Friday, January 20, 2012

Of Blood and Twilight


Image Credit to Whitebook @ DeviantArt, titled A Christmas Story for Rezzan


     I’d been running for the last hour. That’s what I did when I was stressed, I ran and usually by the time I was done I was exhausted and whatever had been bothering me had been resolved or at least I had a plan in place to deal with whatever ailed me. This latest problem would have been easy to handle if it was only mine. I could have ignored it the way I always ignored anything that got to be too much for me. And here I’d thought this nightmare had only been mine.
     I was soaked, my face drenched in sweat and my tank top and long shorts not much better. I took the towel from around my neck and patted myself as dry as possible before I headed to Patty’s Healthy Foods Pub on York St. 
     I ordered myself a Chicken Salad with bean and alfalfa sprouts with lite Italian dressing on the side and one tilapia taco cooked in lemon with pico de gallo garnish and a huge glass of sugarless mango peach tea. This run had not helped at all and I needed to calm down. I pulled my iPod Nano out of my back pocket and listened to some soothing music as I ate my lunch. 
     I watched several children playing in the kid’s corner. They were so carefree and I was slightly envious. I turned at the flash of red coming in the front door. A little girl was chuckling as she and her mother, who obviously had been playing dress up, walked in. “Mommy!” she squealed as she jumped away from her, “no more thtrawbewwieth on my thtomach!” They were both dressed in red with matching shoes and they were wearing tons of gaudy necklaces around their necks, plastic bracelets on their wrists and gigantic plastic rings. “Lithen mommy, you have to owder the tea and thome cookieth kay? I got my baby teapot hewe,” she patted the little vinyl case at her side, “and thome mowe cookieth that gwandma made and we can have a tea pawty over thewe, kay? And pleathe don’t fowget the thicken.” She skipped off to play in the corner with the other children. 
     The young mother went up to order tea, cookies and grilled chicken tenders and grinned when she saw me looking at her. “I love playing dress up with my baby,” she laughed, “It’s so much fun.” 
     Smiling back, “She's a lucky little girl to have a mom like you.” I looked at her red dress and sat back to finish my lunch and I wondered where the other red dress had gone. Was someone else wearing it and did they think it was beautiful? They’d never know the tears that had been shed in that dress. 
                                                                        *****
     Three months ago, I’d gotten to the point that I felt safe enough to move out on my own. I’d searched until I’d found an apartment with high security and one that mom and dad approved of and two days later I’d had the keys. I’d just finished unpacking the rest of the boxes and putting all my pictures up on the walls and had finally positioned my multicolored jewel and earth tone rug right in the middle of my living room just the way I wanted it. I’d designed this rug myself and the chocolate brown, taupe, gold, burnt orange, burgundy and blood red overlapping circles all outlined in black had me standing back and sighing in satisfaction as I looked around at my chocolate sectional with dark red and gold throws. The telephone had started ringing and I’d groaned in exasperation, because I just knew it had to be mom calling me for the fifteenth time to remind me not to forget to eat.
     My mouth fell open in surprise as I'd listened to the voice on the other end of the phone. This was quite an unexpected phone call from my brother Nate who hadn’t voluntarily spoken to me in thirteen years. He'd rambled on for a while and then out of the blue asked me to pray for him, “I’m finally getting some help with my drinking problem. All the guys from work got together and helped me clean the house out. Man, you should have seen how they turned it upside down and inside out to make sure that I’d gotten rid of all the booze, you know?” He was quiet for a while, “Cessy, I really need prayer, because I know I can’t do this on my own.” He finished with, “I promise I’ll never again do what I did at Christmas. I don’t know what came over me, but I swear I didn’t mean to hit you.”
     I’d been silent for most of the time he’d been talking and I’ll admit I was teed off. I had given only my parents, my sister Lucy and my little brother Freddie my new phone number when I’d moved, with the instructions that they were not to give my number out to anyone without first speaking to me. “Why are you calling me Nate?” I’d asked. He’d barely been civil to me for the last thirteen years and most of that time he’d spent taunting or mocking me. By the age of sixteen I’d become accustomed to the complete disrespect he showed me. After repeated warnings, which he’d ignored, mom and dad had finally asked him to leave.
     “I just thought you’d like to know that’s all,” he’d said quietly. 
     “Okay. I’ll be praying for you. I’ll put in a prayer request at church too. It always helps to have more than one person praying, right?” There was an awkward uncomfortable silence. 
     “Well um, Cessy thank you for listening, even though you didn’t have to,” he said before hanging up. I stood there with the busy signal buzzing in my ear for a long time. 
     He hadn’t called me again during these three months. I don’t what I’d expected, but maybe I’d hoped that we could somehow get whatever was bothering him out in the open. I knew that if he was in a program the twelve steps would eventually bring him back to me anyway, so I’d just left it alone. I knew he’d call when he was ready.
     
     Quite unexpectedly Nate had called me last night and told me he didn’t know whether he’d be able to keep from drinking. He said the nightmares were coming back and he didn’t know if he could face them without the alcohol. He began to cry and kept saying, “I’m so sorry sis, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me!” I could hear him sobbing as he’d dropped the phone.
     I hadn't known what to say, I hadn’t realized this was the burden he’d been carrying all these years. All I could do was listen so I’d sat on the floor and held the phone to my ear until the sobbing had stopped, “You’re still there, aren’t you sis? I’m sorry. Go to bed and I’ll talk to you later.” After a long pause, “I do love you, you know.” I’d heard the crying start again before he’d gently hung the phone up.
                                                                        *****
     I took another swallow of my mango peach tea and decided I needed something stronger, so I ordered a regular coffee. I added some vanilla nut creamer and two Truvia to it. I sat and stared out the window and wondered what I was supposed to do. I’d prayed last night after Nate’s phone call and I knew that somehow, someway God would tell me what to do. I put the volume up on my iPod and heard God’s answer in the song that came up next. 

The Lord is My Shepherd
Jeremy Riddle

Verse 1
Let the pain in my life
Find it’s healing in Your eyes
Every hurt, every loss
Pull me closer to Your heart

Let the wind and the waves
Bring a new, courage and a faith
I’m singing out, singing out…

Chorus
The Lord is my Shepherd and I want for nothing
You lead me to water for You know I’m thirsting
And I, am only satisfied by You

Verse 2
Every day, I make a choice
To be led, only by Your voice
To be bold and unafraid
Knowing I am covered, 
I am safe

For even now, in my need
You are proving yet again to me
You are there, You are there
Always there

Chorus

     I took a deep breath as the song ended and quickly swallowed the rest of my coffee. It was time for the crying to stop and to put all these memories and pain behind me, behind us once and for all. I called Nate and asked him to meet me at the park under my tree.
                                                                        *****
     At seven thirty that evening, Nate and I met face to face after seven months, under the praying tree. I looked over at Old man Edwards’ house expecting him to be sitting on his porch, but remembered with sadness that he’d passed away last year. I looked at Nate, but before I could speak he began quickly, “Don’t say anything sis. Let me talk first, because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get it out otherwise!” He went back into my personal nightmare and the memories came tumbling down on me. 
                                                                        *****
      I always waited until the sun had started to go down before I went to the park two blocks over to sit and sing under the praying tree. I’d called it that because it looked as if the lowest branches were reaching up to heaven in supplication. For some reason that old tree had always brought me comfort and I would sit under it and watch the birds fly around their nests and listen to them talk about how their day had gone. I’d listen to the crickets or the katydids as they chirped and once in a while if I was lucky I’d hear a cicada sing a love song. The cicada’s song had always been so soothing. 
     What I loved most about sitting under that tree was watching the sun go down. It was so beautiful, the tanzanite blue of the sky higher up and the light and deep orange shades below it that finally turned midnight blue as the sun dipped below the horizon. It had always felt like God was putting on a display of colors just for me. 
     Old man Edwards always came out and sat on his porch at the same time every night and would keep an eye on me until I went home. “Nice evening hey girlie?” he’d greet me. “Yeppers, sure is,” I’d respond, then we’d both laugh.
     My visits to the tree had always been relaxed, happy and peaceful, but that changed when dad’s friend came to stay. After that my visits took on an air of desperation and I no longer relaxed or took time to enjoy the sky and the sounds. I came to the tree to escape and plead.

     Dad’s best friend, Eric Sullivan, had moved in with us two months before my tenth birthday. Dad told us that he’d offered him the use of the extra bedroom for the fourteen months before he was deployed. It had all seemed good at the time, but barely a week later I’d become very uncomfortable around him and had complained to my dad that Uncle Eric, as he wanted to be called, was always touching me or pulling my hair. Dad had said that Eric was just friendly and I was way too sensitive. He had mom talk to me about being friendlier and more understanding. They’d ignored my fears and things had gone on as before.
     My fears had become reality on mom and dad’s anniversary. Uncle Eric had volunteered to keep an eye on us so that they could go out and have a nice time. “Hey the kids and I will play games and watch movies and we’ll keep each other company until you get home. So where are you going? Somewhere nice I hope,” he’d laughed as he’d rubbed my shoulders.
     Dad had decided to take mom to Naperville to this nice little restaurant that had just opened. “They have dancing too, so we’ll be out late. Please make sure the kids brush their teeth and are in bed by 9:30, Eric. Thank you for giving us this evening.”
     I’d been scared, but I had been sure that if I could just make it to 9:30 I could get in my room and lock the door and everything would be just fine. At 9:15, I’d made my way to the bathroom, quickly brushed my teeth and hurried to my bedroom. With shaking fingers I’d locked my door and turned the light off and froze, “What a bad little girl. Did you think I didn’t know what you were thinking?”
     I’d fought so hard, but nothing had worked. He’d hurt me and later as he was pulling his pants on he’d said, “Before you think of telling your mom and dad, don’t. They’ll just say it was your fault and that you were asking for it. You’re bad and they’ll be so ashamed of you, but go for it if you want,” he’d laughed as he unlocked my door and walked out. Out in the hall I’d heard him talking to Nate and I’d just laid there. I hurt so badly and I was afraid to move, but I got up and walked on rubbery legs to the bathroom and climbed in the tub. I scrubbed my skin raw, but the smell wouldn’t go away; I bent over the side and threw up. After my bath I’d walked back to my room and took all the bedding off the bed. I put the comforter and pillowcases down the laundry chute, but the sheets I hid in a bag in my closet. I knew mom and dad would be so ashamed of me and I didn’t want to disappoint them. 
      The next day mom and dad raved about the wonderful time they’d had and how grateful they were for such a wonderful friend like Eric. “Hey did you guys have a good time last night?” mom asked us. Before either Nate or I could answer Uncle Eric had said, “Oh it was an awesome time and one I’d like to repeat, if you don’t mind?” I shuddered with fear and my pale face had mom asking if I was okay. 
     Remembering Uncle Eric’s warning, “I’m not feeling very well, can I please lay down on your bed, mom?” I asked. 
     “Of course honey. Let me grab the thermometer so I can check your temperature, okay?”

     The following eight months were a horrific nightmare for me. I endured a full out attack against my body, mind and emotions.
     I began wetting my bed and would wake up crying in the middle of the night. I couldn’t eat and started losing weight rapidly and mom began to threaten me with hospitalization if I didn’t eat. I stopped doing my homework and withdrew into myself. My grades started dropping and after the third phone call from the school about my behavior dad tried talking to me and made the mistake of putting his hands on my shoulders. I panicked and pushed him away and when he tried to put his arms around me I started screaming and ran to my room. I didn’t feel safe anywhere and I finally crawled into my closet and pulled the door shut. I woke up in a corner at the back of the closet covered in clothes. I guess I’d pulled them down when I’d come in here to hide. I crawled out and found Uncle Eric sitting on my bed with a beautiful red dress lying across the foot. “I brought you a present. Here try it on.” He said he’d talked to mom and dad and told them that we’d gotten very close and he was certain I’d open up to him. Dad had been upset and willing to try anything. “They said they were going to pick up Nate and then hit the grocery store to buy you that yogurt that you like and then they’ll pick up the pizza they asked me to order for them. I barely ordered it right now so we have some time to spend together.” He pulled the dress across his legs “Do you like the dress?” he asked. I just stared back at him; I wanted to be anywhere but here right now. “I asked you a question! Do you like the dress? Answer me!” he’d barked at me. 
     I was shaking and I finally nodded my head. “Good, good. Now put it on,” he’d commanded. I put the dress on and he made me walk around the room to show it off; he’d pushed me down on the floor and he hurt me again. An eternity later we heard the car come in the driveway. “At least they didn’t get here any earlier or they would have disturbed us.” He’d pulled himself upright, “I’ll tell your parents that some kid at school hurt your feelings and that you’re feeling better now and fell asleep. You can eat your pizza in the morning.” 
     I sat on my bed crying. I was so broken and nobody could see it. I had to talk to God, but I couldn’t do it here in this room, in this house. I opened up my bedroom window and stepped out unto the tree and climbed down and hugging myself I walked to the park. Old Mr. Edwards came out to greet me, but I didn’t respond. All of a sudden I felt an unbelievable exhaustion come over me and I stumbled, then fell as I passed the park bench. I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk the rest of the way to the tree, so I crawled. I remember begging God to stop Uncle Eric from hurting me anymore; I begged Him to just let me die. I sat in front of that tree and rocked back and forth wanting the same comfort and peace I’d felt before and I remember screaming. I hadn't noticed Nate hiding in the trees and he hadn’t noticed mom and dad behind him. 
     I wrapped my arms around the tree, the bark ripping the flesh of my arms and hands and I wept. I could hear Mr. Edwards saying, “It’s gonna be okay girlie. Come on let go of the tree. Your mama’s here to take you home.” 
     I woke up the next day in mom and dad’s bedroom. Dad was sleeping sitting up in his red leather chair by the bed his fists bloody; mom was sleeping with her head on my pillow. I quietly got out of bed and went into the kitchen to fix some toast. It seemed to be the only thing that I could keep down. I heard a sound behind me and froze. “It’s okay honey, it’s only me. He’s gone. He left last night and he won’t be coming back. I promise,” said dad. 

     I refused to talk about it to anyone at first, but I never stopped talking to God. I hadn’t been back to the tree since that day. I no longer felt any pleasure in my visits there. My parents had begun counseling with the pastor of my church, Pastor Norman. He hadn’t given up on me and had finally talked me into counseling and together my parents and I had started to climb out of the dark valley we’d been in for so long. We were finally healing. Occasionally I could shake hands with men and look at red dresses without getting violently sick. Eventually I even started to visit my tree again and once again I was enjoying my old pleasures; the sky, the setting sun and the cicada’s love song.
     Four years ago, I’d come to the tree where Jesus was crucified and I’d given my life to Him and although the journey had been a long one I’d gotten to a place in the road where I could finally forgive.
                                                                        *****
     Nate was still talking when I came back from remembering. I could see the anger and hatred on his face as he talked about Uncle Eric.
     He’d told Nate that mom and dad would hate him for not protecting me and so Nate had kept quiet for the next eight months until Uncle Eric had been shipped out early. 
     When Uncle Eric had been killed 6 months before he was due to be shipped home Nate, then 18, had gone out and gotten stinking drunk because he was so thankful, then he’d gotten drunk again for being such an unfeeling monster. 
     “I knew what was going on and I never told mom and dad about it just so I could protect myself. I’m sorry!”  The tears started flowing down his face and he scrubbed at his face with his sleeve, “I really didn’t think they’d believe me, but I couldn’t take the guilt so I started putting all the blame on you. I kept telling myself that maybe Uncle Eric was right when he said you were flirting with him. I ignored the fact that you were only ten years old.” 
     His cheeks were flushed, his eyes swollen and he was crying like someone who’d just lost a loved one. He kept stopping because of the shuddering sobs and the lump in his throat. 
     “The last night Uncle Eric was here, I knew he’d hurt you really bad. I could hear you crying, but I didn’t do anything. Later I heard you opening your window and I was afraid that you were going to do something dumb and I opened the door to your room and watched you disappear out the window.” 
     Nate had followed me to the park and had watched as I had stumbled and fallen and then crawled the last few feet to my tree. He’d watched as I rocked back and forth in the red dress that Uncle Eric had forced me to wear. He’d listened to my cries and my pleas to God, “Please God don’t let Uncle Eric hurt me anymore. Take me home now. I wanna go home!” 
     He’d seen old man Edwards run towards me and he’d taken off and gone to a friend’s house. He’d tried to fight his guilt at not doing anything, but unfortunately his subconscious hadn’t let him get away with it and he’d started having nightmares. “I’m still having the same nightmare sis. I’m behind that big evergreen at the edge of the park and I can see you so clearly. You’re always in the same red dress under the tree and you’re crying and screaming and then the dress turns into blood and it starts to run off of you, but you’re still covered with it. It looks like you’re in some kind of invisible container and it starts to fill up with you right in the middle of it, but you don’t even try to get out. You look up and stare at me; you just stare and you’re still crying, but now I can’t hear you and pretty soon you disappear under all the blood.” He’d woken himself up screaming several times and in an effort to escape the nightmares he’d started drinking. First he’d started with beer and when that hadn’t been enough he’d looked for whatever was strongest and would knock him out the quickest. 
     I sat there quietly and looked at him, “I’ve known all along that you knew Nate,” I whispered, tears running down my face, “but I never blamed you.” He looked at me in disbelief. “Nate, he manipulated both of us. I didn’t tell mom and dad either, because he said they’d be ashamed of me. He kept telling me I was bad and I believed him.” 

     I finally told Nate about the ongoing counseling I was going through along with mom and dad and how I’d finally come to like myself again. “I’m not afraid to look in the mirror anymore and it took me a while, but I stopped blaming myself, because I know it wasn’t my fault. And I don’t hate anymore Nate. I’m free,” a laugh of relief escaped me. 
     “But he got away with what he did to you!” he wept. 
     “No, he didn’t,” I replied and told him about dad’s bloody fists. Dad and mom had followed him to the park and had heard everything. He had taken off and hadn’t seen mom along with old Mr. Edwards rushing to me; dad in a rage had gone back to the house and beaten Eric until his fists were bloody and had thrown him out of the house.
     “Nate it’s time to let it go. He’s gone and you’re still letting him win. Please don’t let him.” I reached out hesitantly and heaved a sigh of relief when nothing happened. “You have to forgive him and yourself. That’s the only way to start living again.” There was always room in our counseling sessions for another, so I invited him to join us.
     I looked up at the beauty of the sky and sighed. I knew it was going to be tough going, but the first step was to bring him to the cross and let Jesus do the rest.

http://bluebellbooks.blogspot.com/2012/01/short-story-slam-week-19.html

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Of Colors Bright and Clear



     I’d woken up a little off balance today and had almost fallen a couple of times before heading off to work.  I read all the little Post-It notes that my mom and brother Marcus had put on my dash and out of habit I checked to make sure that I’d placed my umbrella under the seat before taking off. I drove carefully, as I always did, keeping an eye and an ear on my Tam-Tam.
                                                                       *****
     Three years ago after my last car incident my oldest brother Beto, instead of berating me, had presented me with a gift. “Here hermana (sister), she’ll take good care of you, I promise.” I was kind of leery wondering what he was trying to pull on me this time (he was known for his practical jokes). The top of the box had a label that said, ‘Hi I’m Tam-Tam, take good care of me and I’ll take good care of you.’ For just a minute I thought he’d given me a trick snake that would jump out at me when I opened the box. I opened the box cautiously and discovered he’d bought me a Tom-Tom. “Why Tam-Tam?” I asked.
   “Well it’s like this hermana, I don’t know why they called it a Tom-Tom since guys can’t follow directions and won’t admit to being lost, plus it has a woman’s voice. My Ruthie, is the one that always gets us to where we’re going. I think they should have named this after a woman. So I renamed her for you. She’ll make sure you get to where you have to go, okay?” I looked at him with teary eyes and had to swallow a few times to get past the lump in my throat, before I finally managed to say, “Thank you.” He coughed a few times, “Darn, I think I got cat hair in my eye. I've got to wash my eyes out.” He’d taken off and hidden in the bathroom for a while.
                                                                       *****                                                             
     I got to work with an hour to spare so I prepared coffee for everyone to enjoy when they got in and then I got right to work. I worked hard (I really love my job) and made sure that all my outgoing and incoming mail was in the right cubbies. Sometimes even now, I still got turned around so my friends at the office would label everything backwards and forwards for me. They made certain that there was no way I wouldn’t be able to understand what needed doing every day. This job and the wonderful friends I’d made here had been lifesavers. During the course of a typical morning, there was always a helpful hand here and there making sure I got to the right place.
     Today I was feeling brave and at lunchtime I decided to take a walk and made sure that I had my lucky charm and my cell phone with me and I was off to enjoy a nice brisk walk. I’d been walking for about fifteen minutes (I’d only stumbled once) and decided this was enough for today and turned to go back the way I’d come. I looked around at my surroundings and realized that once again, I had no idea where I was. I knew better than to take off in any direction, so I just leaned up against the restaurant window behind me, pulled out my cell phone and calmly called my best friend and coworker and let her know where I was. I pulled my lucky charm out of my handbag and opened it up. Rico, the owner of the restaurant came out to keep me company until Chiva showed up. Rico was my big brother Beto’s best friend from childhood and always came out to watch me walk.
     “Hey want a caramel, praline or French Vanilla coffee and a roasted tomato and onion wheat bagel with cream cheese while we wait?” he asked.
     “That would be great! Thanks to this, now I won’t have time to eat my lunch when I get back,” I said.
    “What the heck girl, you did great today! You came further this week than last week,” he said with a huge grin. “I know what, how’s about as a celebration I mix the caramel, praline and French Vanilla together and add tons of whipped cream and lots of chocolate sprinkles?
     “Now that's a celebration. Bring it on!!” I laughed quite pleased with myself on realizing that I had done better this week than last. We sat and enjoyed watching people walk, run or jog past and I tried, once again, to pay for my coffee and bagel and once again, he refused. “Fine! Next time I’ll get lost somewhere else.” He just laughed.
     Chiva arrived her cheeks red and her eyes sparkling with laughter. “I love that umbrella of yours. No matter where you are I’ll always be able to find you. Hey Rico while I’m here I need to place an order. The boss wants me to buy coffee and bagels for everyone. Sofie, if you ate already you can just take yours home for later, okay? You know Geoff doesn’t take no for an answer!”
     We made it back to the office with 20 minutes to spare and the rest of the day passed by in a whirl, with a couple of stumbles from me. By 3:30 p.m. I was more than ready to go home. I was tired, but my mom and my sister had been insisting on coming over tonight to spend time with me and I needed to get home and clean before they arrived. There wasn’t much to do, but I wanted to do it by myself. Knowing my mom and sister, I knew that by the end of the night whatever wasn’t labeled would be. I stopped off at Corkie’s Food Mart and then at Nietzel’s Gas & Auto Shop to fill up before heading wearily home.
     I parked my little Volkswagen Beetle coup in the driveway and climbed the stairs to my back porch. I opened up the door and walked into my kitchen and felt like it was welcoming me home. I placed my umbrella on its special hook by my back door and I was ready to clean.
     I love my kitchen. The walls are Ralph Lauren’s Wicker Rocker yellow with bright white trim where the walls meet the ceiling and around the doors. Dark and medium wood hues bring richness to what might otherwise have been boring and give the yellow of the walls a flowing elegance. I’ve mixed and matched dark chocolate wood and mahogany, with a slightly lighter oak. Here and there on the walls black metal and wood combine to bring an elemental beauty to picture frames, a letter holder and of course my dark oak clock, that sits happily in its scrolled black metal base. The chairs pulled up to the island match, dark oak with black scrolled metal; a comfortable, homey kitchen that whispers, ‘spend time with me,’ beautiful, peaceful, softly modern. I spend ninety percent of my time in here; cooking, working at my laptop, talking on the phone and entertaining friends and family. Every time I walk in this kitchen I feel at peace and safe, then I get a burst of energy and begin cooking and baking until I’m too tired to do much of anything else. It helps that everything is labeled for me. Yeah, good times, good times!
     I’d just finished cleaning when mom called to tell me not to cook anything. She knew me so well! I’d been prepared to cook enough for an army. I’m a Mexican woman, THAT’S WHAT I DO! She asked me to wait another forty minutes or so and I didn’t just want to sit on my hind end and do nothing, so I started baking (hey, she said no cooking, right?). I made a pecan pie for my mom and chocolate praline brownies for my sister Dorie (their favorites) and had just removed the brownies from the oven when the front doorbell rang. Three Blind Mice rang merrily from my little doorbell and I opened the door to a huge frown on my mom’s face.
     “What did I tell you about changing that tune? I don’t like it and I don’t think it’s funny!” I ignored what she said, since I was looking at the trail of people behind her. My entire family was here, along with my best friend Chiva, my boss Geoff, Rico and several others.
     With “surprise” and “congratulations!!” coming from everybody they all poured in. You would have thought the kids would have been noisier, but some of the adults were being even more so. My brothers, Beto and Marco, were punching each other and their wives were pulling them apart and laughing. Dorie was scolding her husband Teo for throwing rice at me “It’s a surprise party poop head, not a wedding!!”
     They’d stopped off at SDC for a bucket of grilled chicken (my favorite) and then by Pizza Paradise for an extra large, crust your way, Anything Goes Pizza (and I mean anything!!). Chiva had made her awesome polvorones (Mexican Melt in Your Mouth Cookies) and my sisters–in–law had made frijoles (beans), tortillas, arroz (rice), guacamole, and pico de gallo. This was a feast and I didn’t even know why! The guys brought in case after case of soft drinks, water and juice. Rico apparently thought the amount of food that had been brought wasn't enough, because he fired up my grill and put some steaks and sausages on. There was so much food that I knew we’d probably still be eating through next month.
     “Um mom? This is really nice and all. I mean it’s awesome really, but what are we celebrating?” I asked.
     “Sofia today makes one year that you've lived on your own. You’ve done so well and we’re so proud of you,” she said. “We wanted to celebrate with you!”
     I made an excuse and went and hid in the bathroom for a little bit (the favorite crying space of the Delgado’s). As I exited the crying room, I could hear big brother Beto making everyone regret that he was there. I could hear laughter, groans of disgust and threats of dismemberment over his dumb jokes. He isn’t as bad as he sounds, I promise! After all he had given me Tam-Tam!
     We got to the cake stage and Rico brought out a Tres Leches cake that he’d made (by the way, if you’ve never tried Tres Leches cake you should, it’s awesome!!). He’d made a little sugar house that actually looked like my mine and he’d even made a replica of my little car and put it in the driveway with a ‘1 Year’ candle on the front lawn. Everybody ooh’d and ahh’d.
     Dad called for a canto de celebraciĆ³n (celebratory song) and out came the guitar, tambourine and harmonica as they sang ‘Las MaƱanitas’ for me; their voices lifting and harmonizing, as they thanked God for His blessing me. I thanked Him as well for my wonderful friends and family.
     Teo, Dorie’s husband, turned the TV off then called for silence and asked our brother and pastor, Beto (yep, the obnoxious one), to pray for God’s blessings not just on me, but the entire family. I was so grateful and I had to share, hopefully if even a little, what I felt for His having blessed me and I closed my eyes and began to sing:

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav'd a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev'd;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believ'd!

Thro' many dangers, toils, and snares,
I have already come;
'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.
Amazing Grace Verses 1–3: John Newton (1725-1807) • African American communities orally passed down verse 4, which was not written by Newton.

     We sang and everyone started thanking God in song. Here and there you’d hear a high contrast or contralto, a masculine bass or tenor just worshiping and I felt a wonderful peace and joy in the midst of all these wonderful people.
     Around 8:30 p.m. my brothers decided it was time to play the games they’d brought with them. We played Basta and Bingo for prizes Dorie and Roxy, Marcus’ wife, had been gathering for the last few months. We played Hangman next and at the guys insistence we split up into men versus the women. The women won in spite of the men’s trash talking; their punishment was to grill steaks for us on Sunday. Dorie had brought her favorite Marx Brothers' movie A Night at the Opera and we spent the next hour and a half watching it.
     It’s a good thing that the next day was Saturday, because Mom didn’t want the evening to end yet and had brought several photo albums with her; all black and white pictures. She would pass each picture around and comment on what had been happening in each. She got to one of me at eleven and her eyes filled with tears. “You know, when you were a toddler we thought it was cute when you’d walk and you’d fall or run into things. We thought it was normal. Then the older you got, we discovered we couldn’t go to big stores or walk around downtown or where there were lots of people, because all of a sudden we’d hear your terrified screams. Friends told us that you were probably putting on an act for attention and we listened. We’re so, so sorry honey!” Dad hugged her.
     She looked at my umbrella sitting in my bag, next to me on the sofa. I’d automatically put it back in the bag to carry with me when everyone had entered the house. “You don’t know how grateful I am for that yellow umbrella, wings and all!” she said with a smile. “Honey, did you ever find out who gave you the umbrella for your twelfth birthday?” she asked.
     “No one ever admitted to it. It was on the back porch in a bright yellow bag and all it said was ‘Happy birthday Sofia. From your guardian angel.’ I like to think that God sent it to me to give me courage. I never thought I’d ever have days where I wasn't afraid. Or be able to move out on my own or drive a car or even follow cooking directions. But every time I look at it, I know that if I've at least tried, I've already succeeded. I know it’s not just the umbrella it’s all of you too, but that umbrella came right when I needed courage. I remember closing my eyes night after night and asking God to send me an angel because I was scared. I kept getting lost, I’d fall down and get all shaky and because I couldn't tie my own shoes the kids at school would make fun of me. Two weeks before my birthday I was diagnosed and at the same time the umbrella arrived. Might be a coincidence, but I say ‘There are no coincidences with God.’”
     “Sofie,” Dorie asked softly, “do you remember when you turned sixteen and we all went to Crystal Woods Zoo and everyone was upset because you wouldn’t leave that dumb yellow gag umbrella behind? Mom and dad kept telling you it wasn’t going to rain and you insisted on taking it. You said it was better to be safe than sorry and you took it anyway.”
     “Yeah, of course I remember, silly.”
     “We were getting ready to put the homemade leash on you that mom made and you told her you weren’t a kid anymore and that you most certainly weren’t a dog and refused to put it on. Dad looked at you and sighed and told you to stay close to us. We did pretty well too, for the first 4 hours we were there. It was time for lunch and on the way to the restaurant we passed that little flower stand on the corner of Monkey Lane and Spider Rd. and you saw the yellow daisies and insisted on using your allowance to buy a big armful. You were skipping and humming and for just a minute we forgot.” She gulped, “I was so scared when I turned around and I realized you were gone. I couldn’t find my baby sister and I started crying. Okay, I got hysterical! We all panicked and started looking for you everywhere. We had to report it to the zoo and tell them that you had Dyspraxia. There were so many people there and all we could think was that you had to be really scared. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, the sky got dark gray and it started to rain and thunder.”
   “What I remember,” continued dad, “was that I was shaking so hard and blaming myself for not having tied you to me. We searched and started to panic even more when all those umbrellas started to open up and we couldn’t see faces. There were so many different colored umbrellas, big and small. My heart was beating fast and hard and your mom was holding my hand and praying. Your brothers and Rico were really mad that we hadn’t forcibly put the leash on you and Chiva was crying. We were passing by the dolphin exhibit and everyone was calling out your name and all of a sudden we saw it; a huge bright yellow umbrella with angel wings and it looked like the sun in the middle of all those other umbrellas. You were still holding the daisies and you were smiling and said, ‘I was wondering how long it would take you to find me.’”
     “I have never, ever been so happy to see a bright yellow, gag umbrella in my life,” mom said. “After that no matter where you were going I always made sure you had that umbrella with you. I sent it with you to all your classes and bought you your first huge bag to put it in. I knew you were right about that leash and that, that  umbrella was better. It made it easy for us to find you and for some reason once you had it you never panicked again. You’d open it up and sit wherever you were and we always found you.”
     “I’ll admit it was hard mom. It took a while for the kids at school to accept my disability, but they did and whenever we had to leave the classroom for any reason, they made sure I had my umbrella. My family, friends and this umbrella gave me the courage to learn how to drive, to get a job and to buy my own house. It’s always going to be hard, but I've learned I can do anything if I set my mind to it," I smiled.

     It was twelve thirty and everyone had finally gone home. They’d cleaned everything up and at my insistence had taken the leftovers with them. It was time for bed and because I was exhausted I knew that tonight I’d sleep really well. I reached out to turn off the lights and my hand brushed my umbrella. I smiled and stroked the wooden handle and humming Amazing Grace I turned off the lights and went to bed.

******
Mexican Melt in Your Mouth Cookies (Polvorones)

Ingredients:
½ lb butter (8 oz.),                             1 c. granulated sugar,
½ c. confectioners’ sugar,                  2 eggs,
4 c. all-purpose flour (sifted),             1 tsp baking powder,                      
½ tsp. salt,                                         1 tbsp. brandy (optional), 

For sprinkling: Mix ½ c. sugar, 2 tbsp. cinnamon.

Directions:
1.    Preheat oven to 375°. Cream butter with the 2 sugars until very light and creamy.
2.    Add eggs, one at a time, beat well after each addition.
3.    Combine baking powder, salt and flour. Mix thoroughly, and then add to cream mixture in thirds.
4.    Finally and only if you want, add the brandy.
5.    Roll out on floured board about ¼ inch thick, then cut with cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for about 12 minutes, until light gold in color. Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon mixture while still hot. Store in airtight container and give as gifts.
                                                                    *****
This story posted for Bluebell Books: Short Story Slam Week 18 picture prompt. 

http://bluebellbooks.blogspot.com/2012/01/short-story-slam-week-18.html

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Always Hope

     It was winter and at four o’clock in the morning we were just arriving home from celebrating the beginning of a new year. It was January 1, 2012.
     I staggered up the front porch and into the living room, laughing my head off and mom and dad just held on to each and guffawed like two crazy people. We were all slightly tipsy from the laughter and silliness of our usual family gathering. We always joked that we'd gotten our silliness and loud laugh from mom's side of the family and watching her giggle now, her cheeks red and her eyes sparkling, I was glad that we had. I started giggling and began to sing (which wasn’t a good thing since I was quite tone deaf) the ending song of the old Lawrence Welk variety show, “Goodnight, sleep tight until we meet again….” Mom looked at me and grabbed her stomach with one hand and her right cheek with the other. “Stop it! I can’t take anymore. My stomach hurts from laughing so much and I think my cheeks are gonna fall off!” She bent over laughing again and dad just sat in his easy chair whooping with laughter, the lights reflecting off of his eyeglasses. I’d forgotten how easy it was to make them laugh and how hard to make them stop. “You’ve got to go to bed before I start throwing up,” mom said with tears running down her face. I smiled, my stomach and face aching from laughing so hard and I was tired. I sighed hugely and finally managed to say goodnight, for real this time and we all went to bed.
     In my bedroom, I walked over to the window, said goodnight to my snowman, promised myself good dreams and climbed into bed. I slept soundly from the moment my head touched the pillow.

     It felt like I had been asleep forever when I was awakened by the suffocating heat that invaded my room. I glanced at the clock as I made for the window on shaky, rubbery legs. I hoped that the winter air would keep me from stifling. Hopefully mom wouldn’t make dad’s life a misery for putting the heat up so high. Gratefully I found the drawstring and drew the curtains aside and my heart seemed to stop and then stutter briefly, at the scene that met my eyes.
     There were just a few houses standing; they looked decrepit, long empty. Doors and windows were missing; it looked like someone had been pulling whatever usable wood was available off of them. It appeared that no one had been around for years to take care of them. The ground as far the eye could see was dry and cracked. There were small clumps of what passed for trees and there was very little vegetation at ground level. I could see the sun, but little else in the sky and it seemed to have swollen to four times its normal size; the ground steamed where the sun’s rays touched it.
     I stepped back quickly from the window and for the first time I took a good look around my room. Here and there, you could see some cobwebs, but the room and bed where I’d lain, were clean if a bit tattered. I started praying hard, I knew this had to be a dream and I’d be waking up any minute now. I knew the best thing would be for me to go back to bed and then I’d wake up from this horrible dream and mom would be in the kitchen making her awesome blueberry pancakes. I started to sway and put my hand out and my fingers grazed the wall. That wall was real! I moved to my bed and touched my satin comforter. It was all real!!! I ran out of my room as fast as I could and made for my parents’ room. They always knew what was going on, they’d be able to explain everything.
     I knocked repeatedly at their door and when there was no answer I pushed the door open and with a creaking sound it slammed hard against the wall, before falling off it's hinges. There was dust and cobwebs everywhere and the area around the bed, which was covered in clear plastic, had large footprints going around it that were beginning to fill with dust. I stepped into the room and froze as I heard squeaking to my left and turning I almost screamed as a rat like creature, the size of a German shepherd crawled out of the bedroom window. I stood there panting for breath, my heart beating like crazy in my chest, my body trembling. I kept shaking my head and blinking my eyes. It was all a hallucination! It had to be.
     I walked over to the bed and began to raise the plastic cover off of the comforter that covered the bodies I could see underneath it. They were so still and I braced myself and closed my eyes briefly, before jerking the comforters back. I let out an agonized cry. Two skeletons lay there, their eyeless sockets staring back at me. I started to back away, but a glimmer from the smallest skeleton’s wrist caught my eyes. Very slowly I lifted the arm, so that I could examine the bracelet, then leaning closer to look at the inscription, I read, ‘To the most wonderful mother in the world. I love you, Miri.’ “Mom?” Disbelieving tears welled up in my eyes and ran down my face and I just let them flow. 
     I don’t know how long I sat on the edge of the bed holding mom’s hand I just know that it was for quite a while. The heat had become tolerable, the sky outside the window was turning into a pale, glowing orange and I knew it was time for me to move. I didn’t understand what was going on and at that exact moment I felt like giving up. What did I have left? I got up and walked over to the window and looked out again. There was nothing left out there. I turned and looked towards the bed; and there was nothing left in here either. What reason did I have to live for? Suddenly I felt as if someone had whispered into my head, “Don’t give up. There’s always hope.” I looked around the room, I knew I was alone, but it felt as if someone had their arms around me and the voice in my head wasn’t loud, it wasn’t even audible. It was a still small voice, the same voice that had always been there when I was hurting and in need. No matter what I did or what was going on, God was ever present. I knew I wouldn’t give up, because my parents hadn’t raised a defeatist. They’d taught me to fight and to know that God was always my shield and my fortress.
As always, just as I’d made my mind to pack it all up, God was there to soothe and calm my troubled spirit. I knew I was being told not to give up, that there was always hope. I felt encouraged and I knew I wasn’t going to give up. I gently slipped the bracelet from mom’s wrist; kissed her forehead and I arranged her more comfortably on her pillows before turning to examine the larger skeleton.
     This skeleton was hideous! Its skull was huge, the size of an elephant’s head. The area around the eye sockets was sticking out and away from the skull and the teeth that were still left in the mouth were small and sharp and set in three rows. The neck bone was thick with a large hump in the back and there were four arms each thin at the top, thickening midway and thinning out again with hawk like claws at the ends, instead of hands. The hips were very small and looked like deformed fists, the legs were thick and long, thinning out at the ankle and ending up in huge misshapen feet. How had this thing ended up in the same bed as my mother? 
      I covered both skeletons up with the comforter and placed the clear plastic over the entire bed and finally said goodbye.
     Looking through the other upstairs bedrooms I found the same thing; years of decay and dust. The rooms downstairs were in a similar condition. The walls were discolored and there were cracks in the walls. There was some furniture in the living room and whatever pictures frames hung on the walls were pretty much destroyed, others lay on the floor in bits and pieces. I stopped looking around realizing that I wouldn’t find any answers here.
     My stomach started growling and I made a quick stop to relieve myself before heading to the kitchen; hopefully, I would find something edible. Once there I made straight for the cupboards, but halfway there, the kitchen table was violently thrown against a brown cracked wall. Looking over my shoulder, I came face to face with what looked like a cross between a rat and a scorpion. I closed my eyes and screamed. 
With my eyes covered and all the growling and screaming (mine) going on I didn’t see or hear the outside door, behind the creature, being thrown open nor did I see the other creature that fought with it, until the rat scorpion lost the battle and slumped to the floor, death crawling over its body. “What new danger do I have to face now?” I thought to myself as I slid into a dead faint.
     I came around a while later and found myself in a clean, but worn living room, being coaxed to sip some sweet tasting liquid by a hairy ape like man. I tried to get up and run; my only thought to run as fast and as far as I could. I was firmly, but gently held and a very human voice soothed me as best it could. I learned his name was Daniel and that he had been the one to care for me while I slept and that we were the only living people left in Layton Hills, at least as far as he knew. Somehow we had survived the disaster. I couldn’t get my mind around what he was saying, “What disaster? What are you talking about?” He looked at me with sad, tearful eyes and said he’d bring my mother’s book to me. I wanted to ask him what he knew about my mother, but I couldn’t talk. I was crying again. My family was gone. I heard the door slam as he walked out.
     Daniel returned quite a bit later with a diary that I immediately recognized as my mom’s, and indicated that I should read it. My heart started pounding as I realized that I would finally find out what had happened to my family and my friends, but now I wasn’t so sure I wanted to know.
     It took me several hours to get through the dairy and I finally began to get a very clear picture of what had happened. One of the countries that had sworn they had no weapons of mass destruction or facilities had launched some type of germ warfare weapon at the United States. They’d hoped to weaken us before launching nuclear weapons. They’d bombed three strategically located nuclear facilities and as the deadly viruses had begun to take effect, many of our top scientists had died painful, agonizing deaths. The remaining scientific community had not been able to find a solution or a cure and in the end madness had taken them. In our madness we had in turn launched some of our most powerful weapons. There had followed the deaths of hundreds of thousands and only a systems malfunction had kept either side from unleashing total destruction on the planet. People in the immediate blast areas had, had no chance whatsoever; the explosive blasts had destroyed everything in their path. The weaponized virus together with the nuclear and thermal radiation and the fallout had done most of the damage. The wind had carried death to those who had thought themselves fortunate enough to be out of harms reach. Those who had survived had begun to transform into something not quite human, unspeakable creatures and others, like myself, while having escaped that fate had been frozen into a hibernating type of sleep, a kind of suspended animation. 
     At first mom’s entries in her diary had been made faithfully as she watched over dad and myself. She hadn’t been able to fully explain exactly what had happened to me; all she knew was that I was still alive, but asleep. She’d described in detail the metamorphosis that Dad had gone through until he had slowly gone mad and eventually he’d slipped away into a place where she couldn’t reach him. He’d finally lain down in their bed and had just stopped breathing. By this time mom had met Daniel, who was also changing; they had become friends and support for each other. Daniel’s family had been out near Chicago and they had all died instantly. At first he’d insisted that mom should leave and get to a safer place, but mom had refused to leave Layton Hills, because of me. She didn’t want to take any chances at going into a more dangerous area or of something happening if they moved me. Others had begun to leave in droves and little by little the town had become little more than a ghost town and only the animals, or whatever they’d become, had roamed the streets. 
     As I read her last entry in the diary, I could feel her despair, fear and sadness. She was so weak and tired and she knew that she wouldn’t live much longer and she hated the thought that maybe someday I would awaken from my long sleep and I would be all alone. Even to the very end her thoughts had been for me.
     Apparently, even if there were others out there, they’d all moved into safe zones. The only ones still left in Layton Hills were Daniel and myself. He’d promised mom that he wouldn’t leave me and he’d stayed near me to keep me safe. He’d covered mom and dad’s bodies so that there would be something for me to bury when I awoke. He’d taken care of me, kept my room clean and had collected food, clothing, whatever he could find so that he’d be prepared when I woke up.  He said he’d prayed every day for years that I would wake up. He hadn’t had any idea when that would happen, but he’d had faith God would wake me up, when the time was right.
     Mom had been so afraid that I would be alone, but I wasn’t. I had Daniel and although I knew it would be hard, we would survive and together we would look for other survivors. We (humanity) had messed up again, but I knew that God would forgive us and that He would help us to survive. He’d given us the hope for a new beginning and it was up to us to do it right this time. 
     I looked up into Daniel’s sad eyes and wanted to cry, I needed to cry for my family, but I knew there wasn’t time just now. Still with mom’s diary and my memories I had something left with which to remember them. I wouldn't forget them, but for now, in order to begin anew I had to put them in a little corner of my heart and mind. Later there would be time to really grieve, but right now we had plans to make. 
     I didn’t know how long it was going to take us to find others, but I knew we would. It would take a bit of patience and lots of hope. There was always hope.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I Don't Know About Tomorrow

     I never used to just live each day as it came. I worried the day before, the day of and the day after. I mean I was a total wreak! I always worried that maybe I'd lived today in such a way that I would be a disappointment to family, friends and God. It didn't matter what I did, I just knew that I would never be able to measure up to anyone. I used to spend days in total depression and wondering what I could do to have people care about me and love me. The funny thing is that I didn't much care for myself or for others. I was a very bitter person and looking back now I realize just how sad that was. That was the before Christ me.
     I will admit that even after I accepted Christ, it took awhile for me to accept that there could be someone out there who would and could love me for me. Because I came from a Christian home there were many who were always ready to point out that I was a disappointment and that I'd never be able to be the kind of daughter my parents would be proud of. I must admit that kind of helped to keep me at odds with my poor parents.
    Over time God took me through the shaping and firing process. It was so painful that sometimes I didn't think I'd be able to endure it, but Christ was my comfort. One day I woke up and I was just happy. I didn't understand it, I just knew that the holes in my heart and my spirit were no longer there. They were filled with joy, a joy unspeakable and I actually loved myself. Now I get up everyday and live it to the best of my abilities. It may not be perfect, but it's good. There's a song entitled. "I Know Who Holds Tomorrow," and I finally, finally understand it. I don't know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day and I really don't worry over the future, because I know that it's all in God's hands. I'll just take each day as it comes and I'll live it for God. I'll leave it all in His hands because I know I'll never be able to improve on what God does. So once again, I'll just let go and let God.
    "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they are?"Matthew 6:25-26


I Know Who Holds Tomorrow
I don't know about tomorrow,
I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from it's sunshine,
For it's skies may turn to gray.
I don't worry o'er the future,
For I know what Jesus said,
And today I'll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.
Refrain
Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand;
But I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand.
Ev'ry step is getting brighter,
As the golden stairs I climb;
Ev'ry burden's getting lighter;
Ev'ry cloud is silver lined.
There the sun is always shining,
There no tear will dim the eyes,
At the ending of the rainbow,
Where the mountains touch the sky.
Refrain
I don't know about tomorrow,
It may bring me poverty;
But the One Who feeds the sparrow,
Is the One Who stands by me.
And the path that be my portion,
May be through the flame or flood,
But His presence goes before me,
And I'm covered with His blood.
Refrain   Ira Stanphill 1950

A Very Personal God

     Have you ever wondered why God created us and what His thoughts were at the moment He was creating us? When I was younger I used to wonder that all the time. When I messed up big time I would look up and ask, 'Now do You regret making us?' I could never quite connect with Him and because I couldn't do that I just couldn't understand why He, this huge, awesome, powerful Deity, would make a creation that was so flawed. I mean come on! We're rebellious, hard headed and sometimes just plain stupid. It took about 26 years to kind of understand it. I know, I know! I'm hard headed that way. I guess that's why it took so long and even then I didn't really understand it, but because I'd finally come to a saving knowledge of Christ I was able to take it on faith.
     Anyway, recently I was counseling a friend of mine and I was telling her that God personally loved her so much that He knew before she was born that she would one day be in pain, (emotionally, mentally and physically) and that she would need comfort and His answer had been Jesus. He (God) had looked ahead to now, as only God can and He'd hurt for her.
     I know when I'm hurting with a pain that no one else can understand or imagine, God is there and He understands. I imagine that His conversations with me kind of go like this. 'Alice, hold on. It's going to be okay. I'm your Father, your Daddy and I love you so much and I want to make it better. But honey, the only way it's going to get better is if you let it go. Don't hold on to it. I'm here. Let me hold you and take away your pain. Help's on the way!' Well obviously I can't actually imagine what God's thoughts and feelings are, but I know as a parent when my child hurts I hurt. And God is after all our Father and Creator.  I imagine that as I cry for my son, God cries for me, for us. And even now His eyes are full of tears when He sees how much pain we're in. You see God sent Jesus for Maria, for me, for you to help us get through times like this. The funny thing is that as I was talking to her, the light in my attic came on brightly and I could actually, if even for  just a minute, see clearly. All of a sudden my brain kind of went spasmodic and I said, 'Whoa! He really loves me!' I mean, I knew it already, but every once in a while, God decides to remind me, again. The rest of the day just kind of passed in a really happy daze.
     Sunday morning I got up all chipper and happy, if a bit achy and I wasn't quite sure I'd be able to make it to church, but I forced myself to go anyway and what an awesome time I had, but then again I always have an awesome time.
    Pastor Al spoke of and about a personal God who loves each and every one of us (sometimes we all need reminding!). He went through several verses in Genesis and once again it felt as if the floodgates of knowledge had burst open. It was as if the Lord was saying to me, 'Yes Alice, you understood right. I'm your daddy and I love you.'
    If you haven't read Genesis yet you should! All my previous wondering about why God had created us were answered. It was so simple and yet complex at the same time. In Genesis 1:26-28 you see that God takes great care in creating people. He lovingly shapes and molds man and then He breathes life directly into His creation and he becomes a living being (Genesis 2:7). God didn't stop there either. He further showed His love by creating a special home for man and woman (Genesis 2:8-15) that would have everything in it that they would need; shelter, food, water. Eden had all the essentials. He left the creation of His best for last and then He provided for said creation just the way a loving father does. I guess you can say we are His special creation poetry.
     I think that the most awesome thing is that God made His creation of people a very personal thing. God doesn't have a huge factory where we are massed produced. He has a potter's wheel and He lovingly shapes, sculpts and creates each of us with differences unique to each of us. To God creation is a personal, emotional, loving experience. The God who took such care in creating us and then after we messed up, sending a Savior, isn't a cold, non-caring God. Our Father God is a loving, personal hands-on daddy who hurts and feels our pain when we are hurting or sick. So on the days that you're feeling sorry for yourself or you think that no one cares about you, remember the One who created you. He loves you so much and all you have to do is call out to Him and He'll be there.
     May 2012 bring you only God's awesome blessings. 

yours in Christ Jesus,

Image Credit: myggm.org