.

The policeman entered the restaurant, explained to Lela that eveyone’s sanity depended on her agreeing to go with this young man, and Lela told the policeman to give the young railroader a message. The message said for the him to meet her at the restaurant at 8:30PM. The police officer quickly relayed the message and, much to everyone’s ears relief, peace was restored.

Lela realized that she had told two men to meet her at the same place at the same time. She knew that at 8:30PM two men would be expecting her to go with them….but which one would she choose?????

These details are not in the dash….

It Is What I do…

sunset-with-cross.jpgAs a child, I was quite isolatedsunset-with-cross.jpgsunset-with-cross.jpgsunset-with-cross.jpg and it was up to me and my vivid imaginations to occupy the day. I was easily amused. I would pick out rocks in the gravel driveway and I would admire the colors embedded deep within them. I especially loved quartz…it is such a mystery to me.

Then there was the huge black ant colony that inhabited the heart of the big sycamore tree. It was located in the center of the grassy part of the circular drive. So, when I tired of the rocks, I just moved a few feet to play with the ants.

These  black creatures were carpenter ants and I learned that they devoured wood like termites. I didn’t care. I found it amusing to try and stop their mindless march towards their home. I would disrupt their long caravans and I devised all manner of obstacles attempting to thwart their efforts to bring food back to the tress. In the end, it was I who was defeated. Their determination to overcome prevailed. No matter the size or complications of my contrivances, they would go to any lengths to get through my challenges. In the end, they won and I lost on a daily basis. They helped wile away the empty hours of a typical country day for a very lonely child.

The indoor past time was coloring. I was fascinated by color. I wanted every color that Crayola  ever developed. Coloring and drawing pictures kept me occupied and I wanted so much to be an artist. Alas, I have no talent, so I admire.  I love color and anything that displays its beauty. Flowers, sunsets, paintings, all were tangible representations for color to me…and in the midst of this, my dream was to capture the colors, not in a rainbow, but in the sunsets.sunset-in-pastels.jpg

I can’t remember when I discovered the intrigue of sunset. But, I am sure that it was the burst of colors that originally mystified me. I think that it was the subtle changes of hue as the sun sank farther below the horizon.. All of those iridescence on the clouds reflected and emanated from the last rays were pure eye candy for me. No matter how I tried, I could never find the right shade of the right hue that captured the corals, muted purples and the pinks!…The varied shades of pinks, like cotton candy, were too difficult to match in the 64 quantity box of Crayolas.

184d695fc1.jpgMy childhood home faced westward. Daily, I was treated to the day’s grand finale. It seemed that sunsets were just an extended part of me and I don’t understand how I lost touch with them in my adult years, but I did.

As adulthood traveled at the speed of light, I failed to stop and inhale the sunsets. It wasn’t until I tasted the bitterness of divorce that I recalled the wonderful evening light-shows. I needed to stop and watch the sunsets again. Pain and loss propelled me into the evening display for consolation and I couldn’t say, “No”. My memory highlights three sunsets in particular.

During and after my divorce, I chose to do a lot of business travel. The changing of scenery seemed to help me muddle through those dark and unforgiving days. It was on one of those westward flights that I noticed, as I was flying close to evening, it seemed the plane was chasing the sunset. If we could just fly faster, we could cause the sunset to  stand still, maybe never end. I would look out of the airplane’s window and marvel at the moment by moment subtle color changes .flying-above-the-storm.jpg

It was on business travel to St Louis, MO. that  I decided that I wanted to view a sunset from the Arch. My hotel was a few blocks away and one late afternoon, I cancelled my dinner plans and walked to the Arch.

I thought how this Arch represented new life for all those who passed through St Louis. The brave and ambitious ancestry ventured and wagered on a new start in the unknown. I needed to connect to that kind of spirit. Divorce calls on you to let the past go and only look forward. I, too, needed to be brave and ambitious and venture forth in a new life…

When I got to the Arch, I stopped in mid step when I saw just how small the cubicle was in which you road to the top. I have slight claustrophobia and I am  taller than average so the idea of folding myself into that tiny space was about to cause me to turn on my heels and go back to find my friends in the hotel.304dae27b1.jpg

Then I stopped again, in mid step, and I turned back towards the Arch. I didn’t know the future and this may be my one and only chance to see a sunset from the magnificent wonder. Should anyone around me have the misfortune of reading thoughts, they would have thought that I lost my mind with all the self dialog transpiring within my head.

I decided I could do this. I just had to stop hyperventilating long enough to enfold myself and sit on this chair like contraption. This wasn’t going to be so bad….

It wasn’t so bad until  somehow, I overlooked the architecture of the Arch. I had failed to notice how narrow it became as it got closer to the top. As the space in the cubicle also became even more cramped, my breathing became more shallow…I needed to get to the top and back on the ground quickly.

Just as I was about to pass out from lack of oxygen, the sunset came into view through that tiny window. In the next instant, I forgot about breathing because the sunset was breathtaking. I didn’t have words to discribe this beauty. It seemed to last forever. I thought for a moment that time had stood still. It definitely was worth hyperventilating for…

The next sunset that stands out in my mind is one at Marco Island, FL. My Association held its Annual Meeting on this marvelous island or in Scotsdale AZ….I attended most years. It was held in the middle of February and it was wonderful to leave the cold and bitter days behind. In February, this trip was paradise.

I loved the beach side hotel with its balconies and colorful sails of the sailboats that were pulled onto the white beaches.  I loved the sound of the waves on the shore. I was surrounded by everything my weary soul needed. On this particular trip, I arrived a day before all of the meetings. After the flight. it was an hour’s drive to the island. Even though I like to drive, this was tiring for me, so I always came the day before to set back and relax.

686dae5151.jpg As the valet parked the rental, I entered into the lobby.  I stepped through the doors into a welcoming space, and immediately, I was bathed in the light of a majectic sunset. As I looked up, it seemed that the windows became a frame for one of the most glorious settings of sun…

I hurriedly checked in and had my bags taken to the room. I sat down in one of those overstuffed chairs that faced the windows and watched the sun set into a deep blue sea.  The music was wafting through the lobby and I was oblivious to everyone and everything around me. I was mesmerized by this huge orange ball before me. I felt as if I had stepped into this wonderful picture that was hanging on the wall.

It was a year after the divorce and I was in the healing process. I had adjusted to being alone and I was becoming more confident that I would be alright. This scene from a movie had enveloped me and I basked in the last rays of the day…I was convinced, I would not only survive, I would live and enjoy my life.

My most favorite sunset isn’t a particular one. It is a composite of all of the sunsets that I ever dreamed and of those that I have experienced with my husband. The setting is one in which my husband and I are newly married. Life is good. I am in love and content for the first time in my entire adult life…

I come home from the office in the afternoon, change my clothes so we can take a ride on the motorcycle. (It doesn’t take long for me to go from business woman to biker broad). When my husband walks through the door, I meet him dressed in my leather jacket and chaps. I tell him that I need a ride. I never need to beg him to fire up the Harley….. In an amazingly short amount of time, we are in the wind. There is nothing that compares to a ride on the back of “Black Betty”.

As she rumbles to a start, my husband asks me if I want to learn how to ride and each time, I say, “No”. Finally, he asks me why and I tell him that, in my “queen” seat,  I have the best of all possible worlds. I can leave the cares of the traffic and road to his capable hands.

As the lines on the road quickly whisk by,  I can lean back and feel the wind in my hair, listen to the throaty bass tones of the exhaust and surrender myself to all that surrounds us in the relm of atmosphere. For me, riding on “Betty” is next to personal flight. I am free to escape to “La La Land”. Free to leave the cobwebs that the day collects behind me….those worries and cares are lost, gone, blown away by the wind.wonderous.jpg

As we leave the house, he asks me where I want to go. As usual, I say, ” Just put it in the wind and head west…” For the next few hours of the day, we are free to let the road take us where it will.  It is in the direction of comfort, contentment and peace of mind.

As we head west, he finds a gravel road that leads to the top of one of the hills in the National Forest. Usually, he finds a vista that faces west. When he finds the perfect spot,  he decides that this will be the place to say, “Good bye to the day”.  As we set on the provided bench, he holds my hand. We talk softly as we anticipate the approaching moment of magic.

Here, we speak of our future, our dreams and recount our great fortune of finding the love that we thought once was lost to us. In the softening rays of light, he kisses me and we no longer need to speak. We set quietly accepting our moment in the sun. This is my most favorite scene of setting sun…the one sunset that I wish to capture, to hold and to hope that time will hold still. Just one more ride, one more sunset, one more dream….

gloaming-in-purple.jpgReflecting back over time, it would seem that, for me, life is an array of sunsets; always an ending and a beginning. I dreamed that he and I had more sunsets to watch as we sat in the final rays of our days.

But, I know that his final sunset is approaching. And when that ending of days comes, I will set, hold his hand, kiss his lips and tell him how much I enjoyed each moment, each sunset that we shared. I will watch his final sunset and be in awe of its beauty…because

It is what I do…I relish sunsets….af9c03e371.jpg

Shadows of Unkept Promises-My Crisis of Faith

                                                          For many years, I could not speak of my cousin, Jeff. After his funeral, the bond between us all remained, but we were silent. In fact, until last week, I never spoke about Jeff. 

Thirty minutes before the study started, I found myself racing to my cousin’s house. The first words out of my mouth was, “Why????” The painful words were out of my mouth with a pain that had festered without a voice for over 30 years…….. It was a crisis of faith for me. 

In my cousin’s living room, it was good to finally talk about Jeff, about our pain, about the feelings of  betrayal. We all suffered in silence. We all spent years coming to terms with the same questions that filled our hearts, souls and minds. 

For me, there was never a doubt concerning God’s existence, my doubts were with the perplexities of God’s character. I came to a bare and honest truth. I felt that I believed and knew my God so well that I could personally influence Him. Jeff’s death became a quantifier of God’s love for me. I felt that God did not love me like I loved Him.

I suppose I was arrogant to believe that God possessed the kind of love for me that He should do as I asked and bid Him do. I felt that I possessed God. He was mine…. and I was His…God should love me to the point of giving me whatever I asked. I realize now that, in my faith, I was more like a two year old child that believed that they were entitled to everything in the toy department.

In light of the past 6 years’ experiences and disappointments that came to my husband and I, my belief in a God that cared for me had dark shades of doubt. Somehow, I had come to believe that I did not serve a loving God. Rather, I served a harsh task master. One who did not hear my desperate prayers any longer. Somewhere along this road called life, I lost those wonderful experiences of prayer and fellowship that occurred between my God and me. Somehow, they were distant memories.

Until the night of the Bible Study, I wasn’t conscience that Jeff’s loss had become such a crisis of faith for me. My faith became an enormous issue after Cancer came into our lives.  Especially when everyone gathered at our home for prayer with the sole purpose of believing that my husband was to be healed from a cancer that had no cure. God was and is the only cure. He remains the only hope for my husband’s life on this earth.

Deep in my subconsciousness, it was my cousin, Jeff, that filled my heart instead of faith. It was the memory of praying for Jeff’s miracle and the reality of those prayers failing to produce Jeff’s healing that loomed over my heart as a huge, dark, impermeable shadow that blocked any faith from entering. How could I pray for my husband’s healing when I had not reconciled my faith or lack of it in God’s healing of Jeff?  If I loved Jeff like a brother and God chose not to heal him, why should God grant my most earnest and heartfelt petition for my husband’s healing?

These two questions, “Do you trust God? and Do you trust God with everything?” coupled with the deaths of the innocent combined to reveal my deep crisis of faith.This rainy night had uncovered one of the deepest and darkest stumbling blocks in my ability to believe in the healing of the love of my life. 

How well hidden was this disbelief and doubt!!  Now that it was out, what would I choose? The question posed another question. Would I choose to allow God to heal this jagged wound in my bleeding heart? In the next moment, I saw my heart was similar to the woman with the issue of blood. The difference was that she knew that she had a problem and she believed if she but touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed. For me, the issue was not one of bleeding, but of faith. Unlike her, I was unaware that my heart was bleeding  faith for 30 years. Would I reach out and touch God for the healing of my hurting heart?

When it came time for me to answer the Bible Study question, I had no answer. Somewhere, in the deepest recesses of my soul, I knew that I had to make a choice. This night, I had to decide whether I was going to truly trust God with everything or trust Him with nothing. 

It was in the moment of hearing about the deaths of these promises, these children, that I realized I did not trust God because of a miracle of healing, nor did I trust God to prevent the deaths of young children or teenagers.

I trusted God because I chose to believe that “God was too kind to be so cruel” (See earlier post). I chose to trust God because I believed. I believed in a God that was bigger than any man’s (pastor’s) depiction or any man’s (biblical teacher’s)explanation. God was greater than my human logic or reasoning. He is a God who creates universes, galaxies and suns and moons.

I realized that I do trust this great Creator. Somehow, in the midst of all of this doubt and disappointment, I know that this great and mighty God, loves me. I find His Love in the small kindness of others and the provisions of a warm home, electricity and food in the cabinet (these are not small accomplishments). But most of all, I knows that this All Knowing God, the God of Everlasting Love, knows my name.

In His Mystery, He and He alone knows the answer to the question of “Why”.  It is not for me to know. Like a parent who does not explain the intricacies of reproduction the first time a child asks,  my God does not explain the details of everything to me…nor is He obligated to do so.

The closest analogy that brings this wonder into a form of comprehension for me is one of  electricity. I do not understand electricity. But, there is one thing I do know. Should you have something that requires 220 volts and you put in 440 volts through it, it will shatter and explode.  There is too much power for the apparatus to absorb.

So it is with me. I am 220 and God is 440. I will only understand a small portion of Who and What He is. In the midst of making mountains and men, God saw me and He knows my name….That is Who I trust.

In the cold darkness of the loss, He knows the answers to the crushed and bleeding hearts of suffering parents. I choose to believe that my God still heals. But, I do not have a formula to move Him to do as I wish. He is Sovereign.

I choose to serve Him because of Who He is and He does not serves me. I do not have understanding as to why these children, these wonderful promises were made and yet, their lives could not stay, these promises were not kept. 

These are mysteries that only God knows. In the midst of the pain of  loss, it must be enough that God knows our names…that the God of the Universe holds all the hearts of the Unkept Promises

Shadows of Unkept Promises

Tonight is a dark, cold and rainy March night. It is part of the coming of Spring. When the temperatures fluctuate, it is a sure sign that spring is coming. But, not tonight….

Tonight, is filled with grief and sorrow. Excrutiating pain is in the hearts of parents who have lost a promise. It could not be kept. They lost their child   .

One child was 16 years old. He just received his driving license last week. At the end of the week, he was gone. Gone in an accident where he lost control and hit a tree. If it were not for the horrible head injury, he looked as if he was ready to go on to school and live another day.

On the back of that brand new license, he signed that he wanted to be an organ donor. His family was aware of his wish to give life should he be denied. And, this 16 year old boy gave the gift of life. He lives on in the heart, the liver, the lungs, the kidneys, the eyes of others. He, a sacrificial lamb, gave life.

The other child was 16 months old. He was a new promise. He was still new from the hand of God. It is still unknown why this tiny life left this world. He left in the middle of the night as a wisp of vapor. A promise not kept.

All of the parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors feel this horrible loss. Once there was life; now there is unspeakable emptiness. Their hollow lives are trying to live without these wonderful promises. The grief and sorrow has effected our small town.

One of the women in our Bible Study was a nurse on duty when the teenager was brought in. Others in the group were friends, neighbors, cousins and acquaintances to both of the promises; all hearts are touched by this devastating sorrow.

The loss of a child is in a category of grief all its own. I don’t think there is anything more painful than the loss of the child. Mystery O Riley’s blog tells of a mother’s love as it mourns a mystery and a lost child. It is beyond human capacity to understand this terrible devastation. There is no way to comprehend a loss such as this and its senseless,  destructive  pain. The loss of years, loss of lifetimes gone too soon….

In light of this grief, our Bible study subject was on trusting God. Do you trust God??? Do you trust God with everything? In the deepest part of humanity, we would find an area of life where we just cannot trust God. Such is the human condition. We would much rather trust what we can do for ourselves. 

It is times like this cold, dark, rainy night that we try to comprehend these losses. It is the night when we have no light that we must make a choice. Do we choose to trust God with all of the disbelief, the unspeakable pain, the deep wounded lament with one word, “Why???”

As it rings in our ears, we are at a crossroads. Do we choose to blame God for not protecting the very life that He sent into our care to raise and watch them grow? Or do we echo Job as he said, “Even through You slay me, Yet will I trust Him”.

It is the proverbial choice that is ever before us. Trust vs Distrust? Belief or Disbelief?

For me, the answer to trusting God came in the form of a young cousin, Jeff.  At 12 years old, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor…As close knit of a family that we are, it might as well have been my younger brother that was diagnosed with cancer.

As cousins, aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents, we bonded together in a manner never experienced before Jeff’s illness. We vowed to pray and believe in God’s healing of the impossible. Some prayed, some encouraged, some searched out every promise that was in the Bible and we all stood in faith believing for a miracle.

Many miraculous things did happened. The doctors said that he would not complete high school. He did. They said that he would not see adulthood. He did. The doctors said that he would not become a father, but he did.

The years passed and the tumor returned. Again, our faith rose to this new occasion to meet this new threat and challenge. We believed that a miracle would happen and Jeff would not leave us, his wife or his daughter…but he did.

For many years, I could not speak of my cousin, Jeff. After his funeral, the bond between us all remained, but we were silent. In fact, until last week as I prepared for this chapter of the Bible study, I never spoke about Jeff. Thirty minutes before the study started, I found myself racing to my cousin’s house. The first words out of my mouth was, “Why Jeff????, Why???” The painful word was out of my mouth with a pain that had festered and was unsaid for over 30 plus years……..                                                 holding-me-when-i-cant-stand.jpg

Tomorrow…Part II

Lela’s Story Part 2

Seeing her father appear in the doorway of the church would have frightened most anyone, but not Lela. She was very comfortable with these kinds of occurances. After all, had she not prayed for her father to come???

No one knows for sure how long Lela ran that day or where she found herself when her malnourished legs couldn’t take her another step. We do know that she most likely found a “safe” place to hide and to think about the consequences of her actions.

She knew that Polly was going to be quite upset with her. She knew that the church would not supply them with food anymore. And she knew that Polly would tell the Welfare social worker that she ran out of the church to avoid taking the scaraments; that would mean that the welfare woman would just find something for her to do on Sundays.

Lela didn’t know why her father told her to run. All she knew was she could not go through with what was required of her. Maybe, it was this God that she didn’t want to be a part of or maybe it was just that her father knew that what she felt in her heart was not right. After all, how could a loving God allow this much heartache in a child’s life…she didn’t know and she didn’t care. Not anymore. She was done with church and this “White Man’s” God.

As Lela expected, she received a harsh beating with a belt from Polly when she finally found her way home that evening. She knew that she was going to get it, and it hurt a lot. As Lela was receiving her “whippin”, she thought it was so peculiar how that belt was one of the few things of her father’s belongings that Polly kept.

Polly kept the belt and the long duster coat. It was the coat that caused his death. Lela’s father had a habit, a gambling habit. On that fateful day, he was on his way to the racetrack at the fairgrounds in Springfield. He had a hot tip on a horse and he was in a hurry to get his bet placed before the race. He didn’t notice that his coat was entangled on the handrail and as the streetcar took off, he was pulled under the car.

Lela remembered that day as if it was yesterday. Much to everyone’s surprise, her father wasn’t instantly killed, but he survived the intial crushing.  He was taken to St John’s hospital and the police were sent to bring the family. Everyone was there around his bed when he breathed his last. Lela thought that her heart was going to fall out of her chest and shatter in a million pieces; that was how much her heart hurt on that day.

Everyday since that horrible accident, her heart hurt with the memory of her father. Without her father, she felt so alone in this world and Polly made it clear that it wouldn’t bother her a moment if she joined him. It would just be one less mouth to feed. Life seemed so unfair to this small child. She bore the weight of the world on her 10 year old shoulders.

Now, that the church was not helping them, food was even harder to come by. The welfare caseworker arranged for the children to take their lunch pails and walk to the same hospital where their father died, St. Johns, and receive food twice a day.

The hospital was across town, but that didn’t matter. In all weathers, the children would walk twice a day and the hospital would fill each child’s pail with whatever was being served to the patients. It was just not enough.

Somehow, the months melted into years and everyone grew in spite of the meager amount of food that they ate. Lela was becoming a pretty young woman. Now that she was more gown than not, Lela could begin cleaning the large homes of the wealthy without anyone to supervise over her.

Inside these large and spacious mansions, Lela was surrounded by the most beautiful of things. There was Waterford cut glass vases and the finest of china that she had to wash and not break.  The heavy curtains  were made from the richest of fabrics and dressed the windows that she had to wash. The living room had overstuff couches and chairs and the linens on the beds were fit for a king. But, it was the art and the beautiful pictures that hung on the walls that held her spell bound. She wanted to stand and look at the picures, but the length of time that she could enjoy them was measured in the length of time that she used the feather duster to knock off the dust.

Daily,  she would trudge home to a shack with no curtains, no dishes, no rugs on the floor, no colorful art work, just a roof to keep the rain out and windows that had no coverings. That was her home.  Lela vowed to herself that, one day,  she would have beautiful things and a wonderful home of her own to clean!!! 

Polly’s days were full of washing other people’s laundry so it fell to Lela to clean the shack and care for her younger siblings. She didn’t mind. She loved her brothers and sister. She made sure that they had clean clothes, their hair was combed and, even though they were poor, they were clean…it was important to Lela that no one looked down on her brothers and sister even if they were half breeds.  They were going to look as if someone took pride in them.

When she was 15 years old, her world took an unexpected turn. The caseworker had a new home for her to clean. Because Lela was as tall or taller than most men and because she look older than her years, she was left  alone to clean this house.

She always preferred to be alone when she cleaned. She would pretend that this was her home and she would imagine inviting the important people of the town to come in and have dinner at her fine table with all of her beautiful dishes.

This new house was the home of a man who had recently been widowed. He did not have any children so the work load wasn’t as much as the other houses she cleaned. Most people leave the house when she there, but on this particular day, the man of the house did not leave… No matter, Lela began her chores.

As she was cleaning the kitchen, she noticed that he was watching her.  When she went into the dining room, she was too busy to notice where the man went. All  she knew was that she had to quickly finish because the welfare lady was returning soon. She scheduled Lela to clean another house today. She had to work like the wind.

As she finished with the downstairs, she made her way upstairs to the bedroom. She  was making the bed when she heard someone behind her. As she turned, the man of the house was behind her……