It is 4:29 in the morning and gratefully I am awake after five hours of sleep. God usually whispers “Come with me” at this time. This morning He and I will discuss the COVID-19 vaccination. Again. Our appointment is at 8:15. Today is the day. We comply with the government’s request to take this preventive measure.
No, I am not sure about this.
Our household of three had COVID in December of 2020. Of the three of us, I am the one with lasting side effects. My eyesight was weakened. I am also the one whose immune system and health history make me more vulnerable to take anything “experimental”.
For me the more the government pushes this vaccine the more I hesitate. Why?
Simple, no one can be trusted to speak the truth. Certainly not Dr. Falsely. (Misspelling intended). Nor the CDC or WHO. Neither can government officials. My own health care providers listen to my concerns and reply with the same assurances. Like every one is reading the same cue card. The risk is minimal, take the vaccine.
By nature I am a rule keeper. But, this time I am unsure. Let’s be frank, the whole COVID experience is fraught with too many questions and too few answers.
For all those assuring me the risks are minimal I wearily reply that they themselves have no idea what it is like to be in that small percentage. I do.
Herd mentality is aggressively pushing us to shut up and take the shot, get in line again and take it again. Oh, and be prepared to repeat the process in six months to a year. Wear a mask, wear two no three masks! How selfish to even think about non-compliance. I am not prepared to be an obedient cow on this. Are you?
What I am sure about is God not allowing evil to prevail. I am confident He knows the future and that He will walk me through whatever the outcome of this vaccine is for me. I am reminded that the moments and minutes I live and breathe right now at 5:18 in the morning are miraculous. I have been on the literal edge of death before and God chose to spare me for this morning.
He is trustworthy. By His very nature He is not a liar. When that needle slides into my arm later this morning I am sure that my Heavenly Father loves me and is with me. Plus, if He does not want me to take the shot He will clearly show me this too.
What brings me joy from the depths of my heart? Here’s a partial list.
in the approaching dawn hours of the night when the flow of my laptop screen weakly illuminates my keyboarding fingers as I give free reign to the thoughts in my head. Especially when what has kept me awake or awakened me is a call to prayer.
when I am reading and studying the Word of God and He opens my mind to His understanding.
catching a glimpse of Heaven.
when my husband and I hold hands when going about our lives…for example, in church as we gather with other Believers to worship, in the car as we ride down the road, watching a television show or movie together, and in the time we are asleep and we reach for one another’s hand.
hearing the laughter of our daughter.
listening to my husband sing bass in the worship team on Sunday mornings.
being in the midst of our nieces and nephews.
being caught up in the creative process of drawing, painting, crafting, writing.
breathing in the ocean breeze as I enjoy being beachside in the fall and winter months.
paying our bills.
cooking and baking.
reading a good book.
The older I get, the less my true joy stems from materialistic things. When people ask, “What do you want for _______________”? I realize anew that there’s not really anything I want, nothing you can purchase online or in the store, wrap and tie up with a bow. Things are easily broken, wear out, can be stolen, lost or outgrown.
Instead joy, for me, is pure abandonment of want and being fully open to the presence of God in the moment I am living at that time. It is the realization that at that time my heart and soul have been flooded with the perfect love of God and His blessings. This joy is the complete, absolute of God’s love, provision and care for me and my family.
Where does your joy come from? What is the source of it?
being with a group of family or friends?
Maybe your list is a bit similar to mine. Maybe it is totally different. Maybe you can list what brings joy to your heart without much thought. Maybe you need time to let the question simmer on the back-eye of the stove for a while. Neither way is right or wrong.
Joy does not come only in the good times. It comes also after times of hardship, disappointment and when we know we have given the Lord a reason to be angry with us.
Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
The Holy Bible New International Version, 1973, 1978. Zondervan Publishing Corporation.
Life does not always present joy to us in a pretty package and decorated with beautiful ribbon and bows. I have come to appreciate that joy has little to do with the circumstances of my life in the moment. Joy comes from perspective. A shift in how we are viewing the events going on in our lives allows the before unseen joys to take the spotlight.
For joy is also given as a fruit of the Spirit as Galatians 5:22 tells us.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Galatians 5:22 (Italics mine.)
The Holy Bible New International Version, 1973, 1978. Zondervan Publishing Corporation.
Joy also arrives when life has given us reason to be anxious. Being a Christian does not mean we do not experience painful things, know disappointment and must learn to trust God in the times it is most difficult.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy.
Psalm 94:18-19 (Italics mine)
The Holy Bible New International Version, 1973, 1978, Zondervan Publishing Corporation.
My prayer for you today is that you will experience joy throughout your day and its source is our shared Lord and Savior.
25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
The Holy Bible, New International Version, Genesis 1:25 & 31, 1973, 1978, Zondervan Publishing Corporation
By now, if you are familiar with this blog, you must be acquainted with our daughter’s two cats. Meatball and Spaghetti. Both have black fur and are American Shorthairs. Spaghetti is most easily identifiable because when she “found us” she was sadly missing all but about 3 inches of her tail. (Which has finally healed. Hurray!)
These two wonder cats have set up school in our household. Here’s some of the things Meatball and Spaghetti have taught us. (Lessons in no particular order.)
CATS ARE INDEPENDENTANIMALS. It is true, cats are independent animals. In the wild they fend for themselves. As people we’ve domesticated certain animals to be “pets”. Initially though, in the beginning of existence they were wild. Their DNA is hardwired for self-preservation without humans doing the job. Nothing wrong with that, being who and what they are meant to be. We as humans forget that way to often, but cats will remind you. (Humans will too but that’s a subject for another days blogging.)
THEIR NAILS ARE ALWAYS SHARP:Meatball will kind of, maybe, sort of tolerate a very quick mani/pedi. My job is to do the actual snipping. Never too far up the nail. Never while Meatball is still moving. Our daughter holds the cat, captures and recaptures paws and gently positions each nail so I can clip it.
Forget those electronic “grinders” though. At the sound of one she will rip your internal organs out through your mouth. Seriously, do not think I am over-exaggerating. To accomodate Meatball’s preference (cough, cough) we clip.
As for Spaghetti, she was accustom to outside living when she came to us. Living 20 feet from a very busy road along with some other safety issues for her, she resides on our back screened in porch. (Which is larger than our daughter’s bedroom.) One of us brings her in when the outside temperature drops or bad storms roll in.
However, needed or not, none of us are brave (or insane enough) to clip Spaghetti’s nails. They resemble talons, embed in the carpet when she tries to walk on it and she has known great pain at someone or something else’s will. (Her tail didn’t naturally fall off.)
Because their nails are always sharp, they can accidently scratch you. Cats play too and will play with you. If you do something to them that frightens, threatens or hurts them though, their claws and their teeth will make their presence known.
THEY HAVE A UNIQUE LANGUAGE: I promise you if cats have curse words in their language then Meatball and Spaghetti will put the foulest mouth to shame. There are times when our cats get along beautifully. They are playing together or curled up, even grooming one another and then the fight is on. They hiss, they screech, they yell.
IT IS TRUE, THEY DO NOT LIKE WATER: Because of that the feline bath spa is not open for clients here. Spaghetti has, however, been subjected to one bath since her arrival. It was only because she had been injured. Two adults and four hands were little match for one cat, her teeth and four paws with razors on them.
Once though when Spaghetti was in the bathroom while my husband showered she did stalk the shower curtain. Just at the edge of the floor (its a roll-in, wheelchair accessible shower) he could see her walking one end to the other. Amazed, I guess, that anyone would willingly enter a “room” where it poured rain.
CATS DO NOT SUBMIT WELL TO LEASHES. Our daughter has tried, starting especially with Meatball when she was younger, to train both cats on being on a leash. Guess what? Cats are not dogs. Cats have instincts that refuse to submit to being on a leash and “walked”.
Owner: "Look Spaghetti and Meatball. See? Other cats can be walked on a leash."
Cats: "If all the other cats jumped off a cliff, do you want us to jump?"
Owner: "Of course not. Other owners have taught their cats to walk on a leash is all I am pointing out."
Cats: "Ah. Well, you are not those other owners, now are you?"
Meatball simply sits or lays down and stares at you like you have grown two heads, maybe three. Instead of walking while you hold the leash, this one lifts up on her tippity toes and refuses to move, or allows you to pull her along.
Spaghetti? In a split second she can get out of a harness and be gone before you put her on the ground. (Hence her runaway gig a bit ago.) She’s a harness and leash Houdini.
CATS ARE NOT QUIET ALL THE TIME. Our felines are like kids in that when you do not hear or see them, you should jump up to investigate because they are into something. Recently my husband and I were in our room doing our own thing. Outside it is cold, and rainy so both cats were in our daughter’s room. Our daughter is at work. Then my senses hear the silence.
Me: "Honey, what are the cats doing?"
Husband: "Oh, I'm sure they are fine, probably having a cat nap."
Splat! Something or some feline is greeting the wall in a personal way. Crash! There goes whatever they’ve managed to knock off or over. Bang! Hiss! Crunch! Louder hiss. Crash! Again with something bouncing off the wall.
By the time my husband reached the bedroom it was too late. Food and water bowls empty, contents everywhere, water mixing with the food and some litter into a truly disgusting sight. Litter box close to empty of all unused litter. Items from our daughters shelves laying helter-skelter in her floor. Cat condo knocked over. Toys scattered. Dirty clothes have been thrown out of the clothes basket. It was a mess. So cats are not always quiet and they are not neat and tidy.
CATS TREAT YOU LIKE YOU TREAT THEM. If you are kind to a cat, you have a much higher chance that the feline will be nice to you. If you aren’t chasing it, pulling its tail, or bullying in some way cats aren’t likely go to return the attention. Rough housing has its place but it isn’t with an animal (even one with talon claws and vampire looking teeth). Its one thing to play with your pet and another to bully.
Our nieces and nephews are a great source of love, comfort and joy for their funcle (fun uncle) and I. On a recent occasion we were together one of eight-year-old nieces was in a mood. She was hot. She was cold. Her hair should be up, no she wanted it down. Why was the drive taking so long? Why were we there so quickly? She was finding little happiness in anything.
I called her over and gave her a huge hug. Kissed her forehead and said, “Now what’s going on with you Miss Moody?” Nothing. No reply.
I told her, “I see something has you unhappy and I’m sorry. I just want you to know you are the apple of my eye.” From her face hidden on my shoulder she peeked up at me.
“Oh, he’s the orange,” I said.
She popped up and grinned. “The orange?”
She sat back down a happier child. Proceeded to eat her seven shrimp and five of mine, plus a piece of broccoli from her funcle’s plate. All her crankiness did not melt away but she giggled more and lunch was a happier experience for us all.
I understood how she felt. How often do I feel the need to feel God’s arms holding me and hear Him tell me He loves me? All the time. On this day whatever had our niece in mood was set right by the reminder she was extra special to me. She is extra special. Everyone of our nine nieces and nephews are special to us. We love the love and joy they bring to us and we try to give them love and joy too.
Today, look up to God and ask Him for a hug and reminder of how much He loves you. There is no shame in asking for what you need. Then pray about the person in your life that needs the same reminder from you.
Been thinking about elected officials a lot, especially the last two presidential elections. For the last 20 years as I have witnessed the caliber of candidates running for official offices I find myself asking “Who is their right mind would run for any office”? Especially for President of the United States. “Who is worthy of holding the office?” “Whose life, not just their own lives but their family’s and anyone else who knows them, can withstand the scrutiny?”
Should your life survive the search for dirt or any thing that could be blown up to be dirt it doesn’t matter. Your opposition, whether a person or a political party or the media, will gleefully invent one on you. Then these same people will never let the argument against you winning die. Ever.
No, I am not suggesting that just anyone should be able to be the President of the United States, a senator, a representative, governor, supreme court judge or dog catcher. These people in these leadership positions in our country should be men and women of integrity, honesty, sound judgment and whose life reflects wise discernment. They should also not be a person who has been on the wrong side of the law or who takes the law into their own hands. Their work and life should give them the experience to take what they know, listening skills, and a sense of right from wrong and put it to work for “we the people”.
Every person on planet Earth is a flawed human being. Because of that we cannot live perfect lives. Show me one man/woman who makes the claim they are perfect, never making a mistake or failing to exercise good decision making skills and I will show you a liar.
In John 8: 1-11 Jesus was questioned by the teachers of the law and the Pharisees who had brought a woman accused of adultery before him for his take on the matter.
“Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ ”
The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973, 1978; The Zondervan Corporation.
Who fits these qualifications? In the movie Courageous the dad whose young daughter was killed in an automobile accident asks a large congregation, Where are you men of integrity? Since it was a movie multiple men stood. Real life is not a movie and can not be scripted. My question though is still, “Where are you people of integrity? You people of character and sound judgment? Who will stand in the gap* for all American citizens and not be bought off?”
*”I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.” (Ezekiel 22:30 NIV)
The Holy Bible, New International Version, 1973,1978; The Zondervan Corporation.
Can we really ask for candidates and leaders who are perfect? In doing so we, if honest, would eliminate everyone before they signed the paperwork stating their intention to run for office. I have felt like I was casting a vote for the least of two evils for the last twenty plus years. Prior to those years I didn’t exercise good judgment when voting. Not quite understanding the connection between my vote and the weight it carried when it came to running this country.
For example, I remember voting for Bill Clinton once. Why? Because I agreed with his policies? Proposed ideas? No, he was a guest on Arsenio Hall’s late night talk show and he played the saxophone. I thought it was so cool that a president would be so “normal” so “cool”. I learned a powerful lesson in that thought process.
Where are candidates who possess character? (Character as in truthful, doing the right thing in a situation or standing up to the influence of evil to do the right thing.) Not character as in, “What a character they are” that everyone laughs and jokes about. The latter we have more than enough of!
Right now I can not name one politician that I would put my trust in. Not one. I try to understand people’s reasons for voting for someone and I end up shaking my head. Here in our state we elected a former SEC football coach to be a senator. He worked in the football arena for 40 years. But his coaching is not a record on which to base a political career. He was even a legal resident of Florida when he agreed to throw his cap into the senate race. This man was not qualified to run and yet because citizens of our state were sick of the one he was running against, the coach won easily.
A consequence of political games is that in the event of and aftermath of bad leadership American’s are sick and tired of games as usual. We have no one to truly trust. In the lack of someone standing in the gap for us, we are hurling ourselves off the edges of cliffs and there are no safety nets.
I repeat, “Where are those people of integrity who we need to help seek political office”? They will not be found trying to bully anyone with an opinion or way of life that differs from their own, They will not be found breaking into any thing, a federal, state, city or personal piece of property. They will not be found setting fire to businesses. They will not be found murdering anyone whether in seemingly righteous anger or any other kind of anger. They can not be found among criminals. They cannot be found in abusing the power of any badge or office. They cannot be found if among those who have no respect for all life.
It is possible to become addicted to nearly everything. Street drugs, over-the-counter and prescribed medication , alcohol, sports, shopping, anger, people and even sex just for starters. Anything that can be misused and abused in one’s life can become an addiction. It can quickly occur in the life of the person involved.
A surgery leads to a lot of pain that doctors ease with medication. No one starts out thinking, “I’m going to make myself addicted to these pain killers”. Your pain is real. The relief from the pain medication is real. Then you discover the extra dose, or two pills instead of one eases the pain even quicker.
Today most doctors are more aware of the patient who is abusing their medication. Doctor shopping is harder to accomplish. Still, it’s possible to find yourself addicted to prescribed medication quickly.
There are lots of “tells”. Prescriptions run out before the due refill date. Doctors don’t want to prescribe more to you. Your thoughts center on when you can take your next dose or if two pills give you the relief you used to get. Do you need three?
Thought patterns change and shift. You no longer think about spending time with family, your job, your church, being financially responsible, instead you are consumed with the object or person you’ve become addicted to. You need it or them more than anything else. Test yourself, In a conversation with someone focus on how many times you say the word “I”.
“I’m in so much pain.”
“I just can’t wait until the six hours pass.”
“I can’t believe it, someone is stealing my medication.”
“I am going to have the manager change my locks. Someone is getting in here and messing with my pain pills.”
“I feel”, “I want”, “I need”.
Addiction is no respecter of social class, wealth or lack of, education levels, life circumstances, gender, marital or parental status, age or anything else. When it breeds in you it consumes you, your mind, your heart and your money. Those left in your life, witnessing this, are confronted with a situation most of the time they have no idea of how to handle.
In our family recently we tried to confront the person gently but firmly. The person has a difficult personality that combined with her addiction proves her deafness isn’t only with her ears. Until she allows us to speak candidly with her doctors we are limited in the conversation we can have with them. Reality is it’s going to be a hard road for us all.
The harshest truth is that you can send them to rehab, you can alert doctors, guilt the addicted to see what they’re doing to their children or grandchildren but until they themselves want free of the addiction it’s useless. This health crisis the world is experiencing due to COVID-19 isn’t helpful. In person, face-to-face contact is so limited. The computer screen, in my opinion, only adds a layer of denial for the addicted. The numbers already show an increase in depression and anxiety, and no additional mental health issues are helpful to an addict.
This is the first straight-up addiction problem our family as a whole has faced together. Thankfully, we’re recognizing it early and are in agreement to continue to pursue all avenues open to us to help our loved one. We all have to help one another not to get to that place of no longer caring about what happens to the addicted because of the pain wrought in our lives long before this became an issue. We will pursue help for ourselves to help this family member.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4: 6-7, New International Version, 1973, 1978, Zondervan Corporation.
Though we’re new to this link of the journey through life we are far from alone. We’re also depending on God to help us through this.
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.”
Ecclesiastes 1:9-10, New International Version, 1973, 1978, Zondervan Corporation.
Everyone has their own idea of what is exciting. Does your heart sometimes cry out for a new adventure? Something new and exciting to get your blood pumping and heart racing?
For some it’s physical adventures like ziplining, bungee jumping, wrestling an alligator or cliff diving. For others its more cerebral, like a visit to a new museum, reading a new book from a much loved author or a brand new one or even debating upon a subject you’re passionate about.
Of course there’s other categories of adventuring too. But, if we apply King Samuel’s point-of-view to life period we may get a new perspective ourselves. King Samuel was King David’s son, they were both the King of Israel in their time. Samuel determined that he would seek from God wisdom. God granted him that request. By asking for wisdom King Samuel wasn’t asking for earthly riches or fame. But to be able to govern and lead the Children of Israel in the ways of God.
King Samuel wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes, located in the Old Testament. It has long been a favorite book of mine and contains my favorite passage, chapter 3 verses 1-15.
I was reminded today that a lot of people are searching for something new under the sun. As we have the cancel culture movement, political upheaval, equality for all races, genders and sexual orientation along with the peaceful protests and not-so-peaceful riots everyone it seems is looking for something.
Will we find it? No. You can’t mix billions of people across the entire world and expect everyone to be happy. Why not?
Because, like it or not, life doesn’t work that way. The power shifts. Those that are bullied and strong-armed find a way to turn the power around. Those that bully become the bullied. We can’t all agree on a single issue. Because we are all imperfect. Because we’ll never all be perfect.
Is there racial inequality? Yes. Is there gender inequality? Yes. Is there discrimination because of sexual orientation, wealth, and even physical ability? Yes. Because we are all imperfect and when we gain something for “our side” or “our people” it’s never enough. Because there are bullies in our leadership that have always been bullies and will always be bullies.
For myself I have a few “aha moments” that shape my conception of this topic.
Being made to give up my front row desk in the first grade to the doctor’s daughter by my own mother who told me to go sit in the back row. She quickly explained who the girl was and no one dared not give her what she wanted. They had money. We did not. She deserved the seat of her choice and me? Obviously I deserved the last.
As a child, teen, young and older adult I have always experienced bullying and shaming over my weight.
In my career I would have human resource directors tell me they’d love to hire me but they had to hire a specific type person to show diversity. When I was in position to help with the decision to employ someone for our team I was told immediately what race of the person I should recommend had to be. Regardless of their skill set, experience and team behavior abilities I would have my choice overriden if I did not recommend a person of a specific race.
As a person in their 30’s suffering with a broken foot in St. Mary’s hospital in Knoxville, Tennessee a nurse, in front of a waiting room full of people and other staff mockingly brought me a child’s wheelchair to sit in since walking on the foot was so painful. Then the x-ray technician walked in, took one look at me and said, “I’m not x-raying that”! They had to find someone else to come in and do the x-ray.
Knowing my leg had developed an infection in it I was forced (it was on a Saturday) to seek medical care from one of those “doc in a box” places. First words out of the doctor’s mouth when he entered the room was, “Well, Mrs. V. I think the problem here is that you’ve gotten so heavy your body temperature gauge is broken.” He meant it as a joke. I didn’t find it funny. So I told him, “You know, I know that I’m not paying a bill for these services” and I wheeled out the door before he could close his mouth and try to get me to come back. (I didn’t pay the bill, my insurance was never charged either.)
As an amputee living life in the “real world” since that day of surgery on June 3, 2011 every single day has been a fight for equality. Regardless of what the American’s with Disabilities Act is intended to do it fails. All the specifications, measurements and well-intended rules are loopholes that companies, governments and people operate legally through every single day. Towns and cities get approval from the courts to delay making a building accessible or sidewalks with cut-outs to allow a wheelchair to be on the sidewalks. And the grandfathered in clause which some admit exists and some deny gets waved over the entire mess on a daily basis.
Yes, it’s impacted my employment, my ability to make equal money compared to the able-bodied people around me while I was doing more than those on equal status with me in the chart of organization. It impacts my ability to travel, attend ballgames, shop, or visit family and friends. People look away, or move away as if my disability is catching.
I’m made to feel “less than a person” and still am the object of ridicule and mockery. Take today for example, after struggling to get my manual wheelchair into the restaurant, as the door, though it meets specifications, is also only a bobby pin’s width from being the same size as my chair, the waitress asks me if I need a bib. Keep in mind there’s no food on my clothing or face mask. I’m neatly dressed, my hair is brushed, I’m not drooling or anything. I’m just in a wheelchair. But, I belong to a group of people that reportedly is less than 2% of America’s population. We don’t have enough voting power to make an impact. Government leadership from the local level to the national level can ignore us.
My experience is nothing new. It’s happened repeatedly through history. It will continue. All the change I can control is how I respond to it.
I choose non-violence. I could stage a protest that ends with a bunch of handicap people destroying public and private property wailing on it with their canes, walkers and chairs. We could spraypaint disgusting words on walls and blame the police for the situation, then beat on them with our durable medical equipment. We would get ourselves on the news as we attempt to destroy every statue that doesn’t have an equal that is someone with a disability. Or slash every art show where people are protrayed without missing limbs or with a cognitive disorder. Would we change minds?
No. No one would hear what we were saying over the noise of our actions.
But, and it’s a big BUT I, like all my other fellow “physically challenged” 2% of the American population, I choose to remember what King Samuel said:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, New International Version, 1973, 1978; Zondervan Corporation.
The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words really means something to me. If you were to tour my house you’d understand how seriously I take my photos. We have a long hallway that intersects with a shorter one and there’s only a bit of room left to hang more.
There are others scattered about, sitting on our mantle piece, hanging on another’s rooms wall. Some of them are of family that I never even knew. My paternal grandmother’s family. My husband’s grandparents and an uncle that passed before we got married. Every photo has a memory, a story connected and the people in them are a part of me. Of course, our daughter’s life is chronicled in photos.
There is one photograph though that has always been missing. It hung on my paternal grandmother’s wall for as long as I can remember. I used to stare at it every time we went to visit and my grandmother would repeat the story of the day it was made. In it I am a newborn, my parents were 19 (mother) and 20 (father). Off to the side watching the event was my paternal grandfather, Grandpa Tollie.
Who knows why, exactly, but I was told Grandpa Tollie was crazy over me. Could have been that I was the first grandchild. Could have been because I was a girl. My grandparents had boys, no girls. Could be because I was cute as a newborn. I don’t know, that’s the story I was told.
Anyway along with the 8×10″ picture of me with my parents was a smaller one in the upper right corner of my father and mother on the day they were married.
My grandmother promised me I could have that picture one year when I was in high school and she was alive and well. She said, “When I die I want you to have that picture.” Granny told my parents and she told the other aunts and uncles there too. Later, when she was very ill and I came home to see her she repeated that promise.
I left my home state when I finished college so I only saw Granny a couple times after that move. Every now and then one of us would call each other. Or I would write her a letter. But, I knew her intentions about that photograph. I knew she remembered.
After the funeral I asked my dad about it. He said he didn’t know so he’d ask. When he came home he told me that when they’d build Granny a new home on the same land she’d lived for decades the brothers (her sons) had built it smaller. She’d had to downsize and that picture was thrown away.
Even then it made no sense to me. But, it was gone. What was I to do?
Close to thirty plus years later, the picture pops up in my text messages. It was sent by someone else in my family. There was no “who do you think this baby is” or “is this the picture you’ve talked about”? Just a “look what I got”. No mention then, that if the baby wasn’t them they would give it to whoever it was. No mention of a copy at that point. That indicated to me they thought the picture was of my parents with them. It was like being slapped on both sides of my face and gut punched at the same time. What? No. That was me in the photograph. Further more it was my picture.
The “new owner” said, no that this photo wasn’t Granny’s it was my aunts. I quickly explained. There were only two copies of that picture. One belonged to my mother and the other to my grandmother. Mama’s had burned up in our first house fire when I was four. That was Granny’s photo and she’d promised it to me.
Suddenly I also realized that an entire room full of people, who’d heard her wishes twice, had flat out lied to me. That picture wasn’t destroyed. And why my aunt even wanted it boggled my mind. Or did my dad just lie?
This was the tip of an iceberg that led to a big arguement. I tried to be calm. I did. Yet, I also knew I’d spoken with this particular person, now angry with me, more than a few times about this photograph.
Later, someone would say concerning our disagreement that it was, “over a PICTURE, just a picture” No. Oh, no, no, no. It wasn’t about a mere picture.
We’re talking a photo that is 56 years old and counting. You’re talking about one tangible piece of my life that tied me to my parents, my Grandpa Tollie and Granny. A lot of life happened to that tiny baby.
It was also about the lies. The out and out lies. All the lies. Every single one of them came to the surface and I was so over it. A lifetime of lies. That’s what our family felt reduced to.
My dad was a champion liar. World class. To the outside world, beyond our home’s walls, my Dad was known by some as a generous, kind man. To them he’d loan money or pay for big ticket items for while his own family didn’t always have adequate food or mother had to figure out how to cover our bills. He’d let her fret over paying the utility bills or mortgage and he just kept telling her we didn’t have it. Then an hour before the bank or utility company would close he’d pull out hundred dollar bills. “Had it all along,” he’d say. He was a man who refused to let anyone know his oldest daughter and child had been molested. Refused her the help she needed to deal with all that aftermath. Telling her instead it was her fault. At seven-years-old it was her fault.
Or he was known as mean spirited man by the others in the community. One who cheated people, undercut them, lied to them, got them a job and then got them fired to prove he had the clout. Who gloated in their misery.
Whatever happened at home, his angry rages, his hitting our mother, his hitting us, our financial woes we knew never to mention to anyone. Not family. Not friends. No one at church. No, my father had two faces and we knew the angry face and actions all to well. If it wasn’t physical, especially as we grew older, it was psychological and emotional.
We really believed we’d hid our secrets well, but we hadn’t. The community knew. At his funeral I can’t count the times people came to me and said, “We knew what he did to y’all and your mother. But back then you didn’t intervene.” They all knew. No one helped us.
I have kept my mouth shut. Out of respect for initially, the two uncles we still had living and later for the last surviving one. Also, for my cousin who thought Uncle Gene was a kindhearted man. I thought they surely didn’t know who my father really was, or they would have stepped in. I thought up until then that the things my father used to tell us about what his family said about us were exaggerations. He was a liar. I knew that. But, years of therapy and talking to God I forgave, thinking I could forgive but not give him or others the the power to hurt me again.
The picture surfaced and I’ve realized that maybe Daddy wasn’t the only liar in our family. Had they said the things he said they said? Did they really hate our mother and therefore us too? Did Granny really love her other grandkids more than us? Did they really see me as “stuck up”? Or worse?
Who knows? Maybe the whole story behind that picture is a lie too. That’s the problem with lies. You can never be sure who to trust, who to believe. But, even so, that picture will always belong to me regardless of whose wall it hangs on.
Just a picture? No. It will never be just a picture. I am grateful for a digital picture of a picture though. Do I regret the argument that happened shortly after that photo landed in my text box? Yes. I deeply regret that I couldn’t rise above my heartbreak to be kinder, more understanding, to be satisfied with a copy.
Yet, the whole argument isn’t about the photo. Even I realize that but I can only control myself.
Isn’t that a question we ask everyone? “Who are you?” Where do you come from? What makes you what you are? What motivates you? Who are you?
I am His in whom I should never cease to remember my identity is held for eternity.
Yes, I am a wife, a mother, an aunt, a sister but these are roles. These are parts of who I am, NOT who I am.
I am a Believer. I am a Christian. God must be on the throne of my heart. His instructions, His directives, His Word, His guidance must define who I am. I can no more but Him in a box and live the rest of my life as I please than I can breath without oxygen. I am His. His.
I know His voice. I have heard Him speak. In triumphs and in challenges. In light and in darkness. In want and in abundance. When I am beaten by life and when I lift my heart to Him and He lifts me up.
How can I be so sure? Besides His constant presence in my life day in an day out when as a teenager of fourteen I asked Jesus to come and reside in my heart? When I accepted and acknowledged the God of the universe, sent His one and only Son to be crucified upon a cross and be resurrected as permanent payment for MY SINS? Yes, to all those reasons. Also, because of 2004.
I was deathly ill. My white blood cell count was so high it couldn’t be counted. The doctors had already had my husband call the family in. No one expected me to live despite the massive antibiotics they were pumping into me. Whether I lived or died, was not up to me. Not up to the doctors scrambling to find the source of the infection, revealing things to my only living parent that he didn’t know and didn’t accept, not even up to my husband who was crying as he stood beside my bed. I looked up at him and wanted to assure him I’d be okay. I realized it was not up to me. I prayed, “I surrender” .
Later, I woke to darkness and thirsty. I asked for water. A voice of a person I couldn’t see promised to be right back with it.
Next time I woke someone was lifting me up from my bed. I literally felt an arm behind my back, under my knees (and I am no small woman) as they cradled me to their chest. The darkness rolled back and above me, around me were trees vibrant and shining with light, flickering in a breeze. I heard the roar of rushing waters and I realized whoever had me was taking me there. I tried to lift my head but I was too weak. I wanted to see His face. To remind Him I couldn’t swim. Instantly I heard His voice. I knew it was His voice. He simply said, “Relax, Donna I’ve got you.”
I felt it when His feet hit the water. I felt the water yet I wasn’t wet. He carried me to this large flat boulder in the middle of this river. A river that sounded like the largest waterfall yet whose current though swift was gentle. He laid me with my head and shoulders on that rock. He spoke, “Let it go.”
Next time as I woke I felt the hospital bed, the riverside was gone. I went back to sleep. My time in ICU was for over a week and as long as I was in there, Christ and I repeated that trip to the healing waters multiple times. It was His arms I felt. His chest beneath my face. His heartbeat in my ear. His nail-scarred hands that comforted me. It was in His presence I rested, I healed.
When I moved to a regular room the trips stopped. The imprint of them, the way they’re engraved on my soul, has never left.
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