soaking

Soaking. Soaking in all the cherishing love. Soaking in the bubble bath drawn just for her. Soaking away the dirt, the aches after a long ride, the aches of a little girl heart torn in two…between two.

Her mother and her father were separated. Separated by anger and hurt. Distanced by miles and everything else possible. Between this distance they pulled their children back and forth. Torn between two.

Her mother loved her surely. But she just didn’t know how to nurture, how to care for her little girl. Even just cleanliness…these things remained mysteries. But then a fairy godmother descended and swept her up onto an idyllic ranch. The first activity, a bubble bath. Pampering for her little girl heart indeed, but years later looking back she could see it was also a way to simply get her clean.

Little tow head locks clean. Gingerbread tan limbs clean.

Then tea parties for two. Special settings and celebrations for just her and her fairy godmother. They would sip and savor treats and time together. Dimming the tug of war, giving her space to be a little girl…to giggle, rest, play. Be nourished.

Her little girl heart soaking in all the doting. Being adored. A tangible representation of the Love she was created to know. A Love ever present. A Love where she was, and still is, and always will be, a special favorite. Where the tug of war ceased and she knew where she belonged. Always.

Then she would run out to the the barn, saddle up and ride. And ride. And ride. Fields for miles in every direction, a ranch to roam. To leave her pain behind.

Little tow head locks bounding. Gingerbread tan limbs soaking in the sun. Heart free again. A horse strong beneath her, carrying her beyond. Beyond her heart torn in two. Being carried by a strength terribly large and dangerous, yet so good and understanding, to a place of freedom.

After a long, dusty, sweaty ride she would come back to the house she would indulge another bubble bath. Soak for a moment and just breathe.

Her fairy godmother created a respite and would sweep in to get her every now and then. Just when her little girl longed for it the most. Needed it the most. And this woman who somehow saw, who somehow knew what this little girl needed…she was led by the Hand steady and sure. His Love always present, assuring her little girl heart that He still saw. That He was there.

Her soaking. Being nourished. Being carried by a great strength to freedom.

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hospital

The paramedics scurried down to her room.

She lay in the white bed with the lights turned off,

Blue, slip-proof socks failing to keep her feet warm,

Layers of heated blankets brought by the nurse piled on top of her.

The experienced paramedics looked slightly startled as they entered the tiny room.  They brought with them a gurney to take her away.

She was weak.  She had slept in her grey hoodie and jeans that night.  She stumbled out of bed before light, though there was no light that day.  It rained and poured.  She pulled on her grey hood and walked through the rain to the doctor.

Schoolwork left undone on her computer, a bottle of Advil left in sight in the windowsill, and a contract where she signed not to take her life left neatly in her counseling folder.

The campus doctor looked at her and said she needed more.

The emergency room doctor looked at her and said she needed more.

So they rolled the gurney up beside her and lifted her in.  She was too weak to lift herself, and too scared.  They strapped her in and wheeled her into the mouth of the ambulance.

“Where to?” one asked the other, and they responded.  “Oh, at least it’s sunny there.”

But she didn’t know where she was going.  And she wouldn’t see or feel the sun again for a long time.

They unlocked the hospital unit and rolled the girl in.  They unstrapped her and put her in a chair.  The officer came and searched her.  Nothing sharp.  No weapons or pills.  Only her wallet, her phone, and her Bible.  He took her ID and gave her a Fall Risk bracelet.

They took her shoes and gave her blue gowns and more blue, slip-proof socks.  They rolled her to her room, where she lay stunned on her bed.  The rain still poured outside, though she could not see it.

Then, the nurse quickly brought a wheelchair to her door,

frantically panned the room and saw her lying on the bed.

“We’re moving you NOW, since you are in such an unstable condition.”

The girl on the bed stared at the nurse.  She lay empty-handed, her welcome papers lying on the bedside table, a carton of fried chicken snuck up to her by the security guy lying uneaten on the table.

She had been assigned a room, the doctor already prescribing pills for her sickness.

The blue, slip-proof socks touched the tile floors, icy cold.  The nurse lifted her into the wheelchair and rolled her deeper into the unit.  They took her past the stares at the nurse station and keyed in the code to unlock the doors to her room.

The crazy-person doors slammed shut.  They lifted her into the bed as she shook and trembled.  She moaned, so they gave her a sleeping pill,

As the clouds grey thicker outside.

english teacher

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She laid her head on her desk

As her English teacher noticed tears streaming down her face.

This teacher called for help.

The guidance counselor came into the classroom and walked over to the girl’s desk.

Her face was tucked into her arms, not wanting others to see her tears. This girl, the straight-A, smart, skinny girl, couldn’t handle life anymore on her own.

The guidance counselor kneeled to make eye contact with the startled girl.

“You’re coming with me,” she said to the girl.

Confused, scared, shocked, she just sat in her desk, unable to move. “No,” she barely squeaked out. Not in a rebellious, I-won’t-listen-to-you sort of way. But in a I’m-so-afraid-I-can’t-think-straight way.

The guidance counselor said, “Come on,” and grabbed the girl’s books off her desk and walked to the door.

Class was about to start, but that didn’t matter right now. Her English teacher and guidance counselor talked quietly at the door, while other students stared at the girl, not knowing what was wrong.

Unable to move, she sat frozen in her seat. “I can’t,” she thought. “I can’t let anyone know something is wrong.”

“If I have to carry you, I will,” said the guidance counselor. Intervening in the lives of public school kids was nothing new to her. She had picked high school kids off the floor before, screaming, with the officer right beside her. The skinny girl would have been easy to carry.

The girl finally walked over to the door. Her grey-haired English teacher pulled her aside. The teacher held out an assignment the girl had written in English class. A helpless, hopeless letter of a barely seventeen-year-old girl wanting to end her life. She knew she had taken a risk by writing it. But she finally let it out.

And now she was in trouble.

“My daughter struggled with bulimia,” the English teacher told her. There was a picture of a beautiful girl on her desk. “She is still struggling.” There was pain in her teacher-mother eyes as she looked at the picture. Then she looked directly at her. “I know you hate me right now, by the look you’re giving me.” The girl had a tendency to glare. “But I only want what is best for you. “  

The English teacher used to have a Bible on her desk, but a student complained and she had to put it away. “I think you need to talk to someone.”  

The girl pulled her oversized, black jacket around her body tighter, for she was shaking from fear. Her long, brown hair draped over her face. 

Her face was hot from tears flowing down it 

As she walked down the hall to the guidance office.

party dress

Today was her birthday. Old enough to not be a baby anymore, but young enough to have a few little baby rolls left.

Little girls all dolled up with bobbed hair and bouncing petticoats under party-best dresses spilled into the house. Little boys with deceptively straight-laced crew cuts joined in.

It was her party. 

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She was wearing a new dress. A beautiful, fluffy, frilly poof laced around her with ribbons  and a skirt upheld by petticoats. In her shining green eyes, the most gorgeous dress conceivable was one with so many petticoats that her little arms would stretch right out to the side if her palms were resting on the top of her skirt. Such bliss was her gift.

Ever wanting to please her parents, she took seriously their warning not to spill grape kool-aid on her new dress. She so wanted to make them happy. They weren’t happy and her little girl heart knew this in ways she didn’t even comprehend. But she attached this with great vigor to preserving her party dress.

Until the boy spilled his grape kool-aid on her dress. He disobeyed the marching orders and made her the guilty one. Holding her weapon of choice, her cake fork, she stabbed him. Hard. For breaking her promise not to spill kool-aid on her dress.

Stained, she got a spanking. For the forking, not the spilling. For protecting what she was commanded to guard, she was punished. Her sweet, round hand frustrated, trapped with no good choice. Conflicted, just wanting to please. Besides, she loved her party dress. Her sass got the best of her. 

It was her party after all.

grandparents

Another car payment bill came in the mail.  And daddy couldn’t pay it.

The pantry cabinets were low, and the fridge was almost empty.

So daddy would yell at mama and tell her if she were smarter she could make more money.  Because Chick-Fil-A and Hardees and Win-Dixie were not good enough.

And daddy would yell at little sister and I because we needed food and clothes and that was too much to ask.

So he would force mama and little sister and I into mama’s red van.

And he sent us over to grandma’s house, while he stayed home to wash his car.

We pulled up the driveway, and I asked mama, “Why are we here?  Are we going shopping with grandma?”  Because grandma always bought little sister and I our clothes.

“No, not today,” she told me.  “Mama just needs to talk to grandma and granddad about something.”

Mama walked in and sat down on the brick fireplace, refusing the more comfortable couch.  Grandma and granddad sat in their matching recliners.  Mama held her head low as she talked to them.

“Would you be willing to help us out, again?” she ashamedly asked.

Grandma and granddad, married at seventeen, who ate beans and bread in their little, tiny apartment.  They had nothing, but they always made do with what they did have.

Granddad, who worked with his hands, who built a business, who always made sure his kids had food to eat and were well-provided for.

Grandma, who always stood by his side, who was never expected to carry loads she was not meant to carry, who was never sent away to beg for help but was always taken care of, who put her kids before herself.

They sat in their recliners, my grandma with her white, cotton ball hair and my granddad bald and grey, looked at each other, then looked at their daughter, then looked at their granddaughters.

Two messy, brown-haired little girls and a mom with hair graying early.

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How could grandparents say no to those they love?

“Why don’t you girls go and play while I finish talking to grandma and granddad,” she said to us.

So little sister and I went outside and rock-hopped all around grandma’s house.  We ran around free and laughed, not understanding.

Mama would then always come outside with a check in her hands. 

We would drive home, and dad would take the check.

He would pay his car payment.

While the little girls ate fries from their happy meals.

tar

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A tiny girl, able to walk and talk, but not yet explore on her own she was drawn to her Daddy’s work. Building a medical clinic in the era of peace and war, love and protest, he formed traditional adobe bricks mixed with tar. Tar that came in a barrel huge in her little girl eyes. 

He would lean down scooping tar to mix into the adobe until the level was low enough to open the side of the barrel by a door she could walk through. Stepping on a board inside the tar barrel, she’d breathe in the air…the scent of hard work, afternoons outside in the sun with Daddy.

The only doctor for an hours drive or days’ walk nestled in the stark lush harsh mountains, Daddy’s clinic would be a base for everything from setting broken bones to delivering babies. In an area stark in economic, spiritual and weather climate, continually giving care whether dollars or chickens were payment. Small town doctor, he was ambulance driver and made house calls. No patient too wealthy, no patient too poor. 

And so he made bricks for a clinic. Adobe and tar in the sun. Tiny girl by Daddy’s side. 

All this doctoring, it left precious little time for the tiny girl. The pressure of raw rural medicine and a heart bent by generations of angry hearts, made times with Daddy unpredictable occasionally. But making bricks. Smelling tar in the sun. This they could do together. Just be together.

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Even the pungent, greasy tar barrel became an icon of warmth. Warmth of the sun. Warmth of the doctor caring for the neglected. Warmth of a Daddy love the tiny girl just wanted to know. 

So she stood. Watched. Asked to look in the barrel. Step inside. Watched him form adobe bricks by hand. Watched him form a life for himself…deeply impacting her own.

Tiny girl has grown up, many times over in many ways but she still smiles at the smell of tar. A contented, happiness seeping, deep smile. 

And now today, they repair the road in front of her grown up house. And the tar heated, poured, steamrolled and drying in the sun leaves her with a smile. 

Her Daddy, he loved her. And her perfect heavenly Father, He loves her. Even though she never has to worry about His anger exploding on her sweet heart, the smell of tar takes her to a place of just being together. Warmth. Stepping in. Being surrounded. Loved.

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salvation

She woke that morning.  

She stared at the ceiling fan swirling around and around as she lay empty on her bed.  The cold air wafted in through the single window, sunshine in winter.  

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She felt like her life was spinning like the fan.  Around and around and around like a cycle that could not be broken, powerless to making bad choices.

The house was empty.  Saturday morning, the rest of her family was busy.  Gone for the day.  But she lay still in her bed.  Her stomach ached and hurt.  Nothing had filled it for days.  Her skin was cold, her eyes sad.  

She had been given a Bible that year for Christmas.  Passages on anxiety and future, insights given on depression and suicide were dog-eared as it lay atop her desk.  

But she couldn’t understand.

Her mind was consumed by food and counting calories and about how fat she was and how No. One. Could. Ever. Love. Her.

Her journal lay beside her Bible, encouraged by the counselor to write.  She thought she was pathetic, and everything she wrote only confirmed how broken she was.  Her life was a disorder, diagnosed for early death, destined to depression eternal.

She knew about Jesus, but was afraid to let Him in.

She was not perfect, though her grades were perfect.  She did not have all the answers, though kids at school labeled her the “smart girl”.  Kids would joke about being bulimic, joke about becoming anorexic.  But for this girl, she sat quietly in the back on the class.  And listened.  And believed that she was worthless.

But as she lay in her bed that cold day, she prayed.  

“God, wake me up today, because I feel dead.”

She got out of bed slowly, everything always went black for a few seconds when she stood.  She wrapped a blanket around her body and walked down the hall.  She passed the dents in the wall where her dad had punched in his fits of anger.  She walked down the hall where stains showed from where dad had thrown tables and shattered full glasses on them.  

She sat in the living room in silence.  Yet as she sat, lyrics came to mind.  She grabbed her blue iPod and plugged in as usual to shut out the world.  But she heard this:

Cause I’m about to let go
And live what I believe
I can’t do a thing now
But trust that You’ll catch me
When I let go

She listened over and over and something awoke in her heart.  She fell to her knees in that empty house, on that dirty carpet, inside those dented walls, and cried out to God.

“God, save me.  Forgive me.  I need You.”

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She stood up, and the sun shone through the back door.  It shone right on her pale face, lightened her brittle hair.  She walked into the kitchen and ate.

Because something had awakened that day.  She had awakened that day.  

No longer powerless, she felt like chains had broken off.  

And that a new journey was being born.     

back and forth

As a little girl, she had two homes…or no home. Mother and Daddy divorced when she was so young, few memories linger of together. More of back and forth. 

She grew up flying back and forth. Being snatched back and forth. Her beloved high mountain peaks verses thick hot air. Airplanes by herself as a mere baby. But a baby who loved the adventure of travel and the pampering of attentive flight attendants who made her their special charge. Being taken care of was a luxury her vulnerable little girl’s heart craved. 

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Mother was sick in many ways. Not the kind of sickness that was obvious at first glance, but that was lingering constant. A nurse, but physically unhealthy…a body broken by years and fears. A Christian and missionary, but spiritually unhealthy…walking bound where freedom could have abounded. An intelligent woman, but mentally unhealthy…irrational and unstable. An expressive artist, but emotionally unhealthy…detached and unable to nurture. 

Daddy was a doctor, pilot, missionary. More healthy as a person…but often resorted to anger. Not the kind that hurt the outside of you, but that kind that hurt the inside of you. Outbursts of rage, destructive for relationships and sometimes things as well.

Often when Daddy had her, he had actually kidnapped her. Not legally. But ethically…to save her from Mother who just wasn’t quite sure how to be a good mother. It just wasn’t proper tradition for courts to give custody to a Daddy in the age of prim and proper. Such things just weren’t done.

So she found solace visiting at Daddy’s in her mountains, Aspens, “Christmas trees”, snow. Icicles as long as the distance from the roof to the ground. Snow drifted as high as the ground to the roof. And horses. A horse gave her strong legs to run away on, run free on.

Back and forth.

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her introduction

This will be her narrative…her story. The story of the Hand on her. Never before told in such breadth. She has many faces, but one story. Her story might jump around a bit. She might realize new things as it’s being told. She might need diversions along the way. So thank you for patience. 

Looking back years later she could see things weaving together. Being woven together in fact. By a Hand steady and sure. A Hand holding and covering. A Hand Who lavishly redeemed and restored in ways still being revealed.

Each story is true. Told descriptively but not particularly so as not to identify anyone involved. Each picture is real, but not attached to the stories told…they reflect beauty we love.

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