The Night of the Blue Dress

The Night of the Blue Dress

Girl, Princess, Willow, Dress, Blue, Beauty, Nature       That day so long ago that I rushed home from school to ask my mother for the blue dress. I knew that I would sell my brothers and sisters to the Russians just to own it. There was going to be a special program at church Saturday night, and Dan the Dreamboat was taking me.  I wanted to look as beautiful on the outside as I felt on the inside when he looked at me. I was convinced I needed that special dress to bring out how beautiful the real me was.

I talked to my mother.  “I won’t collect my allowance for the next year. I’ll scrub floors and do dishes for six months without complaining. I’ll make all of the beds.”

My mother looked worried..  “Couldn’t you get a baby sitting job for tonight or tomorrow night?” she asked. “We can’t afford a new dress just now.’

I ran to my bedroom and threw myself on the bed. It was too late to get a baby sitting job. I knew that nice, decent, mature teenage girls shouldn’t feel soppingly sorry for themselves, but I couldn’t help it.  I wanted that blue dress so badly that I could feel its soft blue folds gliding over my hips and the spidery white lace prickling my neck and wrists.

The next night after school, I walked into my bedroom and there, spread out on the bed, was THE BLUE dress.  It was a soft blue with a contrasting deeper navy skirt and a wide white collar and white cuffs that were so stylish then.

I ran out to the kitchen and hugged my Mom.  “I don’t know how you did it, but thank you – a million times!      On Saturday afternoon I began getting ready, and by the time evening came there was a line of six brothers and sisters outside the bathroom door, pacing the floor and demanding to be let in.  I didn’t care. I was having a long, leisurely soak, polishing my nails, and curling my hair. After all, Dan was coming at 7 and it was 5:30 already. Instant beauty takes time!

I had to take extra pains with my beauty routine because Dan’s sister Gail and her date were coming with us, and she was known in our gang as a very sharp dresser. Finally, my overhaul was finished, and I swept into the living room. Dad was reading the paper and Mom was watching T.V.  “How do I look?” I  asked.  I knew the answer, but I wanted proof.

“You look beautiful,” my Dad said.

“You look very nice,” Mom said. Her eyes lingered on my dress and I thought I saw a frown pucker her forehead.

The doorbell rang, and like a princess I eased it open, the cheers of my invisible subjects ringing in my ears. Dan stared at me with a dazzled look in his eyes. Behind him were Gail and her date. I invited them inside.

“That’s a pretty dress,” Dan said.

“I used to like it,” Gail said.

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

“I mean that I put that dress and lots of other things in the church “Clothes Tree.” You know, where everyone puts clothes that they don’t need anymore and the church gives them away or sells them cheap.”

My mind groped for someone to blame. I hated Gail.  I hated Dan because I wanted to look beautiful for him, but most of all I hated my Mom. How could she buy a dress from the church “Clothes Tree,” for me, especially this particular dress?

Gail’s smirk told me she’d never forget that my dress had been her dress.  Then Mom hurried up to me. She thrust a small, beaded purse in my hands that had belonged to my grandmother. “Here, you forgot your purse,” she said.

I gulped. This was her most prized purse; the one she saved for special occasions. The bitter words and the resentment melted away. “Thanks for everything, Mom,” I said, managing a wobbly smile.

I held my head high, swept over to Dan, and put my arm through his. “Let’s go,” I said, as my imaginary subjects gave me a standing ovation and God spoke to me about real beauty.

 

 

 

Winter Galoshes with Silver Latches

Winter Galoshes with Silver Latches

Boots, Foot, Leather, Shoes

When I was seven, the pieces of my life fitted together in jigsaw precision. I’d ask God for what I need, I’d receive it, and I’d live happily ever after. So it seemed logical to me that when I fell madly in love with my brother Tom’s shiny, black galoshes and asked God to let me wear them, I knew that He would answer my prayer.

These special galoshes reached Tom’s knees, so I was positive that they would extend at least as far as my hips.  I especially loved their intricate silver latches that he to be snapped together just right or the galoshes would flop around on my feet like a fish did on my fishing pole when I fished with Tom.

Every chance I got I practiced walking in Tom’s galoshes. He didn’t notice when I snaked them from his closet, because it was summer and he was always out playing baseball. It was as easy as sticking out my tongue at the ump to sneak the galoshes down to the basement while Mom was vacuuming and Tom pitching. In the basement, I practiced clumping back and forth and turning the corner by the clothes chute.

By the time winter arrived, I could walk as gracefully in those galoshes as a fashion model on high heels. They were my seven-league boots, my entry into a world of imagination and dreams that I’d never before explored. One day I imagined I was a princes fleeing a fire-breathing dragon in my magic boots.  The next day, my fairy godmother granted me ten wishes as soon as I pulled on the galoshes.

One day I came up with the idea that changed my world. Since I loved those galoshes so much, I decided to wear them to school. I knew that the other kids would crowd around me making envious noises and rush home as soon as possible to badger their mothers into buying them a pair. My first illegal act was sneaking the galoshes from Tom’s closet. My conscience prodded me, because Mom preached about not taking things that didn’t belong to me, and I knew that God surely didn’t want me to steal Tom’s galoshes. Eventually I decided that confession could come after my popularity with my peers. Then Mom and Tom would be certain to forgive me.

I hid the galoshes under my bed and prayed for the first snow. It finally came one day in the middle of December. As I pressed my nose against the frosty window pane, I knew that this would be happiest day of my life. Breakfast went by in a blur. While Mom served Tom pancakes in the kitchen, I stashed the galoshes under my coat.

Si x blocks safely away from the house, I slipped on the galoshes and stood admiring them for a few minutes. Everything was going according to plan – another jigsaw piece fitted. As I hurried to school, the galoshes made clump, clumping sounds and the silver latches jingled. I skipped faster, anticipating the compliments I would collect.

Janie Graham spotted me first. She doubled over laughing and her voice sounded high enough to shatter crystal in the frosty air. It shattered my heart. “Look what she’s got on!” Janie hooted.

Suddenly I hated those ugly black galoshes. I made up a story about Mom forcing me to wear Tom’s galoshes because she had given my boots away to a starving orphan. Eventually the galoshes incident blew over, replaced my fresher scandals.

Every year when winter blusters into town, I don’t yearn for fancy modern boots. In my secret heart of hearts, I still love black galoshes with silver latches. Whenever I see a pair, I finger those silver latches and smile.

God is still teaching me the lessons of the galoshes with the silver latches. These lessons include the fact that silver latches tarnish but loving care can polish them to a lustrous sheen and the lesson that different latches can together close the same pair of galoshes. God is still teaching me that softly falling snow signifies rest and hope and that He transforms the bitter cold and depths of winter despair  into daffodil spring.

God and Big Red

God and Big RedGolden Retriever, Big Eyes, Cute, Dog, Adorable, Fur

Often I flip the family album page to the picture of Big Red, the red Labrador retriever who nudged my daughter and I further along on the path to acceptance and healing. I smile and pull the pair of shredded slippers that he left me out of the closet and hug them to my heart. God doesn’t always work through slippers and a red Labrador retriever, but He did in our case.

Like his red and green Christmas ball, Big Red bounced into my daughter’s life and mine when a very important person refused to reenter it.  Her father had deposited us as unnecessary cargo in a small town in Washington State and driven off to pursue his dreams. We boarded a train to a civilized city where I could get a job and life creaked forward. I missed him and she did too.  Even though she had just passed her second birthday she would ask, “Where’s daddy? When is he coming back?”

“Soon, I hope,” I would say, holding her close and kissing her hair.

We both missed our dog that was not a red retriever, but a brown spotted beagle that my husband had named Dawg.  Hoping that my husband would come for us and desperately trying to hold on to the connection, I kept in touch with his mother who lived not too far away from us.  Through her he knew where we were, but he just didn’t come for us.

God sent Big Red to us instead. Big Red wasn’t the name on his papers, but we called him that because of his size and the immensity of his spirit.  He came from a much more distinguished pedigree than we did, but his generosity of spirit did not allow him to act the part of a snob for even a bark or two. Instead, he loved everyone and even when people didn’t love him back he loved them anyway. Big Red’s love can be compared favorably with God’s love.

Although Big Red had an owner who took care of his physical needs and loved him, he knew that he owned the world and belonged to everyone, His owner loaned him for many weekends to a couple who also substituted as grandparents for my daughter. We visited them often and soon Big Red had scampered his way into our hearts as well.  He admired the bedroom slippers that I had gotten for Christmas and one day when I wasn’t guarding them he snatched them, flipped them in the air and chewed off the toes.  Big Red went camping with my daughter and her substitute grandparents and their grandchildren and he didn’t play favorites. At the lake he splashed everyone equally and he deposited sticks to throw in everyone’s lap regardless of gender, age, or willingness to throw them. Yet, he had time for quiet moments and secret hugs when my heart was too full of hurt to be with other people.

When Big Red developed arthritis and bone trouble as the veterinarian told us that dogs of his pedigree often did, I dreaded what I knew would eventually happen to him. “God always takes the people and things I love,” I fumed to myself in self pity and despair. I worried about my daughter as well.  She had had so much loss in her life. How would she take it when Big Red died or had to be put to sleep?

I felt like we were living on the edge of a cliff with Big Red standing guard over us. When he toppled over the edge, we would too. One day when he whimpered in pain I hugged him and got the slippers he loved so much out of the closet. I dangled them in front of his nose and whispered, “I wish you didn’t have to suffer. You are such a wonderful friend.”

I looked into Big Red’s soft brown eyes and I didn’t see fear or resentment or even pain. I saw love and trust and even a playful gleam when he saw the slippers. I knew that my hand on his head gave Big Red hope.  I knew that God’s hand on my life and my daughter’s would hold us steady. It has. When this certainty fades with time and dreams that don’t come true – my husband never returned- I pull out the slippers as Big Red’s gentle reminder to me.

 

 

Dear God, When Will I Be An Adult?

Dear God, When Will I be An Adult?

Picture Frame, Desktop, Card, Banner, Graphic, GreetingDear God,

There is so much child left in me that sometimes I feel like I’m masquerading as an adult.

Some days are so discouraging that I could wring the angst and depression from them like the sopping wet dishtowel that I swipe over my kitchen counters.  When I was a child I snapped open my eyes, somersaulted out of bed and hugged each day as hard as I could.  When bad things happened, I would cry as quickly as a summer thunderstorm and slide down the rainbows that always appeared afterward.  Now that I am an adult, I consider, cry, calculate, and reconsider.  Isn’t that is what adulthood is all about- responsibility, reconsidering and reality?

Now that I am an adult, I have a laundry list litany of the reality and responsibility of being adult. The adult me works, raises my family, seeks, finds, and enjoys meaningful activities. Now that I’m an adult, I spend my days striving to be positive, productive, and proactive.  Some days I want to pull the covers over my head and be a cave troll all day. Some days I just want to figuratively and literally play the flute. Some days I just want to wallow in bouquets of accomplishment and adulation and not have to distribute and dispose of them.  Other days, the good things of life crowd around me and I feel mature, responsible, and able to hurdle lightning bolts.

Some days I feel adult enough to play the “what if” game. What if the world were really a good place for everyone, not just a select few?  Isn’t peering out of the tunnels of ourselves and our pocketbooks and wanting good things for others part of adulthood?  What if I could turn down the volume of my emotions enough to hear the still, small voice of others and hear Your still, small voice? When I was a child, I heard the grass growing. Dandelion seeds whispered stories of world travel to me, and chipmunks told funny jokes every morning at the bird feeder.

Now that I am an adult, the voices I usually hear implore me to water or feed them or tell me the latest atrocities that the neighborhood skunks have committed. Is being an adult hearing different stories from the small voices? Should my adult hearing be more selective through necessity or more expansive through understanding? Should I repress the acute hearing of my childhood?

Every adult has to blaze a careful trail through a forest of relationships and feelings. When I was child I wore my feelings  wrapped around me like the red plaid cape that I loved so much I wore it to school when the temperature dipped below 80 degrees. Almost every day I used my full repertoire of emotions and then tucked them away safely behind “Now I lay me down to sleep,” ready for the next day.  Now, I should be a self controlled, non-dramatic adult.  Every day, I snap the adult facade into place, but people, places, and things chip away at it like rain, sometimes acid rain, and I seep through.  Often, after watching a tie-dye sunset on the beach or hearing an “I love you, mom”  my uncontrolled emotions burst through!

“Don’t be so sensitive,” my mother often admonished me when I was a child.  I couldn’t help it, because the world teemed with sensitivity. The old couple next door helping each other down the stairs, the boy down the block with the beautiful brown eyes, my best friend three houses down and our weekly sleepovers- these were sensitivities.  Other sensitivities were not so good. The smell of my grandfather’s many beers, my grandmother’s crying, my girlfriend the next street over with a dark secret-these, too, were sensitivities.   Now that I am an adult, I try not to be “so sensitive,” but sometimes events poke and prick that sensitivity.  The murder of a child, the murder of anyone, hunger, disease, people suffering, global warming, indifference to others- the list of sensitivities is as circular as the world. Should adults heed more selective sensitivities, but still heed them?

There is so much child left in me that sometimes I feel like I’m masquerading as an adult.  Thank You for adulthood, but  I don’t ever want to grow up enough to lose my trust, wonder, and worship of You and the world filled with childhood and adult opportunities  that You have given us.

George and Oliver in Church

George and Oliver in Church

Believe, Religion, Jesus, Christ, Children, Church

George and Oliver like the mystery of a church service but not its quietness or its length.

We settle down in one of the back pews (just in case) and I put a cautioning finger to my lips. “Remember what I told you two. You have to be quiet and listen to what the minister says.”

Sure enough, within three seconds of my warning, George asks in a whisper that resounds throughout the church, “Mommy, why is the minister’s robe all black? How did he get it so dirty? Doesn’t his mommy ever wash it?”

“It’s supposed to be that color. Now be quiet!”

He is quiet and I relax.

I should have known better. During the prayer when it’s so quiet you can hear the person next to you thinking, Oliver says in a penetrating whisper almost matching George’s, “Mommy, I have to go to the…”

I quickly break in. ”All right, go ahead and go, but come right back.”

He comes right back and for the next fifteen minutes the crises are minor. George rattles his Sunday school paper until I take it away from him. Oliver sneezes and frantically searches for a handkerchief, but other than these minor incidents, peace reigns.

Then comes the offering and utter chaos. Oliver starts off the disaster by dropping his pennies under the darkest corners of the pew. Immediately he crawls on all fours to retrieve them, leaving the bewildered usher standing, offering plate in outstretched hand. Oliver finally finds the pennies and places them in the offering plate with dust encrusted hands.

The usher’s trials aren’t over, because George takes his turn next. He holds out a quarter to the usher and says, “Do you have change for this quarter? I know God doesn’t want all of it. He wants me to have at least a dime!”

“God grant me wisdom.” Just as I take a deep breath and am about to plunge into this particular discussion with George, the usher miraculously saves me.

“God can use your whole quarter this Sunday, but maybe next Sunday He’ll give you a dime back,” the usher whispers.

“I’ll buy that,” George says and puts the quarter into the offering plate.

When I dare to raise my head above bowing level, I discover that it is junior sermon time, which means the children go to the front of the church to hear the minister preach a short sermon geared to them. George goes, Oliver stays and I relax.

I shouldn’t have relaxed so soon. After all the children are grouped around the minister, Oliver suddenly changes his mind and decides he wants to join them after all. It’s bad enough he has to jump on the band wagon after everyone else, but he compounds his error by running down the aisle to catch up instead of sneaking up it on tiptoe.

By now, I am seriously considering walking out in the middle of the service to pack my bags to leave town instead of waiting until the service is over. But George and Oliver aren’t finished yet.

“What does God want us to do when somebody hurts our feelings?” the minister asks.

I know exactly what answer he wants. I’ve told George and Oliver about “turning the other cheek’ many times.

George answers. He doesn’t say “turn the other cheek”. Not my George. “Slap them on the cheek,” he proclaims loudly enough for the people in the next town to hear.

After everyone has stopped laughing and the children have returned to their seats, I still sit with bowed head. The sermon passes peacefully, although I don’t hear a word of it because I am still mortified. George sings very loudly and off key on the final hymn and Oliver says piercingly during the benediction, “Is it over yet?”

“Yes, it’s over. Come on before I see anybody I know,” I say as I attempt to herd them out the door. Suddenly I stop. George stands in the middle of the aisle looking around. “God has a nice house, mommy,” he says. “I like it here.”

George is right. God does have a nice house and the fact that we come to it to learn more about him is more important than perfect behavior while we’re in it.

Besides, God has a sense of humor. He understands George and Oliver.

 

 

Playground Pocket Books – PDFs

books

Children’s Books to Read in Cozy Nooks

Fun and fanciful children’s books

To read in forests or cozy nooks,

When we read books how rich we are!

They take us places near and far!

They stay in our minds and open them wide,

And stir our hearts to let others inside.

 

ginger-and-ollies-grouchy-day

henry-the-gentle-giant-and-january-the-mean

singing-bicycle-safety-songs-and-rapping-bicycle-safety-rhythms

pig-talespigtales50story

searching-for-spring1 (2)

seed-stories-2 (3)

thewind-ismytruefriend (6)

umbrella-tales123

 

 

And God Created Black

And God Created Black

And God Created Black

Across the nights

God walked through starlit meadows

Picking stars to for a bouquet of timeless messages

In the vase of black velvet sky.

He reminds us constantly that even though we can’t see stars in the daylight

Because of our star

They still shine brightly.

He threw spinning worlds into a black space sea

A sea He brewed with multiple colors of pigment

That finished black and does not fade.

He sent night light to softly settle like a sable shawl

On the earth’s blue shoulders

He reminds us constantly that night and day

Cannot live without each other.

Even in the light of day

He walked with night in one hand

Healing with a cool touch

The glare of gold and greed

In souls burnt crisp by the desert sun.

He reminds us constantly that our natures

Are many hued and black is multiple colors of pigment.

He painted with ebony to color

A race of his people

Guided them on daylight runs

Through black tunnels to freedom.

He painted races of his people white, red, yellow,

He reminds us constantly that

White, red, yellow and black complement each other.

He reminds us constantly that it takes many

Colors to make a rainbow

And black is a vital ingredient..

He walked through a tomb in Gethsemane

Texturing its walls with healing black

To complete the sunlight of Easter morning.

 

 

Spring Gardening

Gethsemane Gardens

gethsemane

He could have stayed away from the garden

And its soul searching agony,

He could have left,

Closing the gate firmly behind him.

Instead, His knees imprinted rock

Olive trees rustled their future plans

Blood sweat watered white lilies

And in the depths of His soul He heard them,

He smelled them

Smiling,

He planted the assurance

Of future gardens,

And sits by an open gate.

Beckoning us to enter.

 

A Tomb in a Garden

maryinthegarden

Someone moves in the tomb,

The wind picks up the folds of a robe and smooths them

Like a hand on a fevered forehead.

Mary feels the fever of anguish

The weight of despair heavier than the stone

Rolled away from the tomb.

Darkness forms a doorway question mark,

Where is he? She has to find him.

Someone moves in the tomb!

She sees a misty outline in the doorway The gardener!

He would know the answer.

She pleads, “If you have taken him away, tell me where he is, And I will take him with me.”

The wind outlines the man’s beard against his face.

Knowing smooths away her anguish leaving outlines of hope.

“Mary.” His voice rings with love and eternity.

“Master!” Her voice . rings with love and eternity