We Need a Hero…

As I think about my life, I’m ever grateful for the hero in the story. When I was young, I watched The Adventures of Letterman on television. He was a cartoon, but he saved the day nonetheless!

Faster than a rolling ‘O’
Stronger than silent ‘E’
Able to leap capital ‘T’ in a single bound!
It’s a word, it’s a plan…it’s Letterman! (The Adventures of Letterman, The Electric Company. PBS. 1971-1977.)

A damsel in distress needs a hero, doesn’t she! How many times does the hero swoop in at just the right time to save the girl trapped in the villain’s dastardly plan? Thankfully, every time. And what kind of terrible villain was at work in my life? The worst enemy imaginable: the one who wants to see me destroyed— body, mind, and soul—forever. For-ev-er.

Once upon a time, I was a petite young lady looking to wake up and conquer each new day in some fresh way. Home life. School life. Social life. Life was all about me, and I had the ability to meet the challenges in creative ways. But the skills I used were entirely mine. There was no need to look for the hero in the story then. Oh, I did that when I was younger, but the hero never came. I was able to meet my own challenges and succeed well enough. Good enough. Smart enough. And—bonus!—a decent number of people liked me.

Isn’t that how most people handle the world? Is there any other way?

Maybe there is, but back then, I didn’t know any other way.

Speeding down the highway in a ’71 Pontiac Catalina in 1990, music blaring. Later speeding down the highway in an ’96 Chevette, music blaring. Queen of the road—my own road.

Something was happening, though, behind the curtain in the realm I couldn’t see.

All the pain. All the hurts. Some I chose, and some others recklessly dumped on me. I had to take it all somewhere. Without resolution, the wounds festered, cancerous to my soul. Where could a girl take the pain of life and know there could be healing? Tumbling through the villain’s cycle for my life, I stuffed the emotion until implosion or explosion. Then I started again. No release. I wreaked havoc on my own life, but targeted others as often as I could to lessen the pain.

But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;  Isaiah 43:1-3a

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

My pain was real, and I acted out of that pain for years. But the God of the universe was willing to rescue me when I was still an angry, spiteful, pain-driven woman for so many years. Knowing I would hate Him (and any other male figure in society)…

He took the beating, the long walk to the hill carrying that crossbeam, and the nails in his hands and feet. The wood slivers shredded his skin as he rose to draw each breath and sunk to rest between. The spear pierced his side.

He didn’t have to endure that. Jesus was perfectly innocent and powerful enough to make things happen differently, if he wanted. He could have chosen to remain at a distance. He could have left me (and all of us) to the consequences and justice deserved. But love motivated every step to the cross. And love held him there.

We have no right to be even acknowledged, let alone in the presence of Holy God, in our sin-ravaged state.

But God…

Rescued.

Redeemed.

In relationship.

Thanks for reading along.

~j

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Memories at the Bus Stop

I’ve been MIA for a bit, and I’m sad that’s the case. Since I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I thought I’d be a little more consistent with posts. (We’ll see how that shakes out in reality, but it’s a nice idea.) Here’s a little memory I was thinking about this week. I wonder how it will strike the reader…

 

Blue_divider

Every day of the school year my older sisters walked down the street to the corner where the yellow bus rumbled and roared up the hill, screeching to a stop. Sometimes Mommy and I walked down our street on warm, sunny days to watch them go. Sometimes we walked down the street just before the bus came in the afternoon.

“Soon you’ll get on the bus with your sisters.”

“I will? Ooooh, I want to ride the big bus!”

The bus was the biggest, loudest, yellowest thing I’d ever seen. I heard it long before I saw it. One stop at the bottom of the hill. Our stop at the top. A right turn to stop at the next corner, and two more before it chugged out of the neighborhood.

The next fall, my short legs dangled off the front seat behind the bus driver for the first time.

Blue_divider

For years, I waited at the top of the hill for a ride to school. What began with quick, happy skipping in the afternoon eased into a slow drag over the years in the early mornings. No one was in a hurry to get to the bus stop—unless the bus was roaring away to the next. Some years I waited with my older sisters. Eventually, the older kids in the neighborhood claimed one bus stop, and the younger ones were left to the others. Some years I waited with my friend, Lena, alone.

I was about ten or eleven, I think. One day in late November, we waited for the bus, bored. Someone had the brilliant idea of putting me on someone’s shoulders. I wasn’t up there long. I remember seeing the crumbly street rushing up to meet me, up close and personal. Ouch!

The pain was intense. My face throbbed, but the bus was roaring up the hill. No mirror to check my eye and cheek. No time to run home and clean up. Not even enough time to run across the street to Lena’s house. Falling on my face didn’t seem a like good excuse to go back to my house—even if whatever happened made others’ faces look a little horrified. It couldn’t be that big a deal, right? I ducked in the door, hustled up the steps, and slid into a seat, hiding between the tall seats. I only hoped no one would see my pain.

“Do you need to get off the bus and go home?” the driver asked.

“No.”

“Are you sure? You’re bleeding.”

“No, I’m going to school.”

The bus driver waited to give me a chance to change my mind, then reluctantly pulled away and around the corner.

If I went home there had to be a good reason. Never mind that I was never sure exactly what a good reason might be. My family cultivated tough kids who believed nothing should stop us from moving along. The mindset was different from some. Healing should happen. Maybe before the bus got to school….

Nope, I thought, as I looked in the girls’ bathroom mirror.

Most of my family was in a community theater play that winter: A Christmas Carol. Many weeks before I had belted “It’s a Small World” at the top of my lungs for my audition, and that led to a bit part as a Cratchit kid. Mr. Producer had a very serious look on his face when he saw me at rehearsal that evening after the bus stop incident. With two weeks before our first show, I might need an understudy to take over.

Everyone wanted to know what happened. The attention was just embarrassing. I wanted to crawl into a hole. Yes, I fell on my face! Yes, it hurts! I know it’s ugly!

Two weeks was enough time to heal. At least, it was enough time to allow stage makeup to hide the blemish that was left.


Thanks for reading along as I share bits here and there. I wonder—has anyone else has had something obviously go wrong but tried to pretend there was “nothing to see here”?

Have you done that?

As an adult, I can’t imagine it. Then, it was just the way to move through a day. Strange reasoning in the mind of a young child….

~j

Paradigm: the Shift

Worldview. It’s how I see, read, and understand my world. It’s the lenses I look through, and like most people, I don’t realize I’m wearing them. (Have you ever looked for your glasses, only to find them resting on your face where they belong?)

I have taught online classes for home educated high school students, and one of those classes has been a worldview course. It’s one of my favorites, not because I have the privilege of watching students come into their own a bit but because they learn there always exists something they don’t know yet.

Right now I’m pleasantly surprised to find that I don’t know everything there is to know. Again. That’s not new information, and I’m not so arrogant that I ever thought I knew everything—well, except for the teenage “disease” that seems to be an epidemic in that stage. It’s not that I was comfortable with everything I knew as much as I stopped thinking about it. I wasn’t examining my thoughts or their processes as often. I settled in my ways and the ways I thought about things. The people closest to me thought fairly similarly. I maintained a wider spectrum of social media friends to “stay in touch with the culture and reality.” I was happy with all of that.

Have you ever had someone ask a question that shook your paradigm (and maybe your worldview, too)? Maybe you remember the question well. My experience hasn’t been that exactly. No one question has ever rattled me.

In my experience it has been a slow exploration, and the questions come up in my own inner dialogue. While that can feel unsettling, it’s the most pleasant for me. I prefer to wrestle with my thoughts in private sometimes. (Have I mentioned I’m an introverted processor?) I’m still waiting for the idea “pieces” to fit together nicely, so it’s a messy process. I just enjoy the whole thing, though. After the initial surprise or shock of it, the thinking and the settling (even if it’s temporary) is fun for me.

Have you had this kind of shakeup happen in your worldview or paradigm? What was that like for you? How do you feel about the process?

~j

Memories: Papa and Teddy Bear Love

My grandfather had a gentle heart, patient Southern drawl, and slow-moving ways. Mommy’s daddy towered over everybody, and his lanky, six-foot-eight frame ducked through doorways when he came to visit. Wet-combed, thin hair lay flat in the morning, but the shorter hairs on top rebelled as the day went on.

Every memory is filled with sweetness to counter my deep longing to see his soft, creased face again. There were games of “Stick ‘Em” in the living room chair. He sat quietly with a soft smile on his face. I heaved a giant hand or foot wherever I could manage and “stuck it” in place. In his big hands corn husks and bandanas became dolls, paper took flight, and leaf “boats” floated in rain puddles.

Hundreds of faded black-and-white snapshot memories drift through my mind, but a precious one is saturated in vibrant color.


There were four girls now: eight, six, four, and tiny. Suddenly I was a big sister. The baby was loud and red-faced a lot of the time. Mommy’s friends made a fuss over her. “She’s adorable!” they said. “Is she sleeping well?” they asked. “What a good baby!” they said. They had to ask, “How are you managing four girls?” “Daddy’s really outnumbered now, isn’t he?” everyone said.

Can they see me? I wondered.

We picked my grandparents up from the Amtrak station. Nana squeaked in high-pitched, happy-about-the-baby talk and did the grandmother things. Papa came with her.
Yay! Papa will play with me! Everyone else is too busy. Papa made time for me.

Dinner time. Pots and pans. Bang! Clang! Plates and silverware. Clink. Clink. “Jenny, go outside! You can’t be in here while we’re making dinner.”

I was in the way. Again. Navy blue tennies scuffed down the hall and out the front door. I plopped down on the warm concrete porch, feet dangling and kicking the edge over and over. My scrunched-up face rested in tightly-clenched fists. Why did they send me out? Mommy and Nana don’t like me.

The door creaked, and Papa ducked out into the sunlight. He eased down

next to me. His legs bridged over the front walk, and the grass flattened under the weight of his giant feet. One hand settled next to me.

He was a good listener.

“Papa, they don’t like me in there. They send me outside all the time.” My tennies bounced off the concrete.

“Oh?”

“Everybody’s too busy to play, and they keep telling me I’m in the way. They don’t like me anymore. The baby came home, and now I’m always in trouble.” Tears finally came. I kicked harder.

“I think you need this.” A small teddy bear came out from behind his back. The chocolate-brown body was worn and nubby and more flat than fat. The yellow fabric on his paws and nose was faded. Above his nose was a threadbare spot. Two curves of black stitching formed a happy mouth. Hard plastic eyes glinted in the sunlight.

“For me? Thank you! I love him.” Teddy nearly disappeared in my tightly wrapped arms.
“I love you. And so do they,” he nodded toward the noisy, open window. “They’re almost done in there. Your Nana and your mom will just tell me I’m getting in the way, so I think I’ll just stay here.”

TeddyBear (3)

“They tell you that, too?”

“Yup.”

I pulled me feet up and shuffled into criss-cross-apple-sauce. “They don’t like you either?”

“They do. I still get in the way.”

I thought about that.

We talked about the sun heading for quitting time. I told him the porch was going to turn orange. I showed him the tiny, black ants husling along the cracks of the sidewalk between lunchtime popsicle stains and their hole. Busy, busy!

The front door creaked as Mommy held it wide open. “Daddy and Jenny—it’s time for din-din.” I squeezed Teddy once more.

The steaming-hot chicken pot pie landed upside down with a plop! The crust was broken and leaking. A short, sweaty glass of milk waited beside it.


Thanks for reading, friends. Do you have a sweet story related to a precious relationship? I’d love to read your short story. Share it in the comments below…

~J

Remembering with Purpose

Do you wonder how a collection of my memories could be useful in your life? I’ve walked circles around that question and come to a sweet pause—the path diverges right there. I’ve gawked at the train wrecks in my storyline, captivated by the damage and long-term consequences. That never led to healing, transformation, or victory. The myopic perspective emptied the story of any sweetness, light, or power.

Story is powerful. We can experience refreshing, exhilaration, and even healing when we take time to read about others’ victories and deep soul transformation. How much greater the impact when the story reveals the presence of the Lover and Rescuer of the soul through the highs and lows! During the good, bad, and desperate moments in our lives it takes special eyes to see Him. (He is there, I promise.)

For me, to lean in or not to lean in; that’s the question!

Today I’m thinking about my story in a little coffee shop in Iowa. (I love to write in little, caffeinated hidey-holes.) The opportunity to share the beautiful plot twist written into my story by the Author of faith sprawls in front of me, and I’m taking it.

When I sat with little vignettes and tried to capture them, the purpose emerged from the shadows. I remembered details, but I took extra time to find three things: the power in the memory, the plans of the Enemy, and the presence of Jesus. These three pieces are important to the transformation that follows. They are also common elements in every story. Mine. Yours. Everyone’s.

Then I began to think about two questions that have the ability to shift perspective on nearly any life story.

What do I believe about God based on what has happened to me?
What is true about God based on what is written in Scripture?

Something settled in my soul in those two questions. I almost heard and felt Kachunk! in my spirit. These questions begged to be answered, and I understood why. My perspective about God is critical. It’s only in relationship to Him that I can understand some of the story details, events, and characters. I may never understand the hows and whys in my story in this life, but I have no hope of a healthy viewpoint or healing without God.

I hope you’ll have keener insight into your own story after reading White Wave Crashing. When my eyes took in the scenes of my life at a glance, I overlooked the presence of Jesus. I was angry He overlooked the indelible ink falling to the pages of my life. Was He invisible? Unconcerned? (The answer is, “No!” but it took time to discover that.) I hope you find that to be true as well. He loves us. Deeply. And He wants to sit with us in the exuberant joy, the deep sorrow, and the painful grief.

When you begin to remember, I hope you’ll find healing for your soul, too. There is victory over the enemy of our souls when we step forward and tell of the things God has done.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on remembering…and its purposeful place. Share below or at my  Author Page.

Blessings!

~j

Early Memories: Gorgeous Horses

Gorgeous horses! Their size was intimidating up close. At a distance, tails swished to shoo flies. Standing next to them, the hair whipped, and I gasped. Most of the horses tied to the split-rail fences waited in the bright sunshine patiently. Some stood still as statues. A few gently shifted their weight. A spirited horse at the end of the line pawed at the ground, hooves thumping.

A wrangler matched the riders with horses, and the mount-up began. “If you know what you’re doing, go ahead and mount on the left, people,” he called out, “The rest of you, wait!”

The half-day trail ride was a splurge. It was the first one I can remember in fourteen years of family vacations. Every trip contained a few unexpected gems, activities so special they only happened on a vacation. Maybe once a year. Maybe once in a lifetime.

The ride was deeply etched in everyone’s mind for different reasons. The oldest girl rode her own horse, a mellow, dappled trail mare. She was thrilled to be given her own horse and couldn’t stop talking about it! Next in line, a stocky bay mare slowly plodded along under Mom and the five-year-old. A big, black gelding, named Snake, easily carried Dad and me with eagerness and some bounce in his step.

The heaving motion of the beast was fascinating. It was a lot to take in—the creaky western saddle, the trail framed by trees, and the river we followed for a while. Dad was funny. He kept saying “Whoa!” and “Whoa, Nelly!” Sometimes he gently tugged the reigns, and sometimes not. When the horse wanted to scratch his flanks on a tree, there was a hard yank in the opposite direction. It was a fun ride. I didn’t know what a trail ride should be, but this was amazing!

The cool shade of the river trail, the noisy river, the meadow where the best riders could trot or gallop, and the barns that finally appeared around the bend—it was all a fabulous adventure.

At the end of the ride, most of the horses walked right back to where the started. Riders wanted pictures with their horses. Quick snapshots were taken, the riders dismounted, and the wranglers began tying up the horses one by one. The oldest girl and her horse were captured on film, even while she was still going on about being trusted with her very own horse. Click! The next picture on the roll would be Mom and the middle daughter on the chubby bay. Click!  The final picture was almost an afterthought. I was put up on the big, black gelding. Click!

And it all went wrong.

Snake was spooked by the sound or the camera flash. He turned and bolted with three-year-old me still in the saddle.

Voices hollered.

“Hang on!”

To say that was a natural instinct is an understatement. Some really smart guy built saddles with a big, old “handle” in the front, and that’s what my chubby little fingers hung on to for dear life. But with each stride, the jostle felt bigger and harder.

The dusty ground flew by. The stirrups bounced.

“Let go!” popped out of the faraway hollers.

That made no sense! Why would anyone let go?

The whole thing was tiring. My tiny, sweaty fingers couldn’t grip the handle much longer, and my exhausted arms ached. My short legs couldn’t land hard in the saddle one more time.

Looking down, I caught a glimpse of darker dirt and tufts of dry grass in slow motion.

Thud!

Snake slowed and wandered into the riverbed, riderless. He casually drank the cool, rushing water until the wrangler came to get him.

When I sat down to capture the early memories, I was surprised. Apparently, I was quite the little stunt baby at two and three years old. I had never put that together until I saw the scenes next to each other like some kind of wrinkle in the timeline.

I obviously turned out just fine after this little episode. (I don’t find it traumatic anymore.) You may find it frightening, and it was in the moment, but please know it all worked out…

“Didn’t I ever tell you about Bumbles? Bumbles bounce!” ~Yukon Cornelius¹

I hope you enjoyed this little scene. If you’re writing some of your early memories, what have you found most challenging, precious, healing, or enlightening about the process? Comment below.

~j


¹ Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) (TV)

First Memory

I’ve been thinking through my story, and I thought I’d try to capture my earliest memory. I couldn’t help but share it with you.

For those who need a heads up, this story involves a young child and a pool. You know it turns out okay because I’m able to tell the story all these years later. Just wanted you to know.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this piece. Comment below or at my author page on Facebook.

~j


Brilliant cerulean surrounded her. Everywhere—to the left, right, and below—shades of the prettiest blue sparkled and danced before her eyes. Hypnotic shapes flitted here and there, and her eyes followed, fascinated. The visual hustle contrasted everything else.

Time froze as she gracefully drifted in the blue. Her plump little hands floated effortlessly until she tried to move them. What’s happening? she wondered. Everything feels so heavy.

Strands of fine, chestnut hair crept in front of her eyes, obscuring the view of the pretty dancing shapes. A shake of the head only drew the tangles of hair closer to her face, gently wrapping with the lightest feather touch.

Loud, incoherent, muffled voices bounced around with the blue shapes.

Captivating and confusing. In the middle of it all, beautiful silver-edged beads grabbed her attention and skittered upward in hasty, wiggly paths. She tried to keep her eyes on them through the spaces in the gliding, ever-spreading dark hair haze. Pretty! she thought, and she reached too-slow fingers through the heavy blue to catch the sparkles. They raced up and out of sight, up there.

The blues stopped at the edge of “up there” where blotches of color boldly wiggled and swelled and blended into fresh confusion. Partly obscured and partly diced by brown hair strands, up was a new, short-lived fascination. Gray-blue, white, greens, browns, and little shocks of color fought for space together in the wavy “up there.”
This isn’t right! Mommy, where are you? I want my mommy!

“Mo—!” she opened her mouth to let out a yell, but the pretty blue stifled her cry and tasted awful.

The seconds jump-started to a sprint.

Suddenly, out of the “up there” a warped silhouette broke through the mix of colors, shattering them into a million pieces. The hand appeared, decorated with the same shiny beads. Some of them were caught on the underside of the palm until they, too, ran upward in their squiggly paths. Scary and intrusive, this hand interrupted the confusion. She recoiled from the noise but didn’t complain when she felt the strong tug that pulled her through the heavy dancing blues toward “up there” and into the bright, sunny day she’d fallen out of.

Gasp! Cough! “Mommy-y-y-y-y!” she cried in a wavering screech.

Two large hands caught her up and plopped her down a little hard. Hair tangles covered her eyes until the big hand brushed them aside. The cement patio was warm and bit at her soft, pudgy legs and bottom. Water droplets ran down her arms and legs. Between coughs and distraught breaths, the air was good and right. Familiar faces surrounded her, but the one closest wasn’t the one she wanted. Tall, sun-bleached blonde and tanned, Mr. Leon owned the pool she would remember in vivid detail for the rest of her life. As he quickly assessed the two-and-a-half-year-old’s condition, Mommy and Daddy hovered.

Sniff. Sniff. All she wanted was her mom.

“Mommy!” She got up and hustled around the man she barely knew to the blonde woman in pigtails who waited anxiously with a towel. A soft, warm, too-thin towel wrapped around her three times over. She cuddled in Mommy’s lap in a long deck chair, sniffling hot summer air between the smelly water droplets crawling down her nose. Then she fell asleep.