Caliginosity

True confessions: I am afraid of the dark. Not regular nighttime duskiness, when my bathroom door is cracked just so and a thin blade of light beams comfortingly from the hallway as I slumber in my bed, but *Real* darkness. Like when the electricity goes out in the dead of night and I wake with a start to find that I can’t see my hand in front of my face. In those cases I revert to childhood again, and pull the covers over my face, pleading with God to bring the reassuring hum of power back quickly. I feel helpless. Incapacitated. Vulnerable. Scared. Confused.

 

 

In the last few months, those same feelings have been washing over me with regularity, in spite of the light surrounding me. If you had asked me, I’d have said I was great. How could I say otherwise? I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit closer than ever in that span of time. I have learned so much about my Savior, His plan for me, and His never ending supply of grace and mercy. His hand plucked me up from the mirey clay and set my feet on solid ground and I cannot say with enough fervency just how wonderful His Love IS.

 

 

And yet the darkness, like a murky undertow, tugging at my emotions and washing my rationality away…causing tears to flow for no apparent reason while filling my mind with a sludgey mix of dismal predictions and helpless torpidity.

 

I began to question what I knew to be true. Had I not actually been delivered from the Pit? Had I wandered back in without realizing it? I prayed for deliverance again, and instead I felt the Holy Spirit nudge my murky thoughts into order. It felt like the Pit, and yet…when I am there I cannot hear God. All I can hear is satan whispering his lies into my ear like wormtongue as I sit as Theodan, helpless to free himself. This was different. I felt God near. I heard Him speak. Again, in His incomprehensible tenderness He took the time to tell me the Truth.

 

This is not the Pit. This is the Valley. Yes, it’s dark here. It’s really, really scary. There is movement in the underbrush and shadows that menace. But if I cling to Him, He will lead me out. I cannot go around. I cannot sit and cry. I just have to keep. moving. forward. It’s deliverance of a different kind: through, not from.

 

It’s a place well-travelled by the people of God. Many feet have felt their way along the winding paths. Many tears have dampened the earth beneath their soles. Not all travel the same route, but all come out the other side because they are gripping the One whose grip never falters. I am so profoundly grateful–and humbled–to know what David meant when he wrote psalm 23.

 

Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.

 

Give me a heart like David, Lord, so I can keep singing Your praises no matter how dark it gets.

 

 

12:20am

“If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”

 

I don’t know who said it first, but whoever did was amazingly adept at stating the obvious. However, what is it about the obvious that makes it so hard for us to take it seriously? Honestly, people!? We don’t know! We. Don’t. Know. We can say every morning “yeah, yeah, today might be the last day of my life” but we don’t really mean it. We don’t really expect to die that day. Even though that day will one day be this day. We don’t expect to be in a car accident. Or have a stroke. Or discover cancer lurking in our bodies.
 
We stride arrogantly along, chuckling confidently to ourselves as we clutch to our bosoms this thing called life, only to discover one day that it is, after all, a vapor. And vapors have a funny way of drifting through ones fingers. We become so convinced that this existence we operate in is I.T. We forget that we are spirit as well as flesh. We neglect to store up our treasures in heaven and instead cling like misguided magpies to all the shiny aluminum that this world can offer instead.

 

Why? Are we afraid to believe in a heaven that is more real than this earth, and a God that is big enough to get us there? Are we truly so daft as to believe we really won’t die someday? Our intellects know we will, and if we are spiritual we say we have hope for the afterlife, but our hearts just don’t get it. They go on lusting after the Cracker Jack rewards and penny candy when God is holding out Golden Keys and Godiva chocolate.

 

Lord, You are
more precious than silver
Lord, You are
more costly than gold
Lord, You are
more beautiful than diamonds
and nothing I desire compares with You.

 

I’ve sung this song countless times, and every time I groan inwardly because I know it’s true in my brain, but my heart still says yeah, yeah…I’m not a jewelry person anyway…

 

God gave me a picture in my head once (yes, that’s called a vision but I try not to use that word because it tends to make people look at me funny) of me, being swept downstream in a fastflowing river. He was stretching out His hand to save me, but I was trying to hold onto the hands of my family too. I wouldn’t grab His hand because I wouldn’t let them go. I didn’t trust Him to rescue them as well.

 

Yeah, I got His point.

 

Lord, You are
more precious than….my children
Lord, You are
more costly than…my husband
Lord, You are
more beautiful than…a happy marriage
and nothing I desire compares to You.

 

This is the song God is asking me to sing. What is it for you? Can you give it to Him? Can you stick it in heaven for Him to take care of, and believe that it’ll be waiting there for you when you get there?

 

If you can, let me know how too.
 
 

 

Letters to motorists, from a cyclist

To the Female Teen Driver of the Blue Sportscar:

That large red sign says “Stop”, not “hesitate”, “pause”, or “briefly consider”. It means that you should bring your vehicle to a complete halt, look for oncoming traffic, and only proceed if none is present. That funny shiny thing that was travelling along the main road was, in fact, “traffic”–a bicycle with a human being astride it. I’m sorry if the helmet confused you. As your mental capabilities are undoubtably compromised from years of lip gloss consumption, I will spare you an explanation of the laws of this country regarding cyclists and say instead that your cute little Nissan would not look half as adorable with body parts hanging through the sunroof.
 
To All the Drivers Who Have Passed Me While Going Up A Hill
Passed Me With Inches To Spare,
Passed Me Going 5,012 Miles Per Hour,
Or Any Combination of the Above:
I’m sure that wherever you needed to be was vastly more important than my life, your life, the lives of anyone coming in the opposite direction, or the lives of countless furry creatures covering their eyes in terror from the underbrush, and so I hope with all my heart that you arrived there safely. I’m sure that taking an extra 10 seconds to consider that I may, actually, be Someone to Somebody and therefore worthy of the common decency of abiding by the law with regards to my safety was really (I mean, really!) far too much to expect from someone of your importance. In spite of your best efforts I, too, arrived home safely to my eleven children and one husband who do depend on me for so much, not that you care. At all.

 

To the Woman Who Laid Upon Her Horn, and the Young Men Who Flipped Me The Bird, Both Of Whom Yelled “Get Off The Road”:

I know this will come as a shock to you, but the road does not, in fact, belong to you. Unless it’s the Highway to Hell. That one, probably.

 

To The Driver Who Slowed Down And Passed Me With Room To Spare In An Actual Passing Zone:

I grab your head with both my hands and cover your almost-certainly-attractive cheeks with firm–yet tender–kisses. I love you.

 

To All The Parents Of the Children Twizzling Around Town Upon Their Cute Little Bikes:

Teach your children the rules of cycling on the road. Yes! There actually are rules! Laws, even! A bike is considered a vehicle. It doesn’t belong on the sidewalk where it can mangle small dogs, toddlers, and little old ladies taking strolls. It belongs on the RIGHT side of the road, the same as a car. No kidding. Look it up.

 

Also, for the love of all the fluffy puppies on God’s green earth, BUY YOUR KID A HELMET. Or hey! Here’s an idea! Make the kid wear the one he already has hanging in the garage covered in dust! If you don’t care yourself about their wee little noggins, at least spare us the eternal scars wrought upon our souls by the sight of your child’s brains upon the asphalt.

 

To anyone I may have offended:

I apologize. Wait. No I don’t.
 
 

 

 

Supercenter? I beg to differ.

So here’s my theory: The doors to Wal Mart are actually portals to another dimension, run by sadistic aliens. I say this because of what years of observation have shown me. The behavior of people changes so drastically once they are within those sliding doors that the only possible explanation is that the aliens operating this portal aren’t getting everything quite right; somehow the time signature of our own bodies is not the same as that of the Wal Mart continuum. There’s a temporal distortion field that causes us to be ever-so-slightly out of flux, which wreaks havoc upon our nervous systems. The aliens then conduct their fiendish experiments upon us, stifling their giggles behind their long pale fingers.

 

 

 

If you have experienced any of the following phenomena while shopping at the abovementioned “Supercenter” then you, too, have been a victim of devilish alien manipulation:
1. Inability to make simple decisions. Faced with two packages of toilet paper, you find yourself calculating the price per foot in order to save $0.02
2. Disproportionate spending. Having saved the $0.02 on the toilet paper, you reward yourself by buying a flat screen television.
3. Finding random words hysterically funny. Did you ever consider the fact that the word “niblets” sounds like a cross between “nipples” and “giblets”
4. The inability to stop yourself from drawing funny faces in the condensation on the freezer doors as you stand there laughing at the frozen niblets.
5. Having an overwhelming desire to stomp your feet, cry, and wail that you want to go home. Obviously, the smaller you are, the less able you are to resist this particular phenomenon.
6. Impaired judgement. Just because the tripe is on sale for $1.03/pound does NOT mean you should buy it. No, you will not “find a recipe on the internet later” in which to use it. Trust me.
 

Not only are the aliens watching from afar, they have also placed Their Own strategically within the very framework of the store. For example, The Guy Who Stacks Bread And Bananas at my own Wal Mart stares at me and asks me how I’m doing every. single. time. I. see. him. He looks at me like he knows me. This is because…he does. Those kindly ladies who offer you free samples of the latest market offerings? You guessed it. Those little paper cups are LADEN with alien drugs. Why else would you buy 6 boxes of “chewy delicious trail mix with tiny bits* especially designed to get stuck in your teeth”? You don’t even hike!

 

You’re right, you’re right. I’m overreacting. I can’t possibly be right. Aliens cannot be running Wal Mart because they’re too busy running the government. Maybe Those In Charge in the Wal Mart realm are simply pumping nerve gas into the aisles. This would explain a lot. But I like the first theory better.

 

*alien tracking devices
 
 

 

Labor

Yesterday My Beloved and I cut trim for our upstairs bathroom. It is a small bathroom, but it has a footprint vaguely resembling a Tim Burton funhouse, and thus requires an obscene amount of small trim pieces. This would not be a problem if My Beloved was a manly-type-tool-loving-average-guy-who-lives-and-breathes-heavy-machinery. However, My Beloved is a computer programmer who loves to manipulate PC guts and say things like “I need to overclock the CPU to get the best Quake performance”. This means he has more motherboards than chainsaws, more CD-rom drives than nail-drivers, and not a whole lot of anything resembling a table saw.

 

We decided that was okay, however, since this was a small project and surely would not require more than what he DID have, which was a small yellow doohickey with a groove down the middle for the wood, and various slots placed at varying angles in which to place your saw for cutting. This, as I understand it, is called a “mitre box”.

 

Let me assure you, gentle readers, this “mitre box” is a tool of The Devil.

 

We placed the first piece of wood innocently in the groove, angled the saw just so in order to make the first 45-degree beveled edge, and proceeded to cut. Instantly the most hideous noise imaginable rose out of the apparatus, caused by the friction of the saw upon the plastic. Have you ever rubbed hard plastic vigorously with a piece of metal? And you lived to tell about it? I congratulate you with all the shreds of what used to be my heart.

 

At first I gritted my teeth and thought I could bear it, as I was required to assist by holding onto the end of the wood being cut. As adrenaline surged through my body in a desperate “fight or flight” reflex in response to the terrifying assault on my ears, I considered my options.

 

1. Eliminate the source of the din. We were in the garage. There was a hammer nearby. I could efficiently and decisively knock My Beloved’s head clean off before he knew what hit him. This option was becoming rapidly and alarmingly more attractive with every second that passed. I clung to my sanity by the tips of my fingernails, however, and reminded myself that the media have a way of making even the most understandable transgression sound terribly sordid.

 

2. Run. Believe me, this was attractive. In my mind I was already running in circles, waving my arms above my head and shrieking like a banshee. It would have taken very little persuasion to make it a reality. Again, however, my sanity prevailed as I reminded myself of how easily wrong impressions are created and how inconvenient it would be to have to move to another city state to escape them.

 

3. Cry, and curse. In the end, this is the option I chose, and I must allow that it was effective enough to get me through the duration of the sawing. The technique was simple enough: as soon as the work began I would begin to weep, simultaneously reciting every expletive I could remember in a long and continuous stream. I may have even made up some new ones in the process. It was not unlike childbirth, minus the adorable baby at the end, although a cleanly cut piece of trim takes on a beauty all its own when it is achieved through such travail.

 

Awash again

I’m feeling temporarily (I hope) muse-less these days. In lieu of fresh insights, I offer this instead, my favorite essay ever from days gone by. Submitted for your approval.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

In this story, I walk along a beach. I wear jeans, rolled up to just below my knees to avoid the surf. I glory in the feel of the water foaming and eddying around my ankles. I stroll casually, but I am careful to keep to the shallows. I am wearing jeans, after all, and wet denim is a distracting sensation, to say the least. I do not want distractions. I want to concentrate on the sea air, the taste of salt on my lip, the sound of gulls crying, and the sight of pelicans nose-diving into the ocean.

 

If you have ever walked along a beach in just such a way, then you know how the story ends.

 

I stoop to examine a bit of sea flotsam, or study the acrobatic wheeling of a certain bird, and the sea presses its advantage. A wave that is just that much bigger than the others scrambles up my shin for a mad second and I leap away, but not fast enough. My jeans are wet with the salty, scratchy sea water, and I can almost hear the wave snickering as it melts away. The ocean has a way of catching you off guard.

 

There are times–not often, but more frequently than can be classified as “seldom”–when I’ll be overtaken in my busy-ness by a wave of recollection that leaves me standing, mildly perplexed, like one with seawater-soaked cuffs, unsure of how best to proceed. These recollections are not of my “glory days” of high school popularity and prestige, in which some are prone to wallow (actually having such days would make those recollections more likely in my case), but travel back a little farther, and that’s where you’ll find me.

 

Rewind another, oh…eight or ten years…See me? At the bank drive-through? I’m the one with stringy blonde hair and glasses, sitting in the front seat of the green station wagon. Yeah, I actually won the “I’m in the front seat by Mom!” game that day after school as I rushed towards the car with my two brothers. I’m waving at the bank teller, waiting for her to ask The Question.“How many kids ya got in there with ya?” she says, her voice a tinny resonance from the speaker. “Three” Mom calls back.The plastic projectile shoots through the tube and my mother retrieves it. There is a momentary tussle as my brothers and I grapple for its contents, but the fates are once again smiling on me, and I emerge victorious. I get the grape. My brothers get the pineapples.

 

The strength of these memories amazes me. The oddest things will trigger them. Let the light pass through the window in just the right way and I’m a 9 year old again, sitting on my bedspread talking to my stuffed animals. The scent of springtime soil as I turn it over in my garden catapults me back to the running board of my Dad’s tractor, where I stand next to him on a swealtering summer day, yelling to be heard above the engine’s roar. I am 10, and he’s letting me have a ride once around the field as he plows.

 

At times, the longing to be a child again nearly takes my breath away, like that errant wave that turns out to be a little colder than anticipated. Life overwhelms me. I don’t want to be the mom/adult/spouse/responsible party. Just once more, I want to walk through the door and smell dinner in the oven, and hear “come sit down and tell me about your day”. I want mom to pick me up from school so I don’t have to ride the bus for an hour before I get home, and I want to go to the library and pick out 15 of my favorite books to bury myself in. I want to sleep over at my best friend’s house and wake up with absolutely nothing to do for a full 24 hours. I want to ride to the swimming pool in that old station wagon, telling mom to turn off the air conditioner for the last 5 minutes so that the water will surpass mere relief and take on a near-mystical quality of bliss when we finally plunge in.

 

Who can predict the moments that become memory? The things we never intend to remember at all become the memories we cherish. We take for granted the blessings we are surrounded by and realize one day that the very taking-for-granted was part of the blessing. The definition of nostalgia is a bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past. Bitter, because it is gone. Sweet, because it was ours for a time. And I enjoy the little waves that catch me by surprise. I wring out my cuffs, smile at the water, and continue on my way.

Not I

My oldest child saw a station wagon, a real, honest to goodness, terrifically long, horribly hued, battered relic of a station wagon the other day, and she burst into guffaws of disbelief. “WHAT kind of car is THAT??” she spluttered.
And then I wept.

No, not really. I told her that THAT was exactly what I rattled around in every day of my childhood, apparently eons ago. I remember laying in the “way back” (our term–my brothers and mine–for the farthest reaches of the fuselage) amidst blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals, gliding along through the dark on our way to Grandma’s house in Texarkana; one ear pressed against the floor, listening to the gentle ~ker-chunk~ker-chunk~ker-chunk~ of the wheels as they hit each separation in the highway, the other ear attuned to the whispers of my brothers and the barely discernable murmur of my parents in the distant front seat as they charted our position.

 

My beloved and I celebrated 20 years of marriage in 2006, another fact that never ceases to give me pause. I know we discussed, at some point in our youthful immortality, what it would be like to be married for “so long”. Back when the anticipation of things to come caused our hearts to beat a little faster, and all the potential of Anything and Everything hung heavy on the horizon like an exotic fruit just waiting to be plucked and savored. We discussed how old our oldest would be when we hit the big 2-0. And I can’t remember exactly, but I’m fairly certain that, in my mind at least, I giggled at the sheer ridiculousness of the notion. I mean, come on! That was how long our PARENTS had been married!

 

But here we are. And there it went. Did you hear that noise? That was the faint whisper the fabric of time makes as it gently billows past your preoccupied mind. It is rarely heard in the daily hubbub, but once in a while, in the wee hours, when the house is still and you sit alone with your thoughts…you hear it. And you don’t know whether to weep or to laugh at the deceitfulness of the years–all you know is how very grateful you are for the reality of the Forever at the end.