In honor of this Sunday’s upcoming book signing, it seemed like a good time to post an excerpt from Where the Water Rages. If you’ve been on the fence about reading it, here’s your chance to check out a portion of the book and see if it piques your interest. The following excerpt from Chapter 10 takes place at the Bhuping Palace in Chiang Mai, where Kimly Denim, an American journalist is meeting with SuSuk, the head of a prostitution ring, a man with ties throughout the Southeast continent.
Her surroundings were mesmerizing. The ferns were enormous and the trees had thick vines falling to the ground. Some of the vines had fallen, landing onto another tree, and the two had grafted together. The walkway narrowed in places and the ferns brushed softly against her arm.
After climbing about thirty steps, Kimly saw a man waiting for her. Kimly opened her mouth to speak, but nothing emerged. His neck. The tattoos. It was him, the man from the bathroom at Walking Street.
Just as she turned to rush back down the steps, she heard the deep voice of the man from the restroom issue a command,“Stop.”
She didn’t have to obey, did she? She stopped. As she gazed straight ahead, the most brilliant bush of purple asters caught her attention. The sharp pointed petals pierced the green fern it neighbored. The fern submitted to the radiant beauty of the aster. She looked back at the man with the tattoos, pulled her chin up and held his gaze.
Tattoo Man nodded his head up towards the stairs, clearly indicating she should continue climbing the steps. Is he going to follow me? She turned and moved upward, the sound of her heart pounding growing louder with each step. She had taken about seven steps when she turned and glanced over her shoulder. Tattoo Man hadn’t moved to follow her. So, you’re not him? She continued her climb.
Reality snapped into focus. She knew there would be many people, many men, involved in this underground business. She reminded herself that to these men–this was just a business. Just like any large corporation, there are underlings and there is a CEO. Am I meeting the CEO, or is this SuSuk below someone else?
A small opening in the trees appeared, and in the alcove there sat a stone bench overlooking the palace grounds. Sitting on the bench, with his back to Kimly, was a man smoking a cigarette. Kimly approached, practicing her lines in her head, when the man spoke, “Come, have a seat.”
Taking a deep breath, Kimly moved forward to the edge of the bench. The man was wearing a gray suit and a black and gray striped tie. The suit jacket was unbuttoned, and his shirt had a reflective luster. He sat, one leg crossed over the other, and dangled his foot. When he pulled his cigarette up to his lips, she noticed the gold cufflinks attached to his pale pink shirt. He wore rimless glasses with a gold bridge. His oily complexion was smooth, and his thin eyebrows pointed down towards his eyelids. He had almost nailed the appearance of the wealthy and successful Asian businessman, one who would be holding a meeting with clients in a Bangkok sky rise. Everything was almost perfect. Almost. His black dress shoes were unpolished and slightly scuffed, and they didn’t blend with the image he was trying to portray.
She wasn’t sure how she should greet him. Her heart was pounding. If this man was to believe she was just another client she couldn’t act fearful, she needed to appear desensitized to their arrangement. As she got closer, she cleared her throat to speak.
“Come and sit. We have to discuss a few things,” he motioned her to the edge of the stone bench.
Kimly drew in a deep breath and moved closer to the bench.
“Go ahead. How does this work,” being near him was repulsive, so she decided whatever he said at this point, she would simply agree. If he asked for more money, she would agree and then leave with her life.
“How did you find me?” he took a drag from his cigarette.
“Your men were waiting when we came up the path.”
“No,” he did not turn to look at her. “How did you find me?” He gazed across the grounds of the palace.
“You told us to come here. Early this morning, on the bridge,” she squinted her eyes.
“No. How did you find me?”
Kimly turned her head away and looked out across the palace grounds. In the distance, she saw an expansive building resembling a ski lodge. The white building sported a twenty-foot orange tile roof which shot at an 80degree angle toward the sky. There were several pillars across the front of the building protecting the ample porch. Was that the palace? She expected it to look more “palace-y.” Perhaps her notions of royalty were completely off. Did corrupt underworld figures have access to influence in the Royal Family?
“I bought a box from a vendor on Walking Street. It contained the name of the bridge,” Kimly tried again to answer the business man’s question.
The strangely dignified man, who Kimly determined was, in fact, SuSuk, inhaled long on his cigarette. He still hadn’t turned to look at her. He exhaled. She waited. She had moved her boat into his port, given him the answers he sought; it was up to him to navigate the waters.
“I once tried to own a dog,” SuSuk looked at his cigarette, but still not once at Kimly, “I find him outside my house, so I decide I will feed him.” He took a long drag from his cigarette and then flicked it forward. It flew over the ridge and disappeared in the greenery. A ring on his hand sparkled in the sun, which was just above eye level.
“I feed him every day for many days. Then one day, I went out into my yard to have a picnic. This is what you Americans like to do…to have a picnic. I was in my yard eating the leg of chicken. I was sitting under my tree, eating my leg of chicken and when I turn my head, the dog grabbed my chicken from my hand. He took what was mine. I had fed him, and I had planned to keep feeding him. But, he took what was mine.”
Kimly swallowed hard and then breathed deeply.
“I could have killed him, but what would he learn?” He didn’t continue. He sat staring straight ahead. Is he waiting for me to answer? Kimly’s mind swam.
“Nothing. He would have learned nothing if I killed him. So, I cut off his front leg. A leg for a leg, right?” Kimly’s eyes were going to betray her. She could feel the lump building in her chest. His voice dropped to a near-whisper, “You’re not looking for a housekeeper, are you?”
“No…I mean, yes, I am. Whatever you think I am…No, I’m not. I just want a housekeeper who won’t cheat me and won’t steal—”
“Stop,” he interrupted her performance. “Answer my question. How did you find me? How did you know to buy the box? Who told you to go to Walking Street?”
Kimly’s mind was spinning. How could I have been so stupid? Answers were a million miles away. This should have been a simple answer, and she couldn’t conjure up anything in response.
“You know what I think? I think you are looking for more than you should be looking for. I think you are trying to steal something from me. I don’t like it when someone steals from me. What’s mine is mine,” and with that said, SuSuk turned and looked for the first time into Kimly’s brown eyes.
She looked away, “I don’t know what you are talking about. I was told by a friend you could assist me in getting the help I needed. But, if this is not what you do, that’s fine.”
Kimly stood, and SuSuk grabbed her wrist. “I’m not finished.” He stood and began to lead her back toward the path. Dak couldn’t help her from the bottom of the steps. If he came running up the steps he would meet the tattooed underling half way up…then what? The thought of Dak getting hurt kept her from reaching into her pocket for her phone. She needed to get away.
When SuSuk reached the path, he pulled her along the steps down a different route. She looked around wildly for a clue as to what she could do. She grabbed a vine, holding it tightly; she attempted to stop them both. “Stop, please,” she insisted. “Where are you taking me?”
SuSuk’s strength was greater than hers. Kimly held tight to the hanging vine and it dug into her palm until she released it and continued stumbling through the mock jungle with him. He pulled her around the corner of a small white cinder block building and pushed her against the wall. With his right hand, he tightened his grip on her wrist. She pulled away from him trying to maneuver her body and gain control, but he used the forearm from his left arm to push her neck against the blocks. His gold cufflink cut into her jaw line.
Moving his face close to hers, he stood in front of her and Kimly could smell the burnt tobacco on his breath. “You will not steal from me. You will not make a fool of me. Do you think you are worth more than a dog that I fed?”
She heard it. She had heard this voice before, and she had not recognized it, but this time she knew. It was God. It was the God with a plan, Dak’s God. When Dak had prayed in the Jeep it was more than just hopeful words, God had heard Dak’s prayers and He had come with them to the palace grounds.
She closed her eyes and tried to think of the words to plead with the God with a plan to help her. “Open your eyes, you stupid woman. Look at me.” Kimly didn’t raise her eyes to his. She was afraid the evil would overcome any bit of confidence she might muster. She continued to search for the words a person might use to plead with God for protection. She didn’t know how to pray, so she simply began a silent uttering of phrases she remembered Dak praying in the Jeep. Forgive me for doubting. Surround me. Change the hearts. Please move…please. She could only remember pieces of what she had heard Dak pray, so she just kept repeating them.
Interested in reading more? Find Where the Water Rages on Amazon! Available in Paperback or on Kindle – CLICK HERE to Order your copy today!
Meet Jackie this Sunday Evening (01/22/17 from 4PM-6PM) at Wahfles Cafe – 1502 Foothill Blvd., La Verne, California
Someone tell me this is normal.
We are days away from closing escrow on a home that may be, to me, one of the most charming homes imaginable. At the same time, I am days away from everyone I know having the opportunity of reading my book and deciding for themselves if I can or cannot actually write. I am hours away from my first real day as a Barista in a coffeehouse. A job I used to pine for, years ago before my world went haywire.
These are all good things, and yet, I feel like I cannot breathe. My hands are shaking and I am filled with anxiety.
But I know this is not who I am. God called me to this day, for these things. He created me and has given me all I need to make it through today. He did not line these things up in October for the events to overpower me, and my fears will not push me to the place of behaving badly.
God cannot breathe for me, but He breathes through me, and I am strong enough and brave enough in Him.
Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:23
Each Wednesday night, my husband leads a Lifegroup in our home. It’s a time where we gather with a few other people to discus Scripture, share what’s happening in our lives, and pray for one another.
Last Wednesday night my husband concluded with this challenge, “This week I want you to list five things each day that you are thankful for.”
“Five?!” I demanded.
“Yes, five.” He replied.
I went about my business the next day with little thought to his challenge, not because I didn’t regard it as worthwhile, I was just busy. I was scheduled to work a double shift at the restaurant where I am a food server. I started at noon, and I would be there for ten and a half hours.
For about a month, my lower back had been giving me trouble, and I hadn’t done anything to find out why or make some changes. As I worked this long shift, my back pain was interfering to the point of distraction. With each passing hour the pain grew more annoying. Thankfully, one of my sweet coworkers agreed to close for me so I was able to walk out a little earlier than expected.
At exactly 10:00 PM I drove home, where I assumed I would shuffle into the house and drop into a hot Epsom salt bath.
My back had other plans.
With the first step out of my car I could tell something was different. I couldn’t stand all the way up, and I couldn’t sit back down. Pain that rivals the pain of childbirth shot through my back. I slid down to the ground while holding tight to the steering wheel. I tried to call my husband on his cell, but he didn’t answer, so I resorted to using the horn. Fortunately, I didn’t have to honk for very long before my husband came to my aid.
At first it didn’t seem like there was much he was going to be able to do to assist me. All he could do was hold my arms while I lowered myself backwards so I was lying flat on the ground.
Here’s the thing: we live in Arizona. Translated, that means we don’t have grass in our front yard. Very few homes have grass in their yards; however, the state of Arizona also doesn’t have annual drought issues. We don’t have water restrictions, and our parks are bright green all year long.
But, I digress…where was I? Oh yes, in my front yard, lying on my back atop sharp red rocks. I began to shiver. The cold and the pain were waging war against my body. My husband tried to help me get up, but each time I made any movement the pain was agonizing, so I would scream and resist.
Not long into this fun interaction with my husband, a neighbor came outside to move his trash can. He saw us struggling and crossed the street to see what was happening. I’m pretty sure he thought it was a domestic quarrel, which it may have eventually turned into, given a little more time. The two men were able to carry me inside and lower me to the floor. My husband made me a blanket pallet and a stiff drink. I pulled my off clothes and slept on the floor with a heating pad.
The next morning my back didn’t feel any different. If I laid perfectly still, I could begin to forget it hurt, but when I tried to make a minuscule move, a paralyzing sharp pain shot through my back and I would unwillingly scream out in response. My husband made me an ice pack and I laid still for as long as I could, alternating the heat and ice.
Finally, I couldn’t ignore the greater issue at hand: I needed to pee. Somehow, I was going to have to get to the toilet. I tried to roll and to scoot. I tried raising myself to a sitting position from the left and the right. No matter what I did, it felt like a train was traveling across my spine, its metal wheels cutting into my nerves.
My husband decided he would drag me towards the restroom. He pulled the blanket pallet across the carpeted room, while I rode in screaming pain. Once we got to the hallway, I was able to press myself up enough that I could rest on my elbows. I began a snail pace shuffle down the hallway.
Getting this far had taken us nearly twenty minutes, during which time, my sweet husband made multiple offers to get me a container in which I could urinate. I repeatedly declined. I wasn’t going to pee anywhere except the toilet.
As I rounded the hallway corner, I decided to use the door jam to pull myself into a sitting position. As I leveraged myself and made the adjustment, the train pain came barreling down my back. I resisted the urge to recline away from the pain, and allowed my scream to emerge while I pushed through it.
I was practically sitting. Yes, my breathing was labored and my face was wet with tears, but I was no longer horizontal. I looked over at the toilet and I thought, “I’m just five feet from the toilet.”
I sat there thinking about how crazy this was. Less than 12 hours prior, I was carrying heavy trays with multiple entreés. I didn’t get into a car accident on the way home, and I didn’t have a bad fall. I hadn’t done anything, at all. And yet now, here I was sliding across the floor wondering why our toilets are so high up off the ground.
I rested my head against the door jam and looked at the hallway bookcase. Sitting across from me at eye level was a sign reading “GRACE is enough”. The sign was made by a dear friend and given to me when my world collapsed a year and a half ago.
Looking at the sign, I remembered all that the word GRACE has come to mean to me: God’s grace is goodness and love. It’s mercy where mercy is undeserved. It’s being willing to publicly interact with someone who may not be esteemed in the eyes of some. God’s grace is sacrifice; it requires action.
Pressed against the door jam, I was hit with thousands of memories from the last year and half. Each one reminding me that nothing is permanent and God’s grace is always enough to see me through. Even in this painful and ridiculous situation, God’s grace is enough.
God’s grace showed up when I was paralyzed on the rocks and a neighbor took the time to walk across the street.
God’s grace showed up in my coworker friends who started texting me as soon as they heard I was down, and it showed up through each call from my children.
God’s grace showed up through the chiropractor who loaned us a back brace that our insurance wouldn’t cover, and it showed up in the sweet friend who rushed over with essential oils for the pain.
Finally, God’s grace showed up through my husband. The man who slept on the couch so I wouldn’t have to be alone in the front of the house. The man who washed my hair, bathed my body, helped me dress, and has helped me take every single step over the last two days. The kindness and servitude of my husband has left me with so much gratitude that counting my five blessings will be all too easy this week. Even when I’m five feet from the toilet.
So Fall is here, technically it arrived about a week ago, but for those of us who don’t have an alarm on our phones alerting us to its arrival on September 22, the season doesn’t arrive until the calendar flips to the month with the orange lettering. There are some things you should just wait for. Like Fall. And Christmas. And God’s promises to be fulfilled when it seems like maybe He has forgotten you, and you are sitting in the waiting room, and you begin to wonder if God left the building with a friend for a round of golf and a craft beer.
Psalm 27:13-14 has become a poignant verse for my husband and me over this year and last. It talks about waiting:
“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
The verse was quoted to my husband and I when we met with the senior pastor of a large church in California following the announcement of my affair and the firing of my husband from his ministerial position. We went to the home of this pastor seeking advice and encouragement at one of the scariest times in our marriage. (Not, THE scariest time in our marriage…just one of them. Trust me, affairs may be bad news but, now that we are a little further away from it, my husband and I would both contest that burying our 19-month-old little girl was far more frightening).
When Pastor Chuck first said the verse I had images congruent with the TV show, The Walking Dead. My mind didn’t capture “the land of the living” without also imagining “the land of the no longer living”. My eyes rose from my sweaty glass of ice water, and looked across the sunny patio with a quizzical grimace. Pastor Chuck responded to the unspoken inquiry explaining that to see God’s goodness in the land of the living meant that we wouldn’t have to wait until we arrived in Heaven to see how God would use our terrible situation for good. We didn’t have to wait until the afterlife to have an understanding that everything was going to be okay. If we could be strong, wait for the Lord, and trust in His promises, we would see the hand of God and witness the unfolding of His plans while we were still alive on planet Earth.
This morning I happened across another verse that spoke of God’s promises:
“And because of His glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises.” 2 Peter 1:4
He has given us precious promises. Wow. That lovely truth started my mind spinning to the variety of places claiming God’s promises. I remember hearing a hymn instructing me to stand on the promises of God. I’ve read where Corrie Ten Boom said “Let God’s promises shine on your problems”. And I once saw a really pretty meme with a sunset and a barn that said “God’s promises are like the stars; the darker the night the brighter they shine.” It has to be true if it has a sunset and barn, right?
But aside from accepting that God’s promises are true, my real question was, “What are His promises?” Because if I am waiting for something, I want to know what it looks like.
As I began to pray, one thing became clear. I could see with clarity all the promises that are not from God. He never promised a lot of things that I hope for. God never promised that my vitamins would absorb, that the dog’s vet bill would be less than I made in tips last night, or that my hair color would last. He never promised that I wouldn’t need two new tires when it’s most inconvenient, or that Bank of America would wave their policies for loan approval. God didn’t promise that that your child’s self esteem would be high, or your interest rates low. He didn’t promise that your Mother-in-Law would be kind, that your neighbors would be friendly, or that you would conceive a child. He didn’t promise that our jobs would be fulfilling, that we would be cancer free, or that babies wouldn’t die. God never promised that there wouldn’t continue to be wrongful executions. He didn’t promise that slavery would end. He didn’t promise that we would no longer see injustice in our homes, our work places, our country and our world. He didn’t promise a lot of things I hope for.
So what did he promise?
God promised that on our very worst day, He would be at His very best to conquer the demons who work to depress and diminish our spirits. God promised power to the weak and rest for the weary. He promised we would soar like eagles, not because our situation would change, but because our souls could be free.
And why should I care?
Because ultimately our desires sit on two different lists. The first set is the list of things that will show me and others that I’ve lived a righteous life. It can look material for some, but it’s not just about accumulating cars and houses. This is the list where you have a purpose in your job. It’s the list where you make a difference because you are using your gift; where the free will of others is significantly impacted by your influence. It’s the list where justice wins, sickness vanishes, and evil is revealed. It’s a good list, desirable indeed. The second list is what God does when those things don’t happen. It’s repetitive, but here goes: it’s finding peace and allowing things to be well with your soul when none of the things on the first list are happening.
We are dependent on the second list because that is God’s promise. While the first list is glorious and certainly full of things I wouldn’t turn away, do you realize what happens when we have the first list without the second? If we were to receive all the things that we think we want, and not be clinging to God’s promise to sustain us when problems come knocking, do you know what we’d be? We would be a bunch of middle class Americans whining about all the other promises that were not fulfilled. In other words, to have the first set of promises fulfilled takes us exactly where we are today.
But why can’t I have both?
Because you’d stop caring about the second list. God knows us. And He knows what we can handle and what we cannot. And in as much as we believe that we were made to do great things, God knows that there are greater things than the achievements of man. The peace you find in Him pleases Him. Oh, you’ll still do great things, it just might be measured differently than you imagined. That’s a promise.
When I was fourteen-years-old I joined my High School’s Track Team. Impressing my classmates with my agile Kenyan-like abilities, I won the team’s MVP award and garnished the nickname “Jackrabbit Jackie” for my hare-footed speed. Okay, well maybe that’s not altogether accurate. What actually happened might have fewer accolades.
During the spring semester of my freshman year, the extra curricular activity “Drill Team” was no longer considered a viable class in meeting my High School’s Physical Education requirements. In order for my fellow flag twirlers and me to meet our needed PE requirements, we either had to enroll in a traditional PE class, or we had to “go out” for Track and Field. After a conversation with Coach Monroe, a grandfatherly man whose gentle nature sits firm and soft on the bleachers of my memory, I decided to join the Track Team.
Coach Monroe needed runners to participate in a multitude of events, and he confidently suggested two in which he felt I would excel. The first was the 800 meter run. 800 meters is two laps around the track. TWO LAPS…without stopping. I’m sorry, but that’s a long way to run without an axe murderer chasing you.
The second event in which he convinced the team’s novice runner to participate was the Hurdles. Wikipedia describes hurdling this way,
The act of running and jumping over an obstacle at speed. A series of barriers known as hurdles are set at precisely measured heights and distance in which each athlete must pass by running over. Accidental knocking over of hurdles is not cause for disqualification, but is disadvantageous.
On one afternoon, Coach Monroe, who undoubtedly received his Masters Degree in Manipulation, managed to convince this newcomer that she should run in one event demanding endurance and a second event requiring agility in speedily skipping over obstacles which are strategically placed to knock her on her bum.
Two things stand out about my time on LMHS Matador’s Track and Field Team. The first is that I successfully DID compete in both of those events at two separate meets. Twice, Coach Monroe was able to convince me that I could successfully navigate the obstacles strategically placed to trip me up. Even though I never placed in hurdles and the 800 meter run only garnished me a 4th place ribbon (out of four runners), I still did it.
The second thing that stands out is a treasured nostalgic heirloom I can still visualize to this day. The monument exists in the form of a pair of blue satin track shoes. I can still see the homely sneakers, and while I don’t know if they were really satin, they shine that bright in my memory.
As a teenager, the shoes were not my favorite–remember, I only wore them twice. The metal cleats sparkle in my memory not because of the way they gripped the ground seeing me safely over each hurdle, but because of the indelible message my father sent me upon their purchase.
A father who worked long days in construction, arrived home where his daughter, who was not blessed with athletic prowess, told him she was joining the track team. He looked down at her VANS deck shoes and said, “Get in the truck, you’re gonna need shoes.”
We climbed into my Dad’s sky blue pick-up truck and he drove us to the nearby Big 5 Sporting Goods Store. I can still see my father’s checkbook as his calloused hand signed the note paying nearly fifty dollars for the funky footwear. Fifty dollars may not seem like a lot of money, but over thirty years ago in our middle income family with two working parents; it was an oddity for my Dad to spend that kind of cash on shoes.
This is where the heirloom explodes in my heart.
My Dad didn’t buy me track cleats because I whined and moaned about needing them, and he didn’t buy them because he had any false expectations about my running abilities. The man had raised me. He was fully aware that I was a girl who was drawn to reading, performing, and creating far more often than exerting myself athletically. Unlike Coach Monroe, my father probably had a pretty good idea that I would eventually find my place on the track team, not running in an event, but running the announcer’s booth with a microphone in hand and my voice echoing through the stadium.
I’ve wondered at times if I would even remember my brief inclusion to the track team were it not for the physical manifestation of my father’s confidence. For all I know or imagine, the 4th place ribbon and the spiky slippers sit somewhere in a landfill, and it’s the memory of my father’s belief that has become the treasured heirloom.
This week I was reminded of that parental belief when my Indiegogo fundraising campaign to pay for the editing and publishing of my first fictional manuscript received a hearty donation. Upon notification, I learned the donation was made by my parents.
Writing has brought so many good things into my life, and this is among them. Years from now, will the a published book shine brighter than the heirloom’s of encouragement I’ve already received?
When you drive someone to Big 5 and buy them a pair of cleats, the runner’s belief in their ability to run well is re-energized. When faithful friends or far off strangers are willing to invest in your dreams because they see your potential, what happens at the finish line becomes more likely, but less consequential. It’s a race worth running no matter the outcome. Even last place becomes a victory for all. Time and again, the spark of creativity has been rekindled for those who strive to create by the mere knowledge that someone believes in their ability to navigate the hurdles and endure to the end.
For more information about the fictional book I wrote and how to be a part of Making Kimly’s Trade Happen, simply click on this LINK.
A friend of mine gave me a great suggestion when we relocated to another state and would no longer live near our toddler granddaughter. She suggested I get a children’s book and read that same book to my granddaughter via FaceTime or Skype whenever I had the chance.
My friend was spot on in her suggestion, and from the first time I read the book, Grandma and Me my granddaughter was a captivated audience. Whenever we would visit her, I would surprise her by pulling the flap book out of my suitcase and reading it to her LIVE.
Recently, I tried a new book and introduced her to the “If You Give” series. There are many to choose from: If You Give a Cat a Cupcake, If You Give a Moose a Muffin, If You Give a Pig a Pancake and several others, as well. The original book in the series, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie describes the potential trials readers will face if they give a mouse a chocolate chip cookie. It was the literary success of this rodent’s post-cookie adventure that led to sequels and spawned the franchise.
The story starts off fairly harmless, “If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk to go with it. When you give him a glass of milk, he’s going to ask for a straw…” Through the progression of events, the cookie-giver ends up following the discontent mouse throughout the house meeting his needs until they end up back where they started. The few times I read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to my granddaughter via FaceTime she was captivated. I was Moses and she was an Israelite watching me part the Red Sea.
Three days ago my husband and I made a spontaneous trip across the state line to visit our children and spend time with our granddaughter, which means I have spent the last three days reading the same book over and over.
From sunrise snuggles to bedtime, the toddler who holds my heart repeated, “Mouse. Cookie.” She had no problem communicating her intentions. She wanted to read and reread and learn what happens if you give a mouse a cookie. This morning, when packing to leave her home and head back to my own, I knew I couldn’t take the mouse-cookie book with me. Her fascination with the story was too intense to disrupt. Now, as I am riding shotgun with the man who leads me well, I am struggling in a big way.
My heart breaks when we leave California. Every. Single. Time.
The pain of leaving my children and my granddaughter is made worse by lingering guilt. As we drove onto the onramp, my inner thoughts condemned me saying, “This is your own fault. You are being punished for what you did. You reap what you sew.”
It was paralyzing for the first hour of the drive, and I found myself wishing we hadn’t made the trip at all. I found myself wishing I didn’t have short reminders of what I no longer have everyday–or even once a week!
Visiting my granddaughter for three days: eating, hiking, bathing, and reading the mouse-cookie book LIVE was no longer good enough. I became a discontent rodent.
“If you give me three days with my granddaughter, I’m going to want a week. If you give me a week, I’m going to want to move back to California. If you move me back to California, I’m going to want…”
I have never posted a blog from a car as it traveled eighty-one MPH through the desert, but once I recognized the lies in my head and the seriousness of the battle I am fighting, I knew I needed some reinforcement.
Contentment with cookies and granddaughters and matters of the heart is serious business. I am not alone in my struggle. A lack of contentment is the root of an inconceivable amount of problems and sin in our world today.
So, what’s a mouse to do?
When I finally found my voice and shared my internal struggle with my husband, he asked, “What are you wanting to happen?”
“I want these feelings to go away. I want to be content. But I’m not,” I answered him while looking straight ahead.
And then he reminded me, “I know your not. I’m not either. But you can’t make your feelings go away. They have to be replaced with something.”
And there it is.
Unpleasant feelings of discontent always lead us to replace them with something. Terrible regrets are equally demanding. Remorse begs to be replaced with something far more satisfying. The question always comes back to what we choose to replace them with. Emptiness, disappointment and brokenness owned can actually lead to freedom if we recognize those emotions and deal with them.
However, dealing with them looks different for everyone. For me, rather than spending the next few hours in a car, wishing it was speeding towards California, I allow myself to feel sad while simultaneously asking God to use this time–this travel time–for His glory.
I cannot change our situation, but I can change how I respond to the situation. If I pout and promise to be happy once the situation changes, my mouse-like behavior will form frustrating habits.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ” Jeremiah 29:11
Our reliance on scripture is not merely prophetical. God’s plans for us to prosper are not only in the future. We are living His plans in this day; We are living His plans in this moment.
When we stop half way through our journey (and half way through this blog) to top off our tank with gasoline, my husband runs inside the convenience store to buy a pack of cookies.
It seems that my half written blog has had an effect on my man. I can’t help but smile, and I realize that, once again, God has ministered to me where I least expect it.