Benevolent Power

When the cotton flies on a summer day worries melt in the magic of rose bouquets presented by the Walking Stick Cactus. In the heat of sun and full life, time, age, and winter don’t matter. Swirling white cotton floating on the warm wind lifts my fanciful thoughts to go dancing in a summer-time blizzard. Feathery white stuff tickles my nose bringing me home to reality with a sneeze! This is June in the Bosque’ where the Cotton Wood is a benevolent King offering life with protection to every heat-stressed, desert creature beneath the cooling power of its shimmering leaves. Shelter for the deer and other four-footed animals is also, found among the Russian Olives, Salt Cedar, and other river-loving shrubs. The ancestral homes of many birds adorn the branches of the Cotton Wood and the lesser tree kinds of this deciduous, desert forest. During this yearly, ‘Summer Ballet of the Cotton’ all is well and at peace.

Suddenly, the cotton’s spell is broken by the sharp screech of a Magpie swooping low! He brings many of his beautiful black and white brethren with him but their dazzle is quickly forgotten in the cacophony of obnoxious sound made by these thugs bent on obtaining dominion of the Bosque’. Nothing in the trees or on the ground is spared as they swoop high and low in tacky pursuit of any creature that moves. The soothing tones of the song birds stop. A few brave parents stay in a valiant effort to protect their nests along with their young but every other bird flees. The land creatures hide beneath bushes and dive into their boroughs. An empty silence replaces the happy sounds of contentment but still the cotton drifting-twirls and the Cotton Woods are undaunted. They stand in silence offering their comforting green branches even to the likes of the Magpie who soon grow bored without the contention that defines them. In the empty, dead silence they’ve created, they begin to eye one another and soon the forest is filled with the sounds of civil war. Swooping, diving, and curling into a moving ball the great battle ensues breaking all from their assigned ranks as camaraderie is forgotten in the pursuit of personal power. Soon, the weakest among these invaders dart away and others follow until the warring mob shrinks to only two. This pair builds a nest and settles in as the other bird’s now wary, return to reclaim their home. Having revealed their true selves to all and being outnumbered, the new-comer Magpies fall silent, craftily subdue their contentious nature, and busy themselves with raising their young.

The Cotton Wood leaves quiver and quake offering their moisture to cool the hot, dry air; by wisdom blessing the righteous and the wicked alike thereby, maintaining balance in the Bosque’.

 

 

 

The Recluse (Part XIII)

“I really don’t know why you invited that Williams woman to our dinner party. Obviously, she prefers being alone to socializing.” Tony scolded Maria while getting plates from the cupboard. “Ey Tony! You are too hard on that poor woman. You should be ashamed. She has been so good for our Alisha.” Maria responds as she always does to Tony’s criticism of others, by pointing out their goodness. Tony comes back as is his habit with self-justification, “Well, I for one am thankful that school is about to start and Alisha will have less time to spend over there. I’ve heard things about that woman’s family and background. No matter how harmless she seems, I’m just not comfortable. You are too quick to dismiss the darker side of people, Maria. She isn’t even a Christian. How can she be the right kind of influence for our daughter?” Maria wiping her hands on a dish-towel looks up into her husband’s face, “Anthony, our Lord requires more than that of us. There is no one beyond His power to mend. Do you remember where He found us? Look what He’s done for us, Tony! He can do the same for poor Estelle!”

Tony silenced by the reprimand chooses not to reply but instead, keep his judgments to himself. Maria’s correction however, triggers memories of his childhood. Shadowy remembrances of a life colored by alcohol, drugs, and abuse; a childhood characterized by spiritual and material poverty. That sad existence that required him to grow up too fast and fashioned him into a protector, the man of the house long before he became a man. The hefty responsibility nearly crushed those small shoulders but somehow, he grew accustomed to it and bore the weight. Now as an adult, Tony doesn’t sense anything wrong in taking on more than belongs to him. He isn’t conscious of being controlling because he sees his actions as necessary to prevent horrors from his past repeating themselves in the present. He is determined not to let any of those things hurt his precious wife and daughter. “Maria is so naïve and trusting. No matter what she says, I am watching that woman. I won’t let my guard down. I could never live with myself if I let…that happen to Alisha.” Tony pushed the flash-back of his childhood trauma to the side, where it constantly resides, influencing every thought and decision he makes.

The tinkling chime of the doorbell brings Tony more fully into the present and with confident strides, he moves into the entryway to greet his first guest. As the door swings open, his eyes catch an emerald flash just as Estelle lowers her eyes to avoid direct contact. Tony misinterprets her shyness and feels his suspicions rise. He thinks to himself, “How can I trust someone who won’t even look at me?”

Estelle finds herself frozen in the doorway, trying to hide behind the bouquet of flowers she cut from her garden, as an offering to Maria. She didn’t imagine Tony answering the door and can’t help but feel his hostility. She tries to speak but croaks instead, “Hello…Mr. Hernandez.” Tony takes a moment to observe this eccentric woman but is unable to clear his mind of past experiences and the town gossip he’s heard. He fails to actually see Estelle but instead, sees a living symbol of perceived threats. Wanting to tell her to leave and never return he forces himself to say, “Good evening, Ms. Williams. Welcome to our home.” Tony opens the door wide and stands back to allow Estelle to enter. “These flowers are for Maria.” Estelle holds the fresh-cut arrangement of red and yellow roses interspersed with baby’s breath out to Tony but then Maria enters from the kitchen and takes them from Estelle’s hand. “Oh, Estelle! How beautiful and how thoughtful of you! I’m so glad you are joining us this evening!” Maria wraps Estelle in a welcoming embrace that soothes her jitters and acts as a shield against Tony’s disapproval. “They’re from my garden. I’m glad you like them, Maria. Thank you for inviting me to your party.” Estelle couldn’t remember the last time she’d been invited to a dinner party. Maria couldn’t know how much her kindness meant to her. Estelle wanted to make her home in those warm grey eyes and the friendship they offered. Maria’s nurturing heart, responding to a deep need in Estelle, causes her to take Estelle’s chin in hand and reply, “You are always welcome here. In the Southwest, where I am from, we have a saying, ‘Mi casa es su casa.’ That translates as, ‘My house is your house.’ Please, think of my home as your own and know that in this place you are loved.” Estelle has never heard such beautiful, kind words. Her eyes fill with tears and neither she nor Maria notice Tony in the background, clenching and unclenching his fists.

Maria finds just the right vase for Estelle’s flowers and after taking a deep breath of Rose perfume, places them at the center of the dining room table. The women chatter as they return to the kitchen to finish preparing dinner. Two couples arrive and the final guest to appear is a handsome gentleman in his early fifties, rounding out the dinner party at an even eight. Maria introduces him as Oscar Lovell and Estelle can’t help but be taken aback by his mature good looks. “I’m so silly.” She thinks to herself after the introduction is past and he moves on to converse with the others. Estelle stands firmly in one place, trying not to be noticed, as she is unable to think of any small talk beyond, “Hello. Nice to meet you.” She wishes she could disappear and wonders what possessed her to think she could belong here. Finally, some relief comes when Maria announces that dinner is served and asks everyone to take their seat at the table. Any sense of calm Estelle gains by following directions is shattered when she finds herself seated next to Oscar. He politely helps her get seated and as he takes his place beside her, she feels her legs quaking beneath the table. Then she catches Maria watching them from the corner of her eye and understands, “Maria, I will let you down. This man won’t be interested in me.” she thinks to herself as she tries to stop shaking.

Over the course of dinner, it is easy for Estelle to discern that everyone but she is a Christian. The talk centers on church, family, and the state of the world. Though all come from varying backgrounds, it is obvious that their mutual faith is a powerful bond. “Relationships built on individual relationships with God.” She thoughtfully considers this new insight while never feeling more isolated and alone. “God, I want that. I want what they have but I don’t know how to get there.” Suddenly, Estelle’s inner dialog is interrupted by Oscar, “Ms. Williams have you lived in Greenwood long?” All eyes turn toward her and finding herself at the unwanted center of attention Estelle stammers, “Umm, ugh, yes. I’ve lived here all of my life, actually. Even in the same house…” Then she blushes and looks down at her half-empty plate hoping these words are enough. Oscar senses her extreme shyness and immediately, feels regret at having caused this beautiful woman discomfort. He also, finds himself wishing he could get a closer look at those beautiful green eyes that only appear in flashes before hiding behind lowered lids and thick lash

“Father? Could she be the one you made for me?” Oscar prays to himself. “I’ve been alone for a long time…but whatever you decide. I’m waiting on You.” He sneaks another peak at Estelle and thinks how perfectly beautiful her hair is against her smooth skin. He wonders if he will ever see her again after this evening. Estelle isn’t unaware of his gaze but interprets it as disapproval of her inability to converse in social situations. “He must think I’m a dolt.” This overly critical inner voice gains volume and expounds upon all the reasons why no man could ever find her worthy of love. Estelle listens to the inner deprecations repeated so often before, is comforted by their familiarity, and nestles in the security of not being forced to move beyond her comfort zone. Suddenly an alien idea invades Estelle’s inner world, “I am my own jailer.” This shocking thought pierces the safety of Estelle’s secret ruminations. Estelle has no idea from where this truth emerged but she can’t deny that it is truth.

Dinner draws to a close with satiated guests stretching and yawning. Estelle sees her chance to exit and says her goodbyes to Maria. They set plans for Alisha in the week to come and as she starts to walk toward the front door, she feels a large hand land gently between her shoulder blades, “May I walk you home?” Oscar asks. “Wha…oh, well I just live next door…but I guess that would be okay.” Estelle is too shocked to answer differently but immediately, wishes she’d spoken otherwise. Then she remembers the jailer and decides to be brave. Oscar opens the door for Estelle and offers her his arm as they negotiate the short journey to her house. Estelle feels very awkward but also, exhilarated. They pause together on Estelle’s front porch under the soft porch light and Oscar gets his wish as she looks up and her green eyes fill his field of vision. Estelle is startled by the strength shining from his eyes. She is transfixed by eyes the unexpected color of clear blue crystal and must take a deep breath before she can speak with composure. “It was nice to meet you, Mr. Lovell. Thank you for your kindness.” She reaches for keys in her purse and when she finds them, Oscar takes them from her hand and opens the door for her, then returns the keys and stands back. “Please, call me Oscar. May I call you, Estelle? I hope to see you again. May I call you sometime?” Estelle feels herself blush as she resists the urge to dart inside and slam the door shut. “Ummm…yes, you can call me Estelle. I guess it would be okay to call me, sometime. I mean yes, I’d like that. I think. Here let me give you my number.” Oscar logs Estelle’s number into his phone and then puts it back into his pocket. “Thank you, Estelle. I look forward to getting to know you.” He turns to walk away as Estelle slips inside and quietly shuts the door.

Once safely sealed within, Estelle drops to the floor and wonders if she’s been dreaming. “Did that really happen? After all these years? What is going on here? God? Are You the one changing everything?” Estelle sits in the dark pondering recent events and marveling at how much her life has changed since she first caught little Alisha spying on her. How could one small girl alter her entire world in this way? “Yes, God I do believe this is Your work. Show me what to do! Show me what you want from me next.” Elated, exhilarated, exhausted but also oddly at peace, Estelle picks herself up off the floor and heads for bed. For the first time in many years, Estelle is excited about her future, and falls asleep dreaming of the possibility of tomorrow.

To be continued.

For previous posts in this series go to https://joyindestructible.com/the-recluse-series/ to find posts listed in ascending order.

Primrose Dream

Enchanted by a Primrose dream in June…

A perfect dewy morn,

Sun adorns! I awake by Meadowlark tune!

No summer will I scorn!

Take my hand old man, still a honeymoon…

Our old love newly born,

In every passing season and many a moon!

Every wrinkle care-worn,

My dear old man hold me and let’s spoon!

Apart may we not be torn!

Together so long, souls and hearts attune,

Without you I die forlorn…

I will follow you! Even as far as Neptune!

Taken by one blackthorn!

Should our Primrose dream turn maroon…

Hold me! We’ll be reborn!

On an eternal dewy morning forever June!

 

 

 

The Recluse (Part XI)

“Thank you for taking me to church with you, Maria. I enjoyed it very much.” Estelle opens the car door to step out onto the sidewalk in front of her house and Maria gets out of the car too. “You are very welcome, Estelle. We love your company and I so appreciate what you are doing for Alisha.” As if on cue, Alisha jumps out of the car behind Estelle and gives her an unexpected hug. “Thank you for coming to hear me sing Ms. Williams!” Estelle gasps at the surprising embrace but then accepts it and returns the favor. Maria hugs her in turn and Estelle feels an old ache momentarily fade. It’s been a very long time since she’s felt a human embrace. “I will see both of you soon.” Estelle bends to peer into the car where Tony sits behind the wheel, “Thank you, Mr. Hernandez. Have a wonderful afternoon.” Tony nods in ascent and then looks straight ahead, “Come along Maria…Alisha. We need to get going.” Mother and daughter get back into the car as Estelle walks toward her front door.

Estelle opens the door and is enveloped in the isolation she’s sheltered in for such a long time. The emptiness feels safe and familiar but also, frightening and all consuming. She looks around at the immaculate, perfectly decorated house and has a sudden urge to dirty it up and make it look like someone actually, lives here. Determined but not really understanding the force impelling her to action, Estelle defiantly strides into the living room, looks at the portrait of her mother, and begins tossing expensive, artfully placed cushions from the sofa and chairs willy-nilly and even on the floor. Then she kicks off her shoes, lets down her hair and carelessly, flops down on the beautiful blue sofa. She stretches out as for a nap then reaches for a perfect rose pillow to support her head as she stares into the painted eyes of her deceased mother.

Those eyes leave Estelle feeling frozen. “How many times did I reach for you, Emma? How many times did I need a mother and even though I could see you and touch you, my mother was never there?” In a flash, Estelle understood herself as having always been an orphan on the emotional level. In fact, she’d been forced to be a mother to Emma from the time she was a small child. “Was I a good mom, Emma?” Estelle yells at the portrait as tears begin to spill. Then she remembered what the preacher said in church that morning about somehow, being able to have a parent-child relationship with God because of Jesus’ death on the cross. The idea of having such a relationship is very appealing to Estelle but it doesn’t make sense to her. She also, remembers the words of Jesus and the validation she felt upon reading them. “Emma! Do you know or care how much pain your drinking and constant neediness caused me? Do you know how hard Dad and I worked to keep your drinking secret and how much life we lost trying to protect you? Were you ever aware of what people said to me or what our neighbors thought?” With tears streaming, Estelle counted all she’d lost to Emma’s drinking and the black hole that drinking was used to anesthetize. Much of her childhood was consumed in that hole and even more of her adult years after her father passed. “Even now Emma, you steal my life from me because you never had a life! You never became a whole person! You used me to live for you and I’ve never lived for me either…” Estelle fiercely wipes the tears from her eyes, “I’m going to find a way to be more than the arms and legs of Emma Williams! I want to be a whole woman and live my life!” Estelle moves a few more objects out of place, gives Emma’s portrait a hard stare, and leaves the room.

It’s anger that gives Estelle the energy to move despite these new inner revelations. It is also, anger that numbs and gives her the fortitude to fight her excruciating, emotional pain. In the sanctuary of the only bedroom she’s ever known, she removes her church clothes and puts on her favorite pair of yoga pants and a big t-shirt. Then she goes to the bathroom to wash her face and pull herself together. When she catches her eye in the mirror, she gives herself a hard stare much like the one she unleashed on the portrait of Emma. “I-want-more!” she states firmly just below the tone of a shout.

In the kitchen, Estelle makes a sandwich as she recalls the words she heard in church that morning and remembers the warmth of friendship she’d enjoyed with Maria and Alisha. “Relationship. That’s exactly what’s missing in my life.” Estelle counts the relationships she was never able to enjoy, the school-chums that couldn’t come over to play or for sleep-overs; then later, the young men who could never find room in her life because her life belonged to her mother. “Now, I’m left alone and I don’t know how to connect to others because I never learned.” This truth comes down cold and hard but also, clarifies the solution. “I need to learn how to relate to people.”

Estelle takes her sandwich and a glass of milk with her as she goes into her office for her lap-top. Thinking she will lay down on her bed and catch up on some reading, she starts to enter her bedroom but then suddenly turns and decides to use Emma’s room instead. Pushing decorations aside, she puts her things down and rips open the bed. The frilly comforter lands on the floor where it stays and Estelle builds a comfy seat for herself from the pillows. She opens the curtains to let the sunlight in and then settles in bed to finish eating, not caring about the crumbs spilling all over the expensive satin sheets.

“If I want to know who Jesus is, I guess I need to read the Bible.” Estelle doesn’t own a Bible but quickly finds one online. Not knowing where to start, she decides to begin in Matthew, the book from which they’d read that morning. Estelle reads all of the Gospels and is transfixed by the person of Jesus described in those pages. “Such an ancient story that touches my heart in a way I don’t understand.” Estelle whispers to herself but also, to God. “He suffered so much but He stayed true to You and You were always there for Him. What a wonderful relationship. God, I don’t know what I have to do exactly. I don’t really understand but I want that relationship. I want You to be my Father too. I am all alone and I need You!”

Estelle closes her lap-top, pushes it to the other side of the bed, then sinks down off the pillows, and drifts off to sleep. Before long, she is wandering from room to room in her house-dream. She is a little girl to whom the house of her childhood though small, appears very large. The house is cold, empty, and Estelle lost, meanders circling from one silent room to the other, calling for first her mother and then her dad. There is no answer. The house is filled by an arctic wind and then goes black. Little Estelle shivers in the dark fearing she’ll also, disappear in the void; when suddenly, a bright light appears!

To be continued.

For previous posts in this series go to https://joyindestructible.com/the-recluse-series/ where posts are listed in ascending order.

Turn Back

I am an old fashioned girl, I guess.

Still a bit new to being an old lady;

I’ve lived long enough to see a few things.

I’ve learned a lot and I know what works,

And what doesn’t.

 

I remember many things that are now, forgotten.

 

I’m still quite taken with chivalry.

A man who offers me his coat when I’m cold,

Opens the car door for me.

He respected me enough to marry me,

Before I gave him a baby.

 

I still like that now discarded word, wholesome.

 

Values that stand the test of time;

Boundaries, manners, appropriate, even etiquette.

Masculine, feminine, equal but different.

Family formed to raise children,

“In the nurture and the admonition of the Lord”

 

“The hand that rocks the cradle rules the nation.”

 

A mother’s job is the most important.

Nurturing a stronger nation, shaping its leaders,

Reward more valuable than money:

Respect and families that stay together,

Bound by mother’s unconditional love.

 

“Wait in your room until your father comes home!”

 

The man who puts a roof over your head!

Food in your belly, clothes on your back; honor him!

Accept his strong discipline in healthy fear.

When you grow up be like him!

Work hard, take care of your family.

 

“Fashions come and go but the classics never go out of style.”

 

Yes, I’m old now and time softens the edges.

It wasn’t perfect back then, it wasn’t like Ozy and Harriet!

But everyone knew what was right and wrong.

In our high ideals there was consensus,

Truth was upheld, good wasn’t evil.

 

“When evil is exalted the innocent become prey.”

 

In this new century there is little desire for Truth.

Free morality held in by tight government regulations on everything else.

More government requires more taxes!

Working mothers can no longer rock the cradle.

Corrupt leaders rise; sociopaths, megalomaniacs!

 

God, they say is like me, old fashioned. They’ve removed the old landmarks.

Confusion is rampant and people are angry that America’s promise is gone.

While old ladies like me pray that America will turn back and bless God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At The Sound!

One ear is tuned to hear Heaven…

Another ear is tuned to the ground.

Living souls do hang in the balance!

Eternal Breath in mortality is wound.

Divinity’s spark as light in the mind!

Illuminate hope, wisdom profound!

Either to ignite or be extinguished…

Lost souls all fall! Carnal moribound!

Faith’s seed sprouts, grows…or dies…

Hearts to open or close to the sound,

Of Jesus Name! Who died but lives!

Calls dead, “Rise up from the ground!”

This is the design for all humankind.

Jesus seeks the lost and those found,

Escape second-death into eternal Life!

God’s Breath enlivens earthly bound;

Never be separate from Father again!

Hope for all who are lost to be found!

Breath taken back when worldly ears…

Refuse to hear Jesus! Fail to respond!

Will gnash in pain when Door closes!

Please today, hear! Be Heaven bound!

Two fates for soul hang in the balance!

 

 

The Recluse (Part VII)

Alisha is wide awake a full half-hour before the time either of her parents usually, rouse each other to get ready for work. She can’t wait to get over to Ms. William’s house and gather more clues to solve “The Mystery of the Lone Lady” the mystery/fantasy game she created in her twelve-year-old mind and is obsessed with. The lines between fantasy and reality are as blurred in her thinking as her definition of person and object. At twelve, Alisha views life as a wonderful, exciting, movie unfolding before her and because of her inborn nature and the special status her parents have always given her, it is no stretch for her to place herself in the seat of movie director. Life in Alisha’s view is simply a matter of controlling the script and directing various personalities to move here or there and nudging them into her desired action. It has worked so well with her parents that she accepts it as her rightful station in life. Alisha manipulates with ease and without conscience but also, without malice. She is simply, a twelve-year-old girl who is as alone as the woman she’s become fascinated with and she is caught up in her imagination. She is only, playing a game and has no real feelings at all for Estelle.

Tony hears unusual rustling noises that are unusual for this time of morning. Being a vigilant protector, there is no hesitation as he jumps out of bed to investigate the source. Following the intrusive sounds, he finds Alisha dressed, polished, and pouring a bowl of cereal in the kitchen. “Mi jita! I never see you up this time of day! Que pasa? “ Alisha brightens when she sees her father and runs to him for a hug. “Oh! Hi Daddy! Didn’t Momma tell you? I’ve got a job! I’m going to be working at our neighbor’s house. You know, the lady next door who is alone all of the time? I’m going to do chores for her and she’s going to pay me with art lessons. Isn’t that great? You don’t have to worry about me being home alone, Ms. Williams won’t be alone, and I’ll be learning so many new things! Aren’t you proud of me, Daddy… mi papacito?” Tony could never be anything but proud of his daughter but he didn’t like the idea of his precious Alisha spending time with a woman he didn’t know. “No. Your mother said nothing and I’m not sure I want you spending time with a stranger.” Alisha notes the expected resistance and meets the challenge as she’s done so many times before with great success. “Oh….Daddy, she’s no stranger! She’s Ms. Williams our next door neighbor. You always say that we should love our neighbors. How can I show her the love of Jesus if I don’t spend time with her?” Tony thinks his daughter is amazing and melts into the familiar twisting around Alisha’s finger, as if into a warm hug. “Okay, you win but I want you to keep your Iphone with you at all times and call me if anything seems wrong! Call me anyway, every hour or so to check in and know this! If I don’t hear from you, I’ll do the calling, and if you don’t answer, I’ll be ringing the door bell!” Alisha placates her dad with more hugs, sweet kisses, her biggest Hershey eyes, and sparkling smiles. She scoots back into her room to wait for her parent’s departure and watches television as she waits for the clock to display 9:00 a.m.

******************

By 8:30 a.m., Estelle is up and dressed. She takes a few moments to inspect the dress she’s chosen, a burgundy-print, summer dress that hugs her slim body modestly and ends in a soft ruffle just at the knee. She loves the juxtaposition of an autumn color in a summer dress and also, notices how it sets off her green eyes. At forty-seven, her arms are still beautifully slender but she chooses to cover them with a sheer, white, summer shrug. She also, takes note of a few grey hairs at her temple and wonders how long it will take for all of her dark brown hair to fade. Estelle can’t deny that she is a beautiful woman or the fact that she longs to be loved by a man and even have children but she also, believes it a fallacy for her to indulge herself in such fantasies. She stiffens her back, straightens her dress and hair one last time, turns from the full-length mirror and then stops dead. “What have I done? Why? Uggghhh….but I’ve done it. Too late now!” Caravana jumps from Estelle’s bed with a concerned, “Meow?” and tries to comfort his mistress. Estelle bends down, scoops him up, and holds him close on her chest as she rubs her cheek on his. “My Caravana! You are the only man for me. Love of my life and my son too! Where would I be without you?” The old, white Tom jumps to the floor just as Estelle hears the door-bell ring.

Estelle walks curtly toward the front entryway, stops to straighten herself one last time, and breathing deep opens the door. “Hello, Ms. Williams! I’m here! I’m not late! Aren’t you glad to see me!” Estelle lets her breath out in a huge sigh and reservedly responds, “Good morning Miss Alisha. Yes, I’m glad you are on time. Please, follow me into the kitchen.” Alisha starts to skip but Estelle simply, stops moving; and with one green-eyed- hard-stare, Alisha’s skip stops and without missing a step, blends into the walk of a mannerly, young woman. “This is where I’d like you to start Alisha. These dishes in the sink need to be rinsed and placed in the dishwasher and the countertops wiped down. The supplies you need are under the sink. Surely, a girl your age knows how to do dishes? I have a few calls to make. I’ll be in my office and when I return, I expect this work to be done.” Alisha knows how to answer, no matter what she is really thinking inside. “Yes, Ma’am!” Then when Estelle leaves the room, Alisha looks at the mess and whispers her real feelings. “Ewwww…that’s not for me!” Alisha plops down at the breakfast bar and loses herself in her Iphone.

“Alisha? What are you doing? Why is my kitchen still dirty?” The little girl puts on a sad face and walks over to the sink in hopes of making herself appear small and helpless in comparison to the mess. “I tried Ms. Williams… but… I have this cut on my finger, see?” Alisha holds up a forefinger wrapped in a Band-Aid for a not-too-close inspection. “It stings so badly when it gets wet! I just can’t make myself do it!” Estelle’s hands land on her hips in exasperation and she starts to respond in the way most natural to her in such situations, by just doing the work herself. She takes another look at Alisha standing helplessly and petulantly beside the sink full of dirty dishes; and in a flash sees the image of another woman superimpose over Alisha. Suddenly, drunken Emma has taken Alisha’s place, with her favored Bourbon and Coke sloshing in her glass in one hand and a cigarette in another. In an echo across time Estelle hears the familiar, “I just can’t do this anymore, Estelle! Your mother wasn’t meant for this drudgery! If that dad of yours wasn’t so lame, I’d have the kind of life I was meant to live!” The visage of Emma wobbles, slurps, takes a drag and Estelle feels that old impulse to run and fill her mother’s need, do her work for her, and hope for approval in return.

“Ms. Williams? Are you alright?” Alisha with real concern for how weird Estelle is behaving asks. “Ugh. Yes, I’m fine… Alisha.” Estelle answers while also, adjusting to being here in 2016 and not back in 1986. She takes another look at the little girl and like a long-sought piece of a jig-saw puzzle falling into place, understands Emma in a way she never could see before. No wonder her mother never seemed to know she had arms and legs of her own. She never had to use them. Estelle took another look at Alisha and with a resolve that feels cathartic for herself and also right for Alisha coolly states, “Life is full of difficulty, Alisha. Sometimes, we have to work around our pain in order to fulfill our obligations. There are rubber gloves under the sink to protect your hurt finger but I expect you to finish your job.” Alisha is shocked by this kind of answer and feels anger rise but then quickly, squelches it when faced with the unmovable expression of Estelle. “Yes, Ma’am, I will.” Alisha opens the cabinet beneath the sink, dons the gloves, and goes straight to work. Estelle grabs a cup of coffee to sit, watch Alisha work, and try to understand what just happened. “What’s going on with me?” she thinks to herself. “How can this little girl stir up so much from the past?” Sipping slowly, she watches Alisha’s now concentrated effort in her kitchen. Such a beautiful child, so intelligent, with so much promise, a little girl on the cusp of adolescence not much different than she’d once been…or probably even, Emma. Beautiful Emma, the helpless Queen. Had she been doted on and coddled as she suspected Maria coddled Alisha?“ It might be part of it but surely, not all of it. Nothing, especially human beings, is that simple but still, people can only become what they have opportunity to become.” Estelle’s thoughts stop here because she doesn’t want to delve any deeper into the questions surrounding her development, her stilted becoming.

“Alisha! That looks wonderful, dear. I’m proud of you. Now, let’s go out back. We’ll have an early lunch and then I’ll teach you the basics of drawing.” Alisha first inspects her finished task and is surprised by an unusual feeling of accomplishment when she sees how nice everything looks. Then she falls into her old habit of needing to be in charge and complains, “But…I don’t like drawing. I thought we’d paint or do some sculpture! Something exciting besides, I can’t draw a straight line, my Daddy says so.” Estelle replies firmly, “No child, we will start with the basics and the basic when it comes to creating fine pieces of art is drawing. There are no straight lines in nature but I will show you how to draw a nearly, straight line by a simple technique. We will also, explore circles, ellipses, and learn to connect them with straight lines to form images. Drawing is no more difficult than making beautiful letters. You simply need to learn how to do it. If you want to draw dear, you can learn to draw.” For the third time in two hours Alisha responds with a respectful, “Yes, Ma’am.”

Estelle and Alisha dine on fresh cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches and lose themselves in happy chatter about Caravana, the flower garden, and all the beautiful birds. Alisha forgets all about solving “The Mystery of the Lone Lady” as she is beginning to see her neighbor through eyes of respect and as a real person rather than a make-believe character. Estelle also enjoys this warm moment in time, feeling her somber thoughts float on the warm summer breeze and the uncomplicated conversation of the delightful, young girl. They move seamlessly from a lovely lunch to drawing lessons and soon, Alisha is enraptured in discovering the magic of line, as this lesson begins to uncover her inborn creativity. Estelle feels an inner awakening in the connection of pupil and teacher, as she guides Alisha’s self-discover by her own talented thoughts and expert hands. Alisha’s finished pieces are a reflection that is partly herself but also, partly Estelle, her new teacher. They are the expression of a burgeoning relationship and each of them is filled with new happiness as they inspect them together.

The sun begins to dip and Estelle realizes that it’s time for Alisha to return home. They say their goodbye’s and agree that Alisha will return day-after-tomorrow as Estelle, holding a tired Caravana, closes the door and notices the silence reclaim her home, as she has never noticed it before. Again Estelle asks, “What is happening to me? What is going on here?”

To be continued.

See previous posts in this series at http://www.joyindestructible.com/the-recluse-series or simply visit my Home Page and look for the drop-down menu just under the Header. Click on “The Recluse Series” and find posts listed in ascending order.

The Choice

Jesus loves everyone yet, so few ever think to truly love Him in return. Most refuse to believe that such a man existed as the Son of God and the Son of Man. The idea seems impossible so, they downsize Jesus into a form they can relate to and understand. Prophet, teacher, a myth, philosophical allegories are the boxes spiritually blind human beings use as a neat place to categorize and store Jesus. Once packaged and labeled, He is then stuffed in back of a dark closet of the mind. Jesus becomes another file to pull up from memory to be used as self justification or to impress another with personal intellectual prowess. In those who are bitter toward God because they don’t approve of how He governs or are mad because He didn’t acquiesce to their personal requests, Jesus becomes a weapon of ridicule to use against those who name, Jesus and are known as His followers. Jesus Christ is a favorite curse word for those who in their anger of not getting what-they-want-their-way, deny the existence of God even though, their whole angry state of being and every word they speak against God and His Son, defines them. Still, Jesus loves them and views them as equal with all of God’s errant children. Many of the religiously pious also, miss out on recognizing the power of God’s love expressed to the uttermost in Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man. Priding themselves upon adherence to traditions and doctrines, they trade in the power of God for a form of godliness and their pride inhibits the power of God’s love from transforming their lives. Yet, Jesus loves them. Still others live out their lives by instinct, following the desires of their heart that can never fill what every heart hungers for, the filling of divine love. Jesus loves these children too. He gave His life for all of us in obedience to God, His Father and also, to all of God’s errant children, as an expression of pure, sacrificial love. He poured out His blood for the purpose of covering all of our error to give us the opportunity to reconcile with our Father by adoption through Christ that we might become like Jesus, sons of men and sons of God. Though Jesus made this sacrifice centuries ago, it still remains open for an unknown length of time but not forever. This offer is available to everyone because God plays no favorites and above all things: God honors the ability He gave us, to choose. Whatever any of us decide to believe about Jesus, or the place we give Him in our life is our personal, sovereign choice and no matter the consequences, God will not take that power of self away.

Look around you, look behind the present virtual-iron-curtain of delusion, and examine the true state of the world in which you are living. The world offers many things but it doesn’t offer love. It is a hard, cruel place that entices all with exciting, temporary pleasures that generally, come at the personal expense of self and others. The world created by human beings is vicious, a place where one will become either predator or prey, and the struggle to survive over-rides any happiness derived from material gain or personal power. Into such a world everyone of us in born and also in each of us, is a void that hungers for divine love. Instinctually, we know what we hunger for is the very ingredient missing that keeps the societies we build from becoming a paradise. This realization when we allow it and then couple it by looking within to see we are like the community we live in because it is of us and we too lack divine love and are possessed by a dark void. A hole, where love that goes beyond a warm feeling or a fragile, emotional bond is absent, a cavity in the soul that only divine love can completely fill. None of us can give the world what we don’t have and the only, way we can receive the love we hunger for and the world so desperately needs is to allow Jesus to come into our lives and be made complete. This doesn’t mean we will become instantaneously, perfect but when we are reconciled to a right relationship with God, when we are adopted into His family, a spiritual training process begins and though we remain human as the offspring of man, we also become the spiritual children of God. Choosing first to accept God’s divine love by accepting Jesus as the person He describes Himself to be and personally, applying his sacrifice is the first step in learning how to love as Jesus loves. Learning to love Him back is the process of living for Christ rather than for self and then, choosing to love others with the same kind of divine love we receive from Jesus in hopes that others who are hungering for love will also, invite Jesus into their lives.

I see turmoil increasing in the world around me and the specter of it causes even this old believer to sometimes, feel threatened. It seems darkness is descending and many are actually, calling for that descent. Angry ears are deaf to love but the night enveloping the world is the void that exists in every fallen human being; a gaping black hole that only divine love can fill. Jesus is the embodiment of divine love. None of us have the power to change or fix the world but each of us retains the power of personal choice. Jesus is the answer and He satisfies our great lack, one hungry heart at a time. If you are troubled, consumed by the turmoil without and within please, take a second look at Jesus. Read the Bible and consider who He says Himself to be and use the power God gave you to be saved from the gaping need within that only, Christ can fill. In a world that seems bent on self-destruction, choose Jesus; receive true love and eternal life.

The Door to Joy

Near the end of a harshly-cold, long, black night, when the explosion comes and personal worlds come crashing down. Everything known shattered and scattered lying on hard-packed ground. These moments are Death but the victims are left breathing to suffer the carnage. Wait for the morning light! Every ray that glints from each broken shard enlivens an old memory with the sorrow of loss. Grief’s overbearing moment, a debt payable only in defeated tears. A specified time to cry out to God in anger, then remorse, and finally repentance; cover the mournful head with dust and ashes, then submit, face into the wind and be made clean! Everything passes and none are able to hold onto the good or the bad, all things arrive and fade according to their pre-set season. The obedient bend to endure all seasons, the disobedient are broken; but neither achieves personal glory by their chosen effort. It’s not about us, it’s all about Him and all people before God are equal in value. Our individual days rise to fade as our dreams are formed to vanish in the same mist; as our lives blend to form the greater whole. This that we are a part of and have no hope to escape is beyond individual or collective understanding. To be human is have instinctual, conscious knowledge that is divine but hampered because we are carnal. Truth is something we know but can’t fully apprehend. Born to imitate the Creator, we seek to control, to bend, to build, to master, but night shortens our day; and the eternity we reach for remains beyond our grasp. Death descends and we suffer loss, again, and again, and again; until the final night falls…

There is but one way out of the futility called the Human Condition. Only, one Door by which all may enter to find life, hope, and freedom, along with the strength to rise up on weakened legs from the ashes to life overflowing into the eternal. It is open to all in every walk of life, to people of every gender, and every color who are willing to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of Man. To all who on their sad day of dust and ashes understand that He laid down His life to save them as they then, reach up and grasp the Mighty Hand reaching down to receive faith within that strong clasp. In that broken, dire moment when human wisdom is revealed as lacking, as foolish and all useful knowledge boils down to one Name: Jesus! The power to rise, live again, with a new purpose claimed. Though in this world there will still be Death to face every day ( with losses, suffering, and grief to bear) Jesus is the open Door into eternal life, with lasting purpose set beyond Death’s border. Though everything in this material life is broken, in Christ find seven-fold restoration for all kept by faith. Don’t refuse this gracious offer that costs nothing but the release of human pride. If you are mournful, grieving, and sorry, let it go and enter the Door to joy!

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

 

 

The Source of Genuine, Indestructible Joy

My joy isn’t dead, no matter how I feel. Even though everything on my plate is seasoned with pain, Jesus lives! Though the boot-heal of oppression bears down in an attempt to grind me into dust, my hope is un-crushable. Even when my happiness shatters and all those I love move beyond my embrace, love isn’t carnal or mortal. When my body is broken, then passed around as bread and my blood becomes a drink, a sacrifice consumed but unrecognized, Jesus is my validation. He walked this path before me. He set the standard. True sacrifice isn’t made in hopes of personal reward. Though I fall and the weight of this cross I bear is too much for me to lift again to carry, God’s ultimate plan remains. When my eyes are blind with the tears of sorrow and agony causes me to no longer care, a new blast of His breath enters me and by His strength I rise to move forward. Though the sting of sin poisons everything I see and touch by the fulfillment of His Will, not mine, I will press beyond Death’s boundary and reach the ultimate prize. In Jesus I possess indestructible joy which He bought by His obedience and blazed the Way predestined for me to follow. This narrow path I must walk despising all worldly gain. I am nearer now to the finish than I was yesterday. Though in this world I endure suffering and can’t always feel my joy, when I finish this race, my agony will melt away. When my body dies to become ashes and dust, I know Death has no power over my soul. Though this present night is deepening, soon the Son will rise with healing in His wings! When morning comes, my feet will rest on the eternal shore. I will forget the effects of sin’s painful sting and cry no more. Jesus is my eternal joy.

Job 42:1-6 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”