Nibble, Nibble Little Mousy!

Do you remember that line from ‘Handsel and Gretel’? The story of a witch who built her house in the middle of the woods to entrap small lost children. Walls of gingerbread, windows of spun sugar, licorice trim and gumdrop flowers, what child can resist a nibble or two? As I child I had the ‘read along’ story on record. Yes, that is an actual vinyl disk that spun on a turntable with a needle to interpret the grooved lines into a story. I can still hear the scratchy sound of the narrator’s voice as the witch saying, “Nibble, nibble little mousy. Who is nibbling on my housy?” and Handsel and Gretel’s brave reply. “It is the wind.” It was very scary back then.

I may not have a gingerbread house covered in sweets, (my kids would have eaten us out of house and home long ago) but something is nibbling. I haven’t seen it, but I know it is here. I can hear it. That scratching sound like fingernails on the other side of the wall, but nothing is there. The dry rustling of paper where there is no wind, the crackle of candy wrappers that my children thought they had disposed of, all point to one conclusion. A mouse in my house.

It was confirmed when my sister came over to chat for a while. I noticed that although she was talking and answering questions, her eyes kept straying beyond me. I turned my head to look, but didn’t see anything. “What is it? what do you see?” I thought maybe it was my dirty dishes that I hadn’t made myself do yet. But no, of course not. “There is a mouse, right there next to the chair in your dining room.” I looked again but saw nothing.

Late that night, as I tried to fall asleep, the rustling and crackling came again. this time right under my bed. That’s it. That’s the last straw. I sit straight up in bed and, much to my husband’s dismay, flick on the light. All was silent. Had I been dreaming? Were the noises of the day haunting my nights? I flounder for a moment under the weight of my blankets while scrabbling for my glasses. I really hate not being able to see. I move the box that serves as a nightstand. Nothing. I peer cautiously under the bed. Nothing. Had it escaped, or was it really a dream? Unsure I climbed back into bed, glasses on, straining for any sound beyond that of my husband’s deep breathing. It is ages before I can join him in slumber.

I am the first to admit, I am not a great housekeeper. I hate to clean, but I do it. I try to keep up on dishes and laundry and try to keep the rest picked up. 001Sometimes it works, sometimes I get behind. However, as much as I hate cleaning, the next few days I will be a clean freak. There will be nowhere left for my visitor to hide. There will be no piece of furniture left unmoved, no scrap of paper left in it’s corner. I will find my nibbler, or at least his access point, and I will leave him out in the cold. If that fails, I will have to adopt my sister’s cat for awhile. Either way,

Beware little nibbler, I’m coming for you!

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Encountering Jesus, In the Gospels

Encountering Jesus. It seems like a wonderful dream, a hope that will come true after we leave this mortal life and join him in heaven. I can’t help but wonder what it will be like to see him face to face. What will he say, what will he do? One way we can catch a glimpse of him is to read the gospels. The first four books of the new testament are full of stories about people encountering Jesus.

I love those stories. To me, each one is an outline of how Jesus responds to his people. As a writer, my imagination tries to fill in the blanks. What was happening in the people’s lives on the day they met Jesus? What did they think of him when they first looked into his eyes? People back then were no different that we are today, so we should be able to get a glimmer of what it was like.

Several years ago, I was going through a spiritual dry spell. My pastor told one of those stories and made it come to life for me. For months the story played over and over in my head until I finally wrote it down. Since then I have rewritten other stories trying to answer the question, ‘What will it be like to see him?’

The woman at the well cries in his lap, Jesus’ tears mingle with hers as he shares her pain.

The demon possessed man is restored to his right mind and Jesus tells him to stay and witness to the people of his city because the people there sent Jesus away.

Zacchaeus, the tax collector, is despised and scorned by his people, yet Jesus comes to his house for dinner and shows a better way.

Lepers are touched, the blind see, the lame walk and it goes on and on. We are like these people, hurting, despised, untouchable. Jesus drew them in, loved them and gave them hope. He does the same for us, if we seek his face.

The Romance is Over!

I am a cynic. I do not believe in Love at First Sight or in Happily Ever After. I seldom watch romantic movies and while I do read romance novels, most of the time I skip over the mushy stuff to get to the good parts. All that being said, I do believe in Love. Real Love, True Love. As I sit and write this, my eyes stray toward the window and my ears listen for the sound of his car even though I know it will be hours before he will be home. He is not Prince Charming, or  my knight in shining armor; he is my husband. Today is our twentieth anniversary.

Gone are the deep sighs of longing. Forgotten is the pitter-pat of a smitten heart. What is left is the deep contentment of true acceptance and completeness. For Better or Worse, Richer or Poorer. those were the promises we made to each other so many years ago. We have had more ‘worse’ than ‘better’ and a whole lot more ‘poorer’ than ‘richer’ but through it all, we have had each other. It has not been easy.  Money is always tight and we don’t always agree on things. Sometimes he gets cranky and I get frazzled. We both struggle with depression. Sometime we even wonder ‘What If?’

What if I had said ‘no’ when he asked? What if I had gone after that boy that I really liked in high school, or the man in college? What if he had chosen a girl who was prettier or smarter or a better housewife? What if?

We can never know what might have been. We can only make the most of what we have today. Today, I am married to a man who completes me and challenges me to be better than I ever thought possible. Today, I will welcome home my best friend and lover with a kiss of true love. Would I have had these things with someone else? Maybe, maybe not. For today I am content. I am still in love. I eagerly await the man who loves me. He is the hero of my own love story. Not the handsomest, not the most ambitious or wealthy, but he is my true hero who rescues me from myself by seeing me as more than I am. For him I keep trying to be better, if only because he never asks me to. He loves me as I am while still seeing all that I could be. Who needs more romance than that?

Yes, the fluffy type romance is over, but the real Romance, the kind that sinks deep into the soul and grows richer and stronger everyday, is here to stay.

I love you , Tim. Happy Anniversary.

happy anniversary

Count your Blessings

I like to think of myself as a strong person. I am confident and self-aware. I can take whatever life throws at me and roll with it. Or so I thought. I have found out I am a weak and trembling child when life really hits the fan. At the end of last week, I threw out my back. I had just walked the dogs and was coming in to grab my camera to take pictures of the pretty morning when I felt a twinge in my lower back. I thought nothing of it. I got in the car and drove around some of the back roads near my home. When I got out of the car, my back was a little sore. Two hours later I got home and I could barely stand upright. The next two days were lost in a wash of pain. I managed to do the most necessary things like get the kids on the bus and make coffee, but anything else was beyond me.  Heating pads, ice packs, blue muscle rub stuff and ibuprofen did nothing to lessen the pain. I cowered in my chair, afraid to move, afraid to do anything to bring on more suffering.

The pain peaked Friday afternoon when I lay down to rest. A couple hours later, my bladder told me it was time to move. I tried, but as soon as I tried to sit up, the pain hit. I got myself to my feet, but could go no further. I could not make my legs move. by scrunching my toes I could scoot my feet an inch at a time and managed to make it to the end of the bed. Bracing myself with one hand on the bed frame and the other hand on the door, I was done. The tears finally came. Trapped by pain and weakness, I was at the end of my rope. Finally, I had to crawl my way down the hall, inch by painful inch, tears leaking from my eyes. I had never felt such pain. I had never suffered such humiliation. All that strength that I had been so proud of, physically and mentally had failed me. I have a high pain tolerance and I hardly ever cry, but that day I was beaten.

I made it to the bathroom and I sat there. exhausted, terrified. Why is this happening to me? Shivering and paralyzed by fear on that cold porcelain throne, God met me. There was no thundering voice, no sudden, miraculous healing, there was no earth shattering revelation. Just a quiet comforting, I am here. The tears slowed, the shivering stopped. I was still in terrible pain, but the fear had eased my brain began to function again. I had been isolating myself from anyone outside my own house. My children had been looking at me with wide solemn eyes, my husband handling me with kid gloves, none of them knew how to help me. I called my sister. Her husband had succumbed to cancer a while ago, and I knew that she had some of his pain meds left over. (I know you aren’t supposed to take meds intended for someone else, but I was desperate.) She was at my parents at the time, so they began praying. My other sister heard and brought me better heating pad. Within a few hours, the pain had lessened to a more bearable level.

I am still sore all over. It will take days to fully recover. I still walk like an old woman and my back and legs tire easily, but I can walk mostly upright again. My husband has taken over some of my daily chores and the kids ask how I am feeling every time they see me, they are doing chores and homework with little coaxing. I have learned a valuable lesson. I am still strong, I am still confident and know who I am. I also know that God is with me. Even through my pride and arrogance, he loves me. When that pride crumbles to dust and my strength evaporates like mist in the sunshine, he still loves me and will see me through. I learned to be thankful through the pain. I am thankful that I have family nearby to call on when my back is to the wall. I am thankful that I have a loving husband and children who love me and do what they can to help me when I can’t help myself. I am sure that pride will again rear its ugly head, it is not something easily gotten rid of. Until then, I thank God for the pain, it has taught me not to trust in my own strength but to lean on him and trust his strength instead.

Roots

Yesterday was my birthday. As a gift to myself, I went on a journey. At first it was a search for the first colors of fall, but it became a pilgrimage to my past. My original destination was a state park near Ithaca, NY hoping to take pictures of the fall foliage but few of their trees had begun the change. Instead of driving straight home, I detoured to Homer, NY where members of my family have lived for generations.  That is where I found my first true colors of fall, but also a bit of myself.

I found myself at the cemetery where many family members rest, some I had known most I had not. I spent more than an hour wandering among the147 gravestones reading names. Many of the names I remembered hearing  in stories told by my grandparents and others of the older generations. The dates ranged from recent years to the 1700’s. For a while I sat among the stones of those who had gone before listening to the wind as it whispered through the pines over my head. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what the valley had been like when my ancestors first arrived.

My family has lived America’s history but you will not find their names in the history books. They are the farmers, the teachers and the everyday workers that this country was built on. They tilled the land when it was still the western frontier, nourishing it with their sweat and blood. They raised their children teaching and instructing about God and the world around them. Some were missionaries ministering  to those who lived far from that little valley in Central New York. Some served as soldiers in the Revolutionary War and in the wars that followed. Some gave their lives, others returned home and giving their lives to the land, to their children and to the generations that would follow.

After leaving the cemetery, I drove to a piece of that land that held many memories for me.155 ‘The Pond’ has been a central point in family gatherings since before I was born. Its shore has hosted countless bonfires and family picnics. Its cool waters have refreshed untold numbers of sweaty children, the surrounding hills echoing with laughter. Yesterday, it was quiet, the waters calm, only the gentle breeze gave voice to the memories that lingered there. I walked around the pond and into the woods beyond where I had explored as a child.

Here, I could imagine what the hill had looked like nearly 200 years before. Here, little had changed. Here, I felt my roots sink into the leaf blanketed ground and join with the roots of those who had paved the way. I don’t know how long I wandered in those woods, but when I came out again, I had changed. . .  Just a bit, a piece of my spirit that had been lost and unsure of my place in the world had found a home. 181