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Monday, 13 June 2011

What Could She Ask Beside

The darkness was so deep,
It felt like such a leap
To go forward in the unknown,
To a place she was not shown.
She could not see His hand,
She wondered at His plan.
She greatly longed to know
Which way she was to go.
She cried out and pleaded,
She almost retreated
Away from the uncertainty
Back to fuller clarity.
Yet she knew that she must stay.
How? She knew only to pray.
Sinking to the ground,
The darkness all around
She felt so very, very alone
Not knowing which way to go.
The darkness seemed much too close
Almost choking, way too close.
Wrapping her arms around her tight
Deep sobs echoed into the night.
Feeling as though being torn in two,
Trying to trust, knowing not what to do.
Her whisper was gentle, almost unheard
But not to Him who deeply cared.
“I feel so lost, I don’t understand.”
She received no answer but a gentle hand.
The tender touch made her start
And felt it deep into her heart.
“I know that you don’t understand,
But that is what I have planned.
It is My grand design,
That this my sovereign plan divine
Work out always for your good.
Believing this, strong, many have stood.
It is not for you to understand
The mighty working of My hand.
It is yours to only trust,
Go where I tell you that you must.
When you do not know My plan
When you cannot understand
Know that you don’t have to,
Only know that I do.”
Then did she again rise,
A gentle hope filled her eyes.
Taking steps into darkness deep
It did not now seem such a leap.
With her Good Shepherd at her side
What could she ask beside?

~Written 6-12-11~

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Yet ...

My God is all-powerful and holds the planets in His power …yet He came and dwelt below.

My God is able to raise the dead and heal all diseases … yet He died for me.

My God is uncontainable.  He dwells where He will … yet He chose to dwell in my being.

My God commands the storms.  The wind and fierce waves … yet He gently calls my heart to Him.

My God dwells above the heavens.  Above any space we can see … yet He grants me to abide with and in Him.

My God surrounds Himself with unapproachable light … yet calls me to come to Him in my time of trouble.

My God demands holiness and loyalty to Him and I fail to do so … yet He helps me to obey Him.

My God cannot look at sin, which is what I am … yet He takes my sinful heart and life and molds me into His image.

My God is more than able to give me all I desire … yet He breaks me.

My God can make my heart whole and unbroken … yet He tenderly holds me, in pieces, in His hands.

My God chastens, molds and shapes, sometimes cutting parts out of my life … yet He is good and gentle.

My God brings me to tears, to my knees in humility and pain … yet He is loving, gracious and merciful.

My God takes my broken heart and life, stained and dirty with sin … yet calls me His own.

My God takes from my life the unnecessary, sometimes throwing me off balance and sometimes into confusion and pain … yet He provides His perfect peace when I let go and trust Him.

My God is holy, perfect and complete in Himself … yet He loves me.

My God, in His perfect plan, in love and mercy, takes me and remakes me.  It is painful, there are many tears and cries to Him … yet I love Him all the more for all He is and all He does because I know He does nothing but good and He does everything in love.


Thursday, 22 July 2010

The River

The sun is warm, the breeze gentle.
I sit, my legs up under me, relishing the warmth of the sun and soft caress of the breeze’s soft fingers.
I sit, safely, on a big Cornerstone: strong, big, heavy, sturdy, unmoving … solid.  I know I can fly to this Rock to escape the river, which rushes so quickly by this strong Rock.
For a while I am happy, joyful to sit, comfortably resting on this Rock … the Rock of my Refuge and Salvation.  It brings me great delight to sit here, resting upon its surface.
But, soon, my mind begins to wander.  My eyes begin to scan the landscape and river about me.
My eyes come to rest on the river.  So clear and inviting.  Here, beside the Rock, it laps quietly and un-menacingly against the side of my safe place.
Although I am happy and content I begin to wonder what it might feel like to dip my toes into the river’s coolness.
It is so gentle here, by the Rock, unlike the middle of the river, which races and rushes and overpowers.
But here, here it whispers so smoothly.  It calls me to just dip the very tips of my toes in.
I know I shouldn’t.  I need to stay on my Rock, strong and secure.  But if I dip just the tippy-tips of my toes in, technically I still will remain on the Rock.  Of course I shall not be fully remaining on my Refuge, but it’s just my toes.
I debate only a little before I cannot resist.
Quickly I dip just the tips of my toes in before pulling them just as quickly back out.
Little ripples bob away from where I disturbed the water, shimmering in the sunlight.
The coolness on my toes is quickly disappearing making me long to again feel the cool water on my toes.
Again there is a tug at my mind as I am reminded that I am not to leave the Rock.  I try to convince myself, as before, that I am not leaving the Rock, just playing with the water.
Once again the water’s temptation is too much and I put my toes in the water.  But this time it’s not just my toes, but now my foot.
It’s so new and exciting.  I kick a little, sending diamond-like water drops dancing in the air.  Such beauty!
Another kick, more glistening drops.  It’s so beautify!  I love it.
I kick a few more times, loving the feel and look of the water.
I stop and just let my feet hang in the water.
My eyes widen as I realize the water level now reaches half way up my calf.
Quickly I pull my feet up and out of the water.  Hugging my knees the water rolls off my legs and feet, damping the Rock.
Slowly and somewhat scared I glance around to see if anyone saw how far I’d let my legs go in the water.
No one else sitting near by seems to have noticed.
I relax a bit as a deep sigh rushes from my frame.
That was too close!  What if someone had seen me?
Then I freeze.  What if He had seen me?
Thoughts and fears race through my mind, much like the racing river.
Slowly I turn around, trying to appear casual in my looking.
My eyes fall upon His house.  It’s not far from my Rock, I know if He’d been looking He could easily have seen the joy that I derived from something besides Him and my Rock.  The shame!
I turn my eyes back to the river.  Another sigh.  Maybe He didn’t see.
Then I remember that He is always watching.  That he sees everything, all the time.
My eyes lift quickly to focus on a distant spot and slowly, guiltily, I lift my head.  I dare not move.  It’s almost like I can feel His eyes on my right now!
What will He do?  Will He be enormously angry with me?
More fears rush by in my head.
Reluctantly I turn my head again to look at His house.
It looks much bigger now than it did before.
I hide as much of my face as I can behind my shoulder, my eyes scanning fearfully for His frame.
I watch a little while.  Nothing happens.
Even more questions and fears in my mind.
I don’t know what to do so I turn my head back around.
After some time of waiting for something to happen, but finding nothing does, I relax once again.
I go sometime without yielding to the river’s temptation.  Yet, even though I yield not, the pull and temptation are very strong.
One day, while feeling particularly down and weak, my eyes wander to the water.  This is becoming somewhat of a habit.  I enjoy watching the water run by in such a carefree way and deeply long to again feel its coolness.
Watching others enjoy the river’s wet silkiness is also very hard for me.  They look so happy and they look like they enjoy it, how could it possibly be bad?  Why has He told me to not even touch it?
Ever since that one time of feeling the water I have held myself in check physically from touching the water.
Today, however, I am unable to resist and chose not to obey the order given by Him to stay out of the water.
Slowly I slip my feet beneath the sparkling surface.  Yet it does not fill me with the same satisfaction as it had the first time and I long to feel more of the water.
Paying no attention to the pull at my heart and mind to resist, I scoot as far as I can to the edge of my Rock and submerge as much of my legs as possible.
I am surprised to find that the water is not as deep as I thought and that by sitting as far out as I can, my feet touch the river bottom.
This information brings me new and interesting excitement along with the curiosity of wondering what it would feel like to stand on the river bottom, the water’s silky fingers brushing my legs.
I know it is wrong for me to have any part of my body in the water, but to actually stand in the water?  Would it be unpardonable?
I know I shouldn’t, but curiosity takes over and before I know it I have carelessly pushed myself from my Refuge Rock and am standing in the water.
I almost gasp, but don’t.  I lift the hem of my dress a bit higher to avoid the wetness.
Sand squishes around my feet as I just stand there.
It feels wonderful.  Cool and refreshing.
I stand a moment before looking over my shoulder.  I can see His house, I know I should climb back onto the Rock, I have not gone so far that I cannot go back.
I turn away, back to the water.
But it feels so good!  What is so wrong with this?
I lift my foot from the sand and break the surface of the water with my toes.  I can see the sand washing away in the gentle current.
Bringing my foot back down I plant it further away from where it had previously been.
If I wanted to I could easily switch my weight to that foot and that would bring me even deeper into the water.
I hesitate, then take a step.
I freeze, almost expecting some awful river creature to come and swallow me whole for my wrongdoing.
Nothing happens.
Slightly surprised that nothing happened I take another step.  I drop my eyes to the water and my dress catches my eye.
My dress, once crisp, clean and white, a gift from Him, is now soggy and dirty on the hem.  He told me, when He’d given me my new clothes, to keep them pure and clean.  Now the grimy looking hem proved I had not.
But, maybe I could clean it.  It was, after all, just the hem.
I push the thoughts aside and continue to walk carefully about in the water, which is quickly climbing to my knees.
The feel of the water, the new experience, makes me forget my worries.  Soon I’m happily jumping and walking around in the river.
So caught up in the experience I don’t notice how the water has risen and is moving much faster now.
Then, all of a sudden, the ground beneath my feet vanishes.  I stepped off the edge of a drop-off.
Water covers my head and I’m lost and confused.
I flail my arms, trying to fight my way to the surface, whichever way that is.
My air is running out and I can’t figure out which way is up.
Everything is dark, I’m scared.
Finally my head breaks through the water and I refill my lungs in a gasp only to sink back down again.
Kicking my legs and moving my arms brings me to the top again.
Another gasp.
I quickly open my eyes, trying to figure out where I am and where I should go.
I can see the shore, His house, I know where safety is, I just can’t get there.
I sink again.
The water, once cool, clear and inviting is now dark, fierce and threatening.  Almost as if it’s pulling me down further into its depths.
Kicking even more furiously than before I come above water once more.
Gasping and coughing I try to yell for help but cannot.
Down again.
More kicking, more struggling.  Choking in the water.
Up again.  I’m tired, weary, afraid, I can’t do this!
“Jesus!” I cough out.
Down under I go, only this time I do not have the strength to fight any more.  I sink further than before but I’ve used up all my strength.
Then, from seemingly out of nowhere, a strong hand wraps around my arm and pulls me back up.
Still too tired to move I just let myself be lifted up out of the water and carried in someone’s strong, protective arms.
I notice how easily and smoothly this person walks through the rushing river, as if it wasn’t there at all.
Once at the shore I’m laid once again on my Rock.
Breathing heavily I lie there with my eyes closed.
I can feel the presence of someone kneeling beside me.
Slowly I open my eyes.
It’s Him!
Ashamed, excited, afraid and guilty I just look into His kind face.
I cannot tell what He’s thinking.
“Jesus.  I’m … I’m so sorry.”
“I know.”
“I didn’t mean to go that far.  I couldn’t stop.”
“I know.”
“I disobeyed.  I’ve shamed You.”
“I know.”
I stop, each softly spoken “I know” still in my ears.  Images of Him saving me come to my mind.
“You … You know and You … You still saved me?”
“Why would I just let you drown?”
“Because I did not listen to You.”
A smile lifts His mouth.  “I am not like that.  Just because you disobey doesn’t mean I’ll not help you when you call.”
I frown.  “You heard me?  But it was only once and I was choking.  How could You have heard me?”
“I was waiting for you to realize you needed Me.  That you couldn’t do it on your own.  I was watching you.  I always hear when My people call for Me, even if it’s only whispered.”
It takes me a short while to fully understand His kindness and love.
“And child.”
I look into His eyes.
“When you are tempted, come to Me.  Resist the river and come.  I will help you and strengthen you.  I will help you.  I am all you need.  My grace is enough for you.”


Wednesday, 30 June 2010

The Battle Ground ...

I open my eyes, the muddy ground comes into focus.
I should be past here … I should be further.  I shouldn’t be here, but I am.
I lift my head from the ground … the still, unmoved, undisturbed ground.
It shouldn’t look so still, there should be much disturbance in the mud, but there isn’t.  I went down without a fight.
I push myself up and rest on my hands and knees, my head hanging in shame.
As my head hangs I open my eyes and can see the path by which I came.  I can see, a ways back, where I lost my helmet.  A little closer lies my breastplate and belt.  Closer still my sword.
I close my eyes again, tight.  I remember, I can see in my mind’s eye how quickly the enemy’s blows knocked my armor from me.  Blows from him that should have been blocked by me, yet that were not.
After I’d lost my armor all I had were my sword and shield.  Both of which were more than enough to fight with by themselves and in my hands I held both.  Yet still I failed.
With my armor gone I made a defensive swipe with my sword, but my sword was knocked easily aside.
All I had left was my shield … that and to retreat to the shelter of my Lord and Commander.
I blocked a blow or two before my shield was tossed carelessly aside by my foe.
I stood before him, weak, and yet I did not run to the shelter I knew awaited me with my Commander.
I could hear the gentle calls, “Come to Me,” from my Lord, but I heeded them not.
With one easy blow my enemy knocked me to the ground.  Laughing, he walked away.  He had not expected me to give much of a fight and I had not disappointed him.
I opened my eyes again, shook my head and fell back into a sitting position before wearily looking around me.
My sword was closer than I thought.
I reached out and my fingers clasped around it.  With some effort I dragged it to my lap.
My eyes filled with tears as they took in the unused, yet deathly sharp, blade.
It wasn’t that my armor and weapons were inadequate, or useless.  They were all I needed to fight … and win … every battle my enemy brought … if I was willing to use them.
In shame my head fell again.
I didn’t even try.  And as a great sorrow rose in my chest the truth that I hadn’t even wanted to, filled my mind.
I hadn’t even wanted to fight him off.  I hadn’t cared.
Tears fell as I let my sword fall from my hands.
I buried my face in my hands and sobbed.
When my sobs subsided and I again had opened my eyes, my ears detected a sound.
It was the sound my heart and ears had been trained to listen for and learned to love.
But now, the sound brought me much inner turmoil.
His sandaled feet were quiet as He came, but I knew He was coming.
It didn’t take long for Him to arrive.  For a short time He stood quietly behind me.
My mind raced and my heart filled with fears.
Would He disown me?  Would He reject me?  Would He simply leave me here alone?  Would He kill me?
Such questions flooded my thoughts as I waited for Him to say something.
But my Commander did not speak.
Slowly, lovingly, He reached out a strong, able hand and laid it on my shoulder.  His movements were smooth and deliberate, without the slightest hint of hesitation.  In spite of how I’d failed Him, He lovingly touched me anyway.
I could feel the warmth of his hand on my shoulder.  It took me a moment, but I finally turned my head and lifted my eyes to His.
I was shocked at what I saw.
I expected to see anger, frustration, a look of despising disappointment, but I found none of these there.
Love, compassion, tenderness and mercy are what I found.
“Arise!  Have no fear, My servant,” a smile mingled with the joy in His strong, yet quiet voice.
“But, My Lord, I’ve failed.  I didn’t even try to fight.”  I turned on my knees to face Him.
“I know,” His voice was soft and gentle … understanding.
“You know?  Aren’t You angry with me?”
“No, My child.  I love you.”
I sat in shock.
“But, Commander, I … I lost the battle, I didn’t try.  I have failed You.”
My eyes rapidly searched His kind, peaceful face, but still my eyes found only love, compassion, mercy and grace.
A smile again moved His lips.
“Come, soldier, come rest in My kingdom.  Come, renew your spirit and strength.  Take My strength and wisdom to fight the enemy better next time.  I will help you, I will be there, I always will!  Come, have no fear!”
With His strong arms He lifted me to my feet and held me a moment, steadying me.  Then He reached down and lifted my sword from the ground and handed it to me.
“You failed because you tried to win alone.  I am the only One Who can help you win the battles the enemy brings.  Come, take My hand, rely not on your own strength, but on Mine alone.  Fight with Me and we will have victory!”

Friday, 18 June 2010

Eye of the Storm ~ Chapter 3

“How are you feeling these days Marian?”  The kind doctor looked from the CT scan prints to Marian Walters’ slightly pale, but beautiful face.
“I feel the same, I guess.  Getting more tired each day.”
Doctor Robertson nodded before looking over Marian’s chart.  “And the pain?  Do we need to up your meds again?”
Marian took a moment to respond.  She was very aware of her husband’s presence at her side.
Daniel studied his beloved wife’s features.  Had Marian’s pain been getting worse and she never said anything?
He chided himself for not paying more attention.
“Marian,” Daniel’s softly spoken word brought her eyes to his.  “Do you need stronger meds?”
Marian could feel Daniel’s and the doctor’s eyes on her; searching, waiting.
She gave a small nod and a quietly voiced, “Yes.”
At the pained, worried look in Daniel’s eyes she quickly added, “But I’ve been taking Ibuprofen and it helps.  It’s not a lot more pain than usual.”
The words did very little to comfort Daniel’s heart.  Why hadn’t he seen it?  He should have seen the pain in her eyes, or should have noticed that she was taking more pills.
He’d ask her later why she hadn’t said anything to him.
Doctor Robertson wrote up the prescription and yanked it off the pad.  Marian took the all-too-familiar piece of paper, before gathering her things and standing to leave.
The Doctor opened the door for them and Marian walked through first.
Just as Daniel was going to walk out of the room after his wife, Doctor Robertson laid a hand on his arm.
Daniel met his gaze.
“She loves you, Dan.”
Daniel gave a small frown.  He knew that.
A smile touched Doctor Robertson’s lips.  “That’s why she didn’t tell you.  She doesn’t want you to worry more than you already are.  She knows this is hard enough, she just doesn’t want to add to it.”
Daniel’s weary face didn’t relax with the news.  “I know,” he whispered, turning his eyes forward, out the door.
“And Daniel,” the Doctor’s voice stopped Daniel’s stride, “don’t count the days.”
Surprise widened Daniel’s eyes some.
“You’re tense, tight, the farthest thing from relaxed.  I know it’s hard to be relaxed or calm under the conditions, but Marian can tell how you feel and it makes her uncomfortable and almost scared.  How would you live, love, play, talk, act, or whatever, if it was your last day?  Figure it out and then do it.”  He paused a moment before adding, “Because hers is almost here.”

Coffee, yes!  Grace exited the gas station, coffee in hand and Cole on her hip.
The sun shone brilliantly in the nearly cloudless blue sky.
As she squinted slightly, she was glad she’d taken an extra moment inside the station to lift her sunglasses from her head and put them over her eyes.
Walking across the parking lot to her car she shivered a little as a chilly breeze blew over her.  The day was still young, quite young, in fact.  She knew it would warm up in no time.  This was Texas, after all.
Reaching her SUV she put the coffee cup on the roof of the car and then dug in her purse for the keys she’d chucked in there a few minutes before.
Finding them, she hit the unlock button on the remote before opening the back door and putting Cole in his seat.
Straightening she realized how sore she was.  From lack of sleep, from too much car time, she couldn’t tell.
Grabbing her liquid love from its spot on the roof she slid behind the wheel.
Reaching into the back, she felt around for Cole’s toy bag.  It took a few minutes to locate it before she heaved it up to rest in the passenger seat where she could easily reach it while she drove.
Turning around to look at Cole, she playfully tickled his chubby leg.  “Ready, Bear-bear?  Here we go again.”
Resituating herself in her seat, she clicked the seatbelt and cautiously made her way back out onto the highway.

“Mommy?” Molly Walters’ three-year-old voice crept around the doorframe and into the room, while her little body, and all but her eyes, stayed hidden.
Marian stirred and opened her eyes, locating her daughter’s blue eyes that shyly peaked into the room.
Marian smiled a greeting to her little girl.  “Hi, Molly, Babe.”
Molly smiled now and revealed the rest of her face from behind the wall, completely unaware of the great amount of effort and strength it took her mother to smile at and respond to her.
Truth be told, that’s how Marian wanted it.
Molly now stood in the doorway, hands clasped behind her back, her right foot rocked from one side then to the other as she lifted unsure eyes to her mother’s face.
Marian waited.
“Mama?  Are you sleeping?” was the small, almost whispered questions.
Marian smiled a weary smile, closed her eyes and laid her head back on the pillow.
Before Daniel went to work this morning he’d told the kids, especially Molly, “to let Mommy sleep when she takes a nap”, like he did every morning.
Molly’s blond-haired head had bobbed up and down, making the soft curls in her hair dance.  She tried to be a good girl, really tried.  But it was so hard for little Molly to wait until Marian woke up.  She loved her Mama dearly and wanted to spend every waking moment at her side.
It wasn’t as hard for Justice, however.  Yes, he loved his Mama just as much as Molly, but at six-years-old he wasn’t quiet as clingy.  He was becoming a big boy.
Lilly, on the other hand, was not handling this well.  Marian had had to wean her much earlier than they’d both wanted.  The first few weeks were something akin to torture.  Lilly cried for hours on end and would only take a bottle hours after she was supposed to eat.
That was four months ago.  Her sweet, little eleven-month-old Lilly was, perhaps, okay with drinking from a bottle, but the restrictions Dr. Robertson had put on Marian greatly effected Lilly, too.  Well, actually, Marian’s restrictions greatly effected every Walters family member.
Although she’d been drilled for the past four months by nurses on her restrictions and how they were changing and becoming stronger, Marian paid little attention to them.
Doctors were all overly cautious anyway, right?
Well, most doctors.  Even though Dr. Robertson had given her the restrictions, he didn’t expect Marian to follow them to the letter.  Just most of the way.
She and Dr. Robertson both knew in her situation it wouldn’t make much of a difference whether she followed them or not.
Marian pushed the thoughts aside.
“No, Baby.  Mama’s not sleeping.”
Molly’s face lit up and a second later she was scrambling up the side of the bed to snuggle with Marian.
Marian moved a pillow for her little girl and carefully wrapped an arm around her when Molly was settled.  Planting a kiss on Molly’s blond hair, Marian then laid her cheek against the top of Molly’s head.
How she loved this little girl!
Worries, fears, thoughts and uncertainties filled her mind.  Tears welled in her eyes as the different things in her head swirled around.
Two months.  For Marian, her time had been limited and she was very aware of how short it was.
Her babies needed her.  Daniel needed her.  She need them.  What would happen to them if she wasn’t here?
Maybe the doctors were wrong, maybe there actually was something that could be done.
But even as these hopefully words formed in her heart she knew they were not true.  The tests were unmistakable, they’d gotten many, many opinions from different doctors and specialists, but the results were always the same.
The tumor was very large and inoperable.  No amount of radiation or chemo would help.  The tumor did not respond to any tests, medication or treatment.  Doctors had given her six months.  Now, she was down to two.
It was inevitable, there was nothing anybody could do.
Doctors suggested that she prepare, herself and her family, for the time when she would no longer be here on this earth.
How could anyone prepare themselves, or anyone else, for their death in only six months?
At first it didn’t seem real.  Things went on like normal.  In fact, aside from a little discomfort, Marian felt fine.
Then, in the last month, things went from slowly getting worse to hitting bottom fast.
Marian was in pain nearly all the time, it was hard for her to breathe and she was getting more weary and tired each day.
When things started quickly going down hill Marian and Daniel had decided to tell Justice.  How much he really understood was hard to tell, but he took it as well and as bravely as a six-year-old could.  He tried to be brave and strong “like Daddy”, but Marian could see the fear and worry in his eyes every time she looked at him.  And on top of that, little by little Marian could feel him pulling away from her and Daniel, and it broke her heart.
Eventually they’d told a little bit to Molly.  They’d told her that Mama was very sick and didn’t feel very good.  How much could one explain to a three-year-old about cancer?
As Marian sat, snuggling with Molly, she began to question.  Not the doctors, but God.  She knew if He wanted to, that He could heal her body.  He could allow her the joy of living this life with her precious family.
Why her?  She didn’t want this.  What had she done?  Did she do something to anger God?  She would gladly undo it or take it back, if it meant her healing.
Yet, she knew God didn’t work like that.  She knew there was nothing she had or hadn’t done that could change what God had planned.  God did what He did for His glory and it was up to Marian to respond correctly and in a way that would honor Him, hurtful and painful as it may be.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Eye of the Storm ~ Chapter 2

(Click here for Chapter 1)
(Click here for Chapter 3)

“No!”  Grace sat upright in a flash.  A cold sweat made her skin shine.
Deep, heaving breaths raised her chest in rapid up and down movements.  She lifted her hand and pushed some damp hair off her wet forehead and cheeks.
She looked at the clock through the tears in her eyes.  3:30 a.m.  Half an hour since she woke up last time.
Sighing she pulled her knees up to her chest.  Resting her arm on her knees and her head on her hand she tried to calm her rapidly thumping heart.
It was always the same: the same nightmare, the same scenes, the same ending: the same pain, tears, heartbreak and devastation.
Her nightmares were always about Collin.  And they were always replays of her actual life.
Collin, her wonderful, handsome, husband of three years.  Three wonderful, amazing, blissful years.
Then he was deployed to Iraq.  He was supposed to be overseas for just over a year.
So, he’d packed his cases and all the things he’d needed.  He’d waved goodbye, that dreadful, early morning the day the large silver monster, known as a bus, shuttled him and the other men in his unit to the airport.
He’d kissed her and their five-month-old son goodbye, with a promise to, “be back before you know it.”
Then the end of her life, as she knew it, hit her hard.
A week before he was due home, two men in important-looking uniforms showed up on base in a shiny black car.
It was the car that every Marine wife shunned, dreaded and feared.
The car slowly drove through the base streets and every wife, whose husband was deployed, held her breath as the car slowly snaked by her house.  Then, when it was past, they’d let their breath out in a whoosh of relief and then watch to see where the car would stop.
Grace had also stopped what she was doing in the front yard and held her breath as the car approached up the street.  Although, for her there was no whoosh of relief.  As the car pulled to a stop in front of her house and the click, click of their shoes echoed in the still air, the breath she’d been holding in came out in a choked sob.
Cole had been playing happily on the lush, green lawn nearby.  Grace wanted to grab him and run inside, hiding her and her son away from the cloud of hurt, pain and grief that floated above the men.
The men’s faces were solemn, yet soft and caring eyes watched her as they came to stand in front of her.
Grace had started to shake her head, making the tears in her eyes spill down her cheeks as she gasped, “No, please no,” in a quiet, scratchy whisper.
The men had suggested that they go inside.
Grace had shakily gathered Cole and went inside, trying to get a hold of herself, but was unsuccessful.
Many more tears, many sobs from Grace and many, “I’m sorry,”s from the men.  Even more, “He was a good man and Marine.”
Then it was, “When we have his personal effects we will be sure to get them to you right away.”
Then they’d left.  Then there was silence.  Then Grace had fallen apart.  Unable to control herself, she sobbed and sobbed.
The funeral was torture.  So many people trying to console her broken heart, but only making it worse.  They had no idea what she was going through.
That was three weeks ago, almost four.
Her hand went to her neck and found the little chain that had become practically attached to her.
Pulling on the chain produced a soft clanking sound as metal hit metal before Collin’s dog tags fell over the collar of one of his old t-shirts that Grace wore to bed each night.
She quickly snatched them up and held them in a tight fist.
A gentle sigh rose from beside her on the bed and she turned to look down at Cole.  He looked so much like his father.  More and more each day, in fact: his dark brown hair, his big brown eyes, his smile, his facial structure.  He was, no doubt, Collin’s son.  It almost hurt to look at him.
She laid back and propped herself up on her elbow and studied Cole in the faint light filtering through the curtains.  She lifted a hand and ran her fingers through his hair.
She doubted Cole remembered Collin.  He was only five months when Collin had left and he had never seen Collin again.  And neither had she.  She wished, with all her heart, that Cole had had a chance to meet and get to know Collin.  He was his father, after all.
“Oh, Lord, what am I going to do?”  She laid all the way back and stared up at the dark ceiling.
Big tears seeped from the corners of her eyes as she pulled the blanket up.
She rolled to her side, scooted down further in the sheets and pulled the covers up more to tuck under her chin, trying to give herself even the slightest feeling of comfort and security.  Yet, she found none, and as the tears slid silently from her eyes, she felt more and more lost and alone.


Sun leaked into the room through the curtains that didn’t quite touch in the middle.
The warmth of the sun streaked right across Grace’s swollen, tired eyes.
Coming out of a deep, exhausted sleep, Grace smeared one hand across her face, moaned and rolled over.
Couldn’t the world just pause when she actually did sleep?  Why was it that when she was generally falling into a deep sleep everyone else was just starting their day?
Hoping to fall back asleep she shifted ever so slightly to get comfortable and sighed to relax herself.
Thinking she might actually succeed in sleeping again, she started to drift slowly out of consciousness.
A second longer and she would have been asleep, if it wasn’t for the little hands on her arm.  Then the weight of a small body leaning over her.
Slowly and with great effort she forced herself to open her eyes.  The first thing that came into focus were two big, smiling brown eyes.
“Mom?”  A small happy voice filtered through her foggy cloud.
She closed her eyes again.  “Hmmmm?”  If she didn’t use words maybe she could still pretend to be sleeping.
“Mom?” his sing-song call came more easily through her fog this time.
“Cubby, Mommy is sleeping,” she mumbled.
Silence and then a giggle.  “No.”
The giggle communicated perfectly that he didn’t believe her, but the laughed-out “no” only emphasized that truth.
Slowly she peaked out of one squinting eye into the merry face of Colby.  The smile clearly showed he was not fooled.
Well, there was no chance for sleep now.  So she might as well try to be awake, like she belonged among the living.  And she was going to start by loving her little man.
Before Cole knew what was happening, Grace had wrapped her arms around him and was covering his little face with kisses.  Then she landed him on his back on the bed and proceeded to tickle his tiny, wiggling body.
Giggles washed over her as she mercilessly tickled and tickled.
A smile spread over Grace’s face as she saw the joy in Cole’s.
She wouldn’t say she was happy or joyful, she hadn’t been able to be happy or joyful the last few weeks, but she was enjoying herself.
A few more moments of tickling before she collapsed next to him on the bed, softly giggling to herself.
Sighing, she looked at the clock.  7:45 a.m.  If she’d slept the whole night, she would have gotten five hours of sleep.  But she hadn’t slept the whole night.  A couple hours at most.
She seriously needed more sleep.  The up-side of her nights, though, was Cole was sleeping better.  She was very thankful for that.
Laying her arm across her forehead, her mind went to her day.
She wanted to make it to somewhere in Louisiana today.  Right now she was in the middle of Texas.  If she drove all day she could make it.
Day three of her travel-across-America trip and she was already more than ready to done.
Another sigh lifted her chest before she pushed herself to a sitting position.
Moving the hair that had fallen into her eyes, she decided she should probably take a shower.  It had been a few days since she’d even thought of showering.  Pretty much all she’d been thinking about lately was Collin, where to go now, and how to get there.
Half an hour later she was showered, dried and dressed.  Walking around the hotel room, she tried to make sure that she’d gotten everything that belonged to her and Bear Cub.
She smiled.  When Collin had started calling Colby Bear Cub shortly after Cole was born, it just kind stuck.  It changed form every now and then, to the point where Colby was Cubby, Cub, Bear-bear or Bear but Grace liked it, and it reminded her of Collin and how much he loved her and also Colby.
When she was sure that she’d gotten everything packed up and ready to go she hauled her things outside, packed the car and headed for the front desk to sign out of her room.
Next stop?  Gas-station, her car needed gas and she desperately needed caffeine.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Eye of the Storm ~ Chapter 1

Please, if you find something that needs tweaked, changed or just suggestions (or just let me know what you think of it as a whole!) ... let me know, my e-mail is on the sidebar, or just leave a comment.  Also, please keep in mind, this is just the first draft and is likely to change, many times. This is just a "see-how-it-goes-over" try. Thanks! (For Chapter 2 click here)

Rain pattered endlessly on the windshield.  The wipers made another pass and the road came into view again.
Grace stared down the stretch of highway, or at least as much as she could see through the darkness that had quickly gathered.
The coffee in the gas station Styrofoam cup was becoming less than warm.  She didn’t like it when her coffee went cold.  If the coffee was meant to be cold she would have bought it cold, but when she bought a hot coffee she wanted it hot.
Her eyes scanned the signs as best she could in the passing light of her headlights.
Another thirty to forty minutes before the next town.  Her eyes dropped to the dashboard clock.
11:30 p.m.
Another late night.  She shouldn’t be surprised, late nights were becoming rather common for her.
A gentle shake of her coffee cup provided her with the information that her coffee was nearly gone.  And, cold as it may be, this coffee cup was her only source of caffeine.
She saw dim lights appear from the darkness ahead and hoped with all her might it would be a gas station.
Her eyes drifted to the review mirror.  Although there was no light in the back seat, there was enough light that reached its fingers back from the front to illume the little form in the back.
The shape of a car seat came to her eyes and a second later, after her eyes adjusted, the small form of Colby was barely visible.
His one-and-a-half-year-old frame slumped to one side of his car seat.  He’d fallen asleep hours ago.  But who could blame him?  This would be their second night in a hotel, once she found one, that is.
But, the truth of the matter was that neither she nor Colby, Cole for short, had been sleeping well the last couple of weeks.
Her mind started to drift back, memories flooded her tired mind.
Kind, brown eyes floated into her mind, a soft smile accompanied them.
She could still see every detail of his handsome face.  She could still …
Gas station!
She flipped on her blinker and moved to turn into the parking lot.
Pulling up to the building she sat a moment, contemplating her options.
She decided to turn her vehicle off and lock the doors, leaving Cole in his car seat to sleep.  She would be three or four minutes, five tops.
Digging through her purse, she searched for some kind of way to pay for her much-needed liquid caffeine: paper, plastic, coin, something.
Blue-silver light worked hard to make it across the parking lot and into her cross-over SUV.
Yes!  Success!  Quite a few tarnished looking coins and a crumpled dollar made up her payment method.
Grace shoved open the SUV’s door, hoping the shine from the dome light wouldn’t wake her little man.
As she stood and closed the door as quietly as she could, a gentle, warm breeze lifted the wispy hairs at the base of her head that couldn’t quite stay in the high ponytail.
The rain had all but stopped now, which was strange, since it was pouring a couple miles back on the highway.
The warm touch of the breeze’s soft fingers brought back a rush of memories.  She lifted her eyes to the star-filled, dark sky.  As the memories rushed by in her mind, one in particular came forward.
Staring up at the sky, she remembered a night, much like this.  A warm, strong hand held hers tightly as they meandered around the well-known acreage of the park’s woods.
Grace dropped her tear-filled eyes to the landscape around her.
Where was she?  All that came to her eyes were miles and miles of places she’d never seen before.
How did she come to be here?  What was she doing?  Where was she going?  What was she going to do?
Closing her eyes pushed big, hot, all-too-common tears down her face.  Hoping against reality and reason that when she opened her eyes she’d find this nothing more than a horrible nightmare, she sucked in a breath and slowly opened her eyes.  But, just like the last millions of times she’d tried to imagine this all away, she found herself right in the middle of this horrible, totally real nightmare.
Another deep breath was drawn in, in an attempt to calm the tumultuous storm in her heart.  Brushing the tears from her face, she lifted her head some and went inside.
The bright lighting in the gas station was a bit of a shock after the dark car and she squinted a little as she scanned the premises for the coffee she so desperately needed.
She quickly made her way to the machine, remembering little, sleeping Cole.  Coffee, check.  Cream and a little bit of sugar, check and check.
Making her way to the counter, she dug in the pocket of her jeans and pulled out her money.  Looking down at her sad excuse for money she waited for the clerk to tell her the total.
Grace had all she could do to not gawk at the kind-looking lady behind the counter.
Highway robbery!  Literal highway robbery.  Two dollars and thirty cents for a 20 ounce coffee!?
Okay, let’s see, Grace thought as she tried to smooth out the crumpled-beyond recognition bill.
$1.00.  Then a dollar in quarters.  Well, over half way there.  $2.10.  $2.15.
An embarrassed sort of smile lifted Grace’s lips as she brought her eyes to the lady’s.
$2.16.  $2.17.  $2.18.  $2.19 … Grace could have bawled.
$2.19?  That’s all she had?  Surely not!  Her hand went to her pocket again.  Searching, hoping, willing there to be more money.
Nothing.  Bummer!  The other pocket.
Another embarrassed, almost pitiful smile at the lady waiting on the money.
Back pockets.  Nothing in the right pocket.
Oh, please, oh, please, oh, please, Grace’s thoughts repeated.
Searching, probing, longing for something to be in her pocket.
Please, please, please.  Nothing.  Ugh!  Pa-leeze!
A nervous chuckle and a small grin.
Still searching, still hoping, still willing.
Wait!  What was that?
Her fingers grasped at the little metal circle in her back pocket.  Pulling it out she brought it up for examination.
A dime! Oh, yes!  A dime!  She smiled.
Okay, she quickly counted the money again.  Plus ten cents.  $2.29!
Her victory smile started to fade.  What?!  No!
She lifted discouraged eyes to the clerk again.
The lady behind the counter smiled and lifted up a penny.  “You look like you’re in desperate need of this coffee.”
Grace smiled and sighed.  “You don’t know the half of it.”
Grabbing her coffee she gave a heartfelt “Thank you so much,” to the smiling lady and headed back out to her car.
A sigh lifted Grace’s shoulders.  With the way things are going I’ll probably have locked my keys in my car, she thought dryly.
Reaching her car she dug her hand into her pocket for her keys.
She closed her eyes, defeated and ready to collapse from exhaustion and weariness.
She let her head fall back and let out a low groan.  She felt like bawling again.
She composed herself as best she could and bent to look in the car window.
No keys.  But there, sitting inside the locked car, on the passenger seat was her cell phone.  After the ordeal in the gas station, she knew the only money she had to use a payphone, if need be, was locked in the SUV as well.  She was sure she was going to bawl now.
She straightened and rubbed the back of her neck through the whisper of hair hanging there.
The question nearly startled Grace.  She hadn’t heard or seen anyone walk up.  She turned her head to see the clerk lady, then smiled with great effort.  “Yes?”
The lady’s red, sleek-looking ponytail moved in the breeze.  “You left these inside.”
Grace dropped her eyes to the lady’s outstretched hand.  “Oh,” she almost gasped as she reached out to take the keys from the clerk’s hand.  “Thank you so much, again.”  This time Grace’s smile was genuine.
The clerk’s gray eyes twinkled in the little light that there was.  “You’re welcome.”
Grace watched as the clerk turned to go back inside.
“Thank You, Lord,” Grace whispered softly as she raised her eyes to take in the stars one last time.
Another sigh.  “I feel so lost, Lord.  Like I’m falling apart.”
She waited only a second longer before she unlocked her car and slid behind the wheel.

Feeling slightly acrobatic, Grace balanced the heavy car seat on one hip with a bag and purse on her other arm, watching so as not to trip over the small rolling suite case on the floor by her feet, which she’d just set there.  Careful not to drop anything, she slid the card key into the hotel door lock and opened the door.  Pushing it open more with her foot, she then proceeded to carefully kick the small rolling case into the room and slowly, somewhat tipsily, moved herself into the room as well.
She then kicked the door closed behind her before she dropped the bags on the floor, then turned her attention to carefully set the car seat on the floor.
Not wanting to wake Cole she’d just unbuckled the car seat and carried it in, rather than removing him from the seat.
With that accomplished, she sighed and ran her hands down the front of her jeans.
Her head hurt, her body ached and if she didn’t go to sleep soon she’d start seeing double.
Carefully she pulled out her ponytail and let her hair fall.  Trying to bring some semblance of order to her hair, she ran her fingers through the tangled mess.  The first couple passes went well, but on the third try her hair got wrapped around and stuck on her diamond ring.
It took a little bit of work to get it out, but soon it was free and she was pulling the last few strands off her ring.
The diamond glittered and shone even in the dim light of the room.
A sad smile spread across her face as she remembered the day it was put there.
Everything was practically perfect.  Things went smoothly.  It was like her fairytale life had come true and nothing could have made it better.  She’d married the most handsome, most kind, most wonderful man she’d ever known.
God had blessed her with so much more than she’d ever thought of.  How wonderful, how blessed God had made her life.
But then, it was as if God had removed His hand.  The blessings He’d bestowed upon her had been ripped painfully from her heart and life.  Well, most of them anyway.  She still had Colby.
She looked over at his sleeping form, still safely buckled in his car seat.  How she did love that little boy!
Tears formed in her eyes.  She sighed and rolled her eyes.  She’d never been a cry-baby, but these days everything made her cry.
She moved to open her suite case and ready herself for bed.
After she was ready for bed she unbuckled Cole, changed his diaper and snuggled him under the covers on the bed.  He woke and stirred some when she moved him and changed his diaper.  She decided he could sleep in his clothes.  The less she moved him the better, if she wanted him to stay asleep.
With Cole tucked in, she made sure she did everything she needed to do and then crawled in bed, next to Cole.
Rolling over, her eyes took in the red numbers on the bedside clock.  2:30 a.m.
At least it was earlier than last night.  But if she slept like she had been sleeping, it wouldn’t really matter what time she went to bed, she wouldn’t sleep much anyway.