Like The Rain

Holly Hobbie Music Box

Leigh huddles in the corner of her bedroom, hugging a pillow, knees drawn to her chest.  Even the rain pelting the window and the rolling thunder couldn’t drown out the storm raging inside.  The fiercest storms always come around midnight.

“She’s my secretary!”  Dad hollers.

“Why did she come here?”  Mom screams.

“None of your damn business!”

“Go to Hell!”

The words feel like punches in her gut.  They had talked about Hell in church that morning.  Why would Mom want Dad to go there?  Leigh hopes it’s something she’ll learn when she turns seven.  Mom always says, ‘you’ll understand when you get older.’  Is seven old enough?

Glass breaks.  Mom yells.  The walls shake when the front door slams.  Leigh’s Holly Hobbie music box tumbles from the shelf and lands with a crack.  Two notes of music play.  Lightning flashes.  The bursts of light illuminate the broken ballerina on the floor.  A clap of thunder makes the house tremor.

The front door slams again.  Pictures on the wall bounce.  Dad’s angry shouts make Leigh cover her ears and bury her face in the pillow to muffle her cries.  She prays God will make it stop- all of it- the hate, the yelling, the tension, the tightness in her chest.

Leigh startles when the thunder of gun shots rattles the windows.  Too many to count.  Lightning flickers and then the room goes dark again.

Raindrops quicken and thump with more force, just like her heartbeats.  The cadence is broken by the skidding of tires out of their gravel driveway.

Her stomach feels heavy.

Is this how answered prayers should feel?

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Unless inspiration strikes and insists a story be written, this will probably be my only Trifecta weekday challenge entry this week.  Busy week with scouts, football, and family – every night til next Monday.  Our last scout meeting before the summer break is on Thursday – yay!  It’s fun, but I need a break 🙂

For this week’s challenge, we again dug through your suggestions for inspiration. (If you haven’t linked up yet with Meet Your Fellow Trifectans, please do.) We’re going with Tamyka‘s suggestion:

thun·der noun \ˈthən-dər\ – bang, rumble <the thunder of big guns>

Do You See Elvis’ Face On My Toast?

As a child, I had way too much imagination packed into my scrawny body.  I’m surprised I made it into adulthood without health complications brought on by the frightening tricks my mind played on me.

In elementary school, a friend scared the wits out of me when she insisted that a man watched us from a nearby hilltop.  We were on the playground with a hundred other kids, but she had me convinced that (1) there was a man – whom I couldn’t see; and (2) he singled us out to stalk.

She kept her fun going when we were at her house that afternoon.  She peeked out her window and (easily) had me believing she saw him.  I was nearly hysterical by the time my parents came to get me.  (In case you’re wondering, we didn’t stay friends long.  After sharing she had supernatural powers, I decided she was the whack job – not me.)

In junior high, I swore the popping and creaking of our settling house was in fact a deranged madman who planned to attack us as we slept.  My ears even heard footsteps on the carpet (coming closer to my room, of course).  Eyes opened wide, I saw nothing but blackness.  With shallow breathing (and very dry eyes) I waited, unable to move.  Oddly enough, I always fell asleep and managed to wake up unharmed in the morning.  Perhaps it was chloroform.

image via Wikihow

Luckily, my body grew into my imagination.  Instead of my imagination prowling the night like a famished tiger, age has tamed the beast to behave more like a house cat.  Although still fierce at times, it is mostly cuddly and fun.  I don’t miss the tiger, that’s for sure.

Rather than dwelling on frightening scenarios, my imagination finds the unusual in the ordinary.   I see ninjas with machetes in our walls’ texture and Elvis’ face on my toast.  When I look at clouds, I see puppies, rabbits, clusters of balloons or faces. Dead tree trunks take on the form of animals.

This one looked like a turtle with its front legs on the trunk: 

I saw an antlered animal’s head peeking above a log: 

At first, I attributed these sightings to remnants of my childhood imagination.  Now that I think about it, it could just mean I need new glasses.

What things have you seen that aren’t?  Is it imagination or poor eyesight? 

Toy Story 3 Linked To Self-Diagnosis of Disposaphobia

I haven’t believed in living toys since my brother’s plastic dog-shaped toy box tried to attack me when I was three years old.  I swear it really happened, but my parents insisted it was just a dream.  Either way, I didn’t venture into his room alone for several years.  I watched Toy Story 3 on DVD with the kids this weekend, which resurrected this memory and has forced me to wrestle with some confusing emotions.

First of all, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I got misty-eyed during two places in the movie the first time I saw it (when the toys joined hands waiting for the ‘end’ and when Andy drove off to college.)  The mist was heavy and dangerously close to tears.  I had to wipe them away and claim allergies or else my husband would tease me forever.

Sadly, when I watched the movie again this weekend, I still almost cried when Andy drove off.  And, to make it worse, I have the urge to start bawling just thinking about it right now.  This does not bode well for my emotional stability.  Next thing I know, commercials will leave me in a puddle of tears.  No, this is not good at all.

Something more disturbing has come out after watching this movie:  I’m now grieving stuff I have given away; abandoned.  You see, I’ve been battling clutter in my house.  Over the last several weeks, boxes of stuff have been donated to Goodwill and, judging by the state of my house, several more truckloads boxes could stand to go.

I’m not a hypochondriac or anything, but I think I’m afflicted with disposaphobia (fear of throwing things away.)  I half-joke that I’m obsessive compulsive and paranoid, but “Toy Story 3-induced-disposapobia” could ruin my life.

I hold the hot pink purse in my hands, ready to drop it into the donation box.  I can’t do it.  I imagine the purse telling the other discarded handbags about her miserable life, spending the last two years gathering dust on a cramped shelf, only to be tossed away.  I can’t leave her feeling that I don’t love her anymore.

I pick up my old clock radio, which has sat in my closet for the last ten years – replaced by an alarm clock with a CD player.  I contemplate letting go, but I don’t want to hurt his feelings.  I’ve had him longer than my children and he never failed to wake me up for work on time.  I couldn’t bear to imagine him sitting on a cold, unfamiliar shelf, so I put him right back in his cozy spot in my closet.

I was all set to be brutal with what stays so I don’t feel so cramped in my house, but now that Toy Story 3 has made the personification of inanimate objects seem so…real, I just can’t do it.  The toys talk, they breathe, they get smashed by heavy objects and they don’t die.  I mean, there’s even a scene where you see the trash bag stretching as the toys try to get out.   My goodness, I can’t suffocate my stuff!  I don’t want my stuff to feel unloved.  I’m a good person.  Really, I am. 

Now that I have self-diagnosed myself with disposaphobia, I’m off to self-medicate with fudge brownies and a glass of milk. 

Is it just me, or is the personification of inanimate objects creepy?

My Journey Through Darkness

image via Google Images (health.howstuffworks.com)

After I was baptized at age nine, my life didn’t magically get better.  In fact, it didn’t change much at all from the outside.  I withdrew further into myself, and into dream worlds that were much kinder than reality.  In the early eighties, the small town we lived in had some hard times and my dad lost his job.  Luckily, he was handy, so he found work – even if it wasn’t work he enjoyed.

Months later, he found a job that required us to move to a town that was two-and-a-half hours away.  I cried because my grandparents wouldn’t live down the street from me anymore, but I wanted to go.

In December, I started school in the new town and was crushed to discover that those kids were just as mean.  I accepted that it was my fault because I couldn’t convince myself that everyone else had a problem.  I did make one friend – Anne.  She moved out-of-state less than a month later, and I was alone again.

My parents found a church, but like the last one, they weren’t regular attenders.  I didn’t like the new church; it just wasn’t the same without my grandparents.  I missed waiting in the car with my grandpa while my grandma chatted with other church ladies for what seemed like an hour.  It helped that we made regular visits to see my grandparents, but it didn’t match eating snacks at their house every day after school.  Though I always looked forward to visits, the miles between us did put some distance in the relationship.

The next year, I started sixth grade in another school across town.  I was still awkward and shy, but the kids were nicer.  Then, during my three years in junior high, I made a few more friends.  I wasn’t popular by any stretch of the imagination, but I didn’t care because the popular people weren’t on a mission to make my life miserable.  Sure, some still called me “nerd” and “geek” but that was nothing compared to what people said to me in the last town.  In fact, a few popular kids would even talk to me as long as their friends weren’t around.  I was too grateful to realize that I should’ve been insulted 🙂

The town only had one high school, so I carried a sense of dread my entire last year of junior high.  I worried that the mean kids from fifth grade would turn my friends against me.  I was scared, desperate, and didn’t want to be lonely again.  No, I resolved to not let that happen.  My teenage mind could think of only one way out.

I had a plan.  That is, until a strange conversation with my grandma during one of our weekend visits.  While working on posters for her Sunday School class, just like we had done when I was younger, she started talking about God’s view of suicide.  I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I do recall that I was freaked out because it seemed like she knew what I’d been planning. 

I remember asking her one question:  “If you commit suicide, do you go to heaven?”  I also recall her answer:  “No.”  During this conversation, we continued working on the lesson without making eye contact.  She only talked in general terms and never made me the subject.  She must have known it would’ve put me on the defensive; after all, fifteen-year-old girls aren’t the most stable creatures under the best of circumstances.

Growing up in a Baptist church, I heard plenty about the other place and “eternal damnation”- and I knew I didn’t want to go there.  I doubted the plan that I had been so sure about, so I did nothing.  God came through with more blessings:  my dad lost his job in the small town, but they lined up a transfer to Arizona.  My dad still had a job with the company and I got a shot at a new beginning.

So far, this has been the lowest point of my life.  I am ashamed that I would have considered taking my own life.  My grandma made it clear that she viewed it as a cowardly, selfish act.  By virtue of my willingness to succumb to it, I became those things. 

Although I detest this weakness, I remember it often – not to torture myself, but to make me stronger.  I do have days where I’m not happy, but I make an effort to look up to the light instead of focusing on the depths of darkness because I know what it feels like to be pinned down and smothered by hopelessness.  I will not go back.  I have faith that God won’t let me go back.

I’ll never know for sure what prompted my grandma to start that conversation – but I know in my heart that it was God.

I Pledged My Belief…And Knew He Accepted Me

When I think of someone who loved God wholly and studied His word faithfully and trusted His leadership always, I think of my grandma.  My grandpa was also a believer, but he was more reserved.  For five years during elementary school, I lived down the street from my grandparents.  I hung out at their house after school and if neighbor kids came over (usually to play with my brother), my grandma would feed them all.  My grandpa often quietly read the Wall Street Journal and monitored the stock market ticker that ran across the bottom of the TV screen. 

As I child, I was extremely shy and was an easy target for kids at school to push around.  They threatened, but never physically injured me.  Their expertise was inflicting emotional pain.  There were times when some would pose as friends, only to turn around and steal my belongings and ridicule me; leaving me alone again to wonder what was wrong with me.  I didn’t tell my parents much of what went on because I didn’t want them involved.  As far as they knew, I was just forgetful and lost a lot of stuff 🙂

My grandma’s love of life seemed to draw people to her, including me.  I found comfort in her laughter.  I spent hours making arts and crafts, and used glitter liberally – glitter was not allowed at home!  When my grandma needed posters for Sunday School class, she would let me help make them.  For many years, she taught Sunday School to junior high school kids, and I often wonder how many lives she changed.

My parents didn’t attend church.  To this day, I still don’t know why not.  But my brother and I went with my grandparents every Sunday.  Every week, I brought a tied-up stomach with me because I didn’t fit in there, either.  The only difference was that they weren’t openly mean; they couldn’t do that at church, you know.

Children’s Church ended each week with the youth pastor instructing anyone who wanted to ask Christ to come into their hearts to walk to the front of the room and kneel down.  Every week, I sat there with my head bowed; waiting for the music to end so I could find my grandparents.  When I was nine, a strange thing happened:  I got out of my seat and walked to the front of the room. 

I remember that I felt at peace during that walk.  I wasn’t nervous.  I wasn’t self-conscious.  It was a totally foreign feeling to me.  The girl who refused to get up in the middle of class to go to the bathroom because people might stare at her had made her way up to the front of the roomful of kids.  I wasn’t embarrassed when the pastor talked to my grandparents about it, either.  But I couldn’t provide any explanation as to why I made the choice other than, “it just felt right.”

Nerves set in on the night of my baptism, but I didn’t back out of it because I just knew that God brought me to him that day.  I knew it wasn’t my choice alone because I would have chosen to remain invisible in my back-row chair, just like every other week. 

I don’t think I realized at the time but looking back, I understand that God used my grandma to bring me to him.  I also believe that he used her again years later to have a conversation with me that changed – if not saved – my life.  But I’ll get into that next time.