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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.