Monday, January 09, 2012
When I first met Derek, he reminded me of someone who had been stripped of his confidence, bearing an insecurity that only he knew. His gangly, underweight frame was unsure with every step he took before him but his spirit...it seemed determined. Like an "all or bust" type of thing that drove him on, bound and determined to make sense of what his young life was and was going to be.
Many times he came to my house with my kids, the quiet one who often stood in the background, the one who laughed after the others laughed or feigned surprise when the others did. I would watch him quietly, a motherly concern that overwhelmed me many times. I went out of my way often to speak to him directly, forcing eye contact, not looking away until I got the smile from him that I desired. Many times I was shamed by my husband, to let this "boy be," that I, in some way, could possibly be making him uncomfortable.
However, many times, he would retreat from the young crowd in my house and seek refuge at the bar in the kitchen where I was often making snacks for the kids. Quietly, he would help me get the plates down, his soft brown eyes beseeching my own as if he wanted to speak but yet...could not. His black hair tumbled into his eyes and he would silently sweep them away with his long fingers as he placed the utensils on the island. So many times I almost grabbed him up in my arms. But I did not. I did not want to scare him or embarrass him. I wanted to let him open up on his own.
He did. He did not do well in school. His economic background revealed he did not have much in the way of material things. His father had left many years before and his mother worked two jobs and babysat on the weekends to keep food on the table. Often he had to take care of his younger sister while his mother was away but when he spoke of her, his large dark eyes beamed and to hear him tell it, she was "way too smart" for her own good. He loved playing the simple things with her, too, like hide-or-seek or patty-cake because he didn't really do that when he was a kid. (When he said "when I was a kid" my heart broke in two. He spoke of it like he was an old man when he was only 17 himself. But perhaps in his heart, he didn't feel like one anymore.)
It only reinforced in me to open my home up to him more. I could tell he was challenged in alot of ways; emotionally, mentally, educationally. He had a slight stutter and would easily trip or bump into things. He was in a program at school that tutored but was not having great success. But he tried. Oh, my goodness, how that kid tried. We grew close. Then, as all kids do, he drifted away, slowly, and I wondered what happened to him. I wondered how he and his family were faring.
I had not seen him for two years. Then....
Last week I decided to stop and grab something for lunch on my way home. Swinging open the doors to the fast food restaurant, I made my way to the counter and glanced at the menu. People were everywhere, chaos, and the cooks were running their tail-ends off trying to keep up with the orders. Then I glanced over to the left and saw him.
My first reaction was to yell his name but I suddenly became mesmerized by his actions. He was at the grease pit, making french fries but he wasn't just standing there, mindlessly doing a task at hand. This kid was happy, every move synchronized, each move elegant and cascading... and he was SO PROUD. His previous long hair was cut, his head held high, his uniform meticulously creased, tucked and clean. His coworkers smiled at him, high-fived him, laughed WITH him and he beamed. This kid literally BEAMED and it wasn't from the fluorescent lighting above him.
I felt foolish but I stood there with tears in my eyes. No, it isn't the best paying job in the world nor is it prestigious. But he acted like it was. He assumed his role passionately and completely. This kid was given an opportunity...and he took that opportunity and made it all his own. With flare. With an "all or bust" attitude. He looked over and saw me standing there with a big goofy teary-eyed grin on my face and a flash of recognition swept across his face. He heartily waved and then he nodded as I waved back. I gave him a thumbs up and his smile spread across his face like wildfire. His bounce suddenly became a little bouncier, his finesse became, well, a little more finess-ier.
Hmmm. I wonder. What if WE took that much pride in our work? In our opportunities? In our lives that have been so graciously given to us? How many times have we taken these things for granted? I know from Derek's standpoint, getting this job was not easy. It's very difficult for someone with a learning disability to get any kind of work in this area, let alone find acceptance amongst his peers. But he did that. He radiates joy, gratefulness.
Or do we wake up and view the day as just another day? Do we take our opportunities, our careers, our roles for granted?
I challenge you to wake up tomorrow and be thankful for your life, your job, your friends, your family. It is difficult at times, I know this, but there are those who are just dying for an opportunity to shine. To show that they are needed, worthy of everything great or small. Each life is worth more than words, each life is precious no matter how big or small their role is in it. I don't think Derek is going to remain a "fry guy" his whole life either. But it is the catalyst that he needed to give him the confidence to make greater choices. His light will become greater as time goes by. I have a feeling that his pure heart will touch others as he has done mine. I kinda have a feeling that it already HAS.
I ordered two large fries that day.
They were the best fries that I ever had.
Thursday, January 05, 2012
Life feels good now. I've come to terms with the fact that I have to wait til September again for my infamous trip to Florida with my sisters where all of this self-discovery stuff began. I've learned that I don't need the sandy beach to embrace what is near and dear in my heart. I can do that right here, in this little tiny town in Ohio. (The weather has a lot to be desired right now but, this too, shall pass.)
So many stepping stones. I've crossed alot of them, timidly at first, with reservations. Sometimes I've trembled with fear at the thought of proceeding forward but I've closed my eyes and did it anyways. Then it started becoming easier to explore the quests, the opportunities that stood before me. I've gained strength. I've gained more confidence. I've allowed my past to slowly unwind its grasp from my heart. It was so reluctant to let go of me. And it still tries to squeeze through the door at times, to peek in and say, "Pssst, hey, remember ME?" But, ya know, it's easier now to kick it closed and say, "You have no hold on me. Not anymore."
I am a complicated human being. I think to some extent, we all are. Complex, intricately woven together in a tapestry of desires, temptations, doubts, weaknesses and strengths. Then, as we age, we start to place value on certain things more than others. I've realized that life is not everlasting. We are only here for a limited period of time. What we do or don't do now could haunt us for a long time to come. So, I'm moving forward...ready to better myself for my own peace of mind. So that I may lay my head down at night and be proud of the woman I've become. And even more importantly...be proud of the woman I DIDN'T become.
Weight loss plays a large role in the grand scheme of what I want in my time here on this earth. It is a catalyst for being able to do things that I normally couldn't have done if I were heavy. I wouldn't have been able to take those long, leisurely walks with my kids and allow them to open themselves up to me, where they somehow felt more free to do so. I wouldn't have been able to ride my Harley for the past few summers and enjoy the company of many dear friends, seeing beautiful scenery along the way. I wouldn't be able to tolerate the disease that threatens to incapacitate me at times. It simply opens a door to all of the things that makes this life worthwhile. And I am grateful that I reached down into the depths of my self to find the strength to do what I had to do to get healthier. I still have some things to work on. I still have an addiction to Reese's Cups but it is a guilty pleasure. (And maybe, just maybe, it's really not so bad after all...)
When I look into the face of my daughter and she is looking at with me awe or love or peace, I feel I have accomplished the single most greatest thing in my life. I am left feeling that all of my certificates, awards, trophies, accomplishments pale FIERCELY in comparison with the adoration of this child. I am humbled to the point of tears knowing that I have made a tremendous impact, somehow, someway, on this astounding young life before me. To know that God entrusted me with this beautiful soul is just...wow. There are really no words to describe it at all. But He did. And she loves me. And I am breathless.
I'm going to take another ride, beseech another journey. What it is, I don't know. Where it is, I don't know. But it's out there. I am ready. I am ready to plunge my feet into the earth and stir up some dust. Blow the cobwebs out of my shoes. And smile. I've come through alot in my world, took alot of hits and got the wind knocked out of me a few times, but I've risen. I'm not broken.
Monday, January 02, 2012
Two years ago today God called you Home. How is it that we, ourselves, cannot wait to be called Home with the Lord but when it happens to a loved one, we cry? You were very special to us, Steve, you were loved beyond the max. To elaborate, not only were you special to us, you were an influence in MANY lives, loved by a multitude. I hope that you have some way of knowing how much we loved you, STILL love you. I hope that you know how much your legacy lives on...
I was thinking back to the day when my sister and I were in a cat fight over our Barbies. I was every bit of five and she was twelve. (SHE was definitely old enough to know better.) I wanted to cut Marie's Barbie's hair. She stuck mine in my mashed potatoes head-first. You took both of our Barbie's away and said we could not have them back until we got along. I flung my potatoes at Marie and she sling-shotted her crayons towards my eyes. You picked me up like a sack of potatoes and told Marie to go to the corner. I grinned and gave Marie the "finger" while she spat at me like a sailor in a bar. We did not like each then AT ALL, in case you didn't know.
I remember what you said to me when you sat me down before you on the couch. You told me that patience and forgiveness were very necessary things in this life, that there was always going to be SOMEONE who wanted to "rain on your parade." I remember you said that no matter how difficult it would be, in order to be happy, to be a complete person, I still had to find the good in other people and love them, just as Jesus does. I also remember stubbornly shaking my little head "no" because this was my SISTER we were talking about. ANYBODY BUT H-E-R.
Then I happened to look around your shoulders and there stood Marie, little hands to her chest looking at you with so much adoration. All of her anger was gone and she was beaming, hanging onto every one of your words. It was then, suddenly, that I wanted more than anything to make YOU PROUD. I wanted to make sure that you knew I loved you just as much as she did. (Okay, so I was still trying to be competitive at this point but it was for a great cause...) I jumped from the couch and ran to Marie and hugged her. I told her I was sorry, that I loved her. Wrapping her arms around me and stroking my hair she offered me her doll and said I could play with it as long as I like, but I couldn't cut her hair. I eagerly agreed.
There was something about you that made us ALL want to do better, even as adults. Your life was like a beacon, a light that stretched across the ocean to the shores of OUR lives. I can't remember a time that you ever raised your voice. I can't remember you talking derogatory about anyone. Yet your example was louder than a siren of tremendous echoes. Oh my, and your LAUGH...now, THAT was loud. Its ripples shook our ears, our hearts, our souls so much that we had no choice but to laugh with you...
To say you did not leave a void in our lives would be a blatant lie. I cried today. In fact, I cried for a very long time. But each tear was a blessing...for if you were not so loved, if you did not love US so much, there would BE no tears. There would BE no remembrance. Yet there isn't a day that doesn't go by that I don't make a choice, give a bit of forgiveness or crack a smile because of your influence in my life. You were more than just MY big brother, Steve. You were EVERYONE'S big brother who knew you. Often times, you were their saving grace. The town's Santa. The neighborhood Halloween party for the kids who had no place to go. The guy who worked extra shifts so you could buy a needy family's Christmas...
And the guy who saved two Barbies and two sisters from killing each other that day...
I miss you, Steve. As much as I wish you were here with us, I know that there is no place you would rather be but in the arms of your Jesus. And you are there. He is covering you with His love and His wings of comfort. I know that you are waiting patiently for us to come as well. We are looking forward to seeing you so very much!
See you later, big brother. Until then, I hold your lessons and your example in my heart. Until then, I will live my life as you did....
Well...I can only TRY...
Friday, December 30, 2011
My beautiful baby. Beanie. Bre-Bear. Breanna. Bumpkin. I have so many little names for her. She's almost 20 years old now. It seems so hard to believe. I can remember when I was 20. Full of dreams and ambition about the future. When I got pregnant with her I was a scared young woman, not sure if I could handle the responsibility of having two children at the same time but I was bound and determined to do these young lives right. I love my children equally but there seemed to be an immediate bond when she arrived. When she first entered this world, she wasn't red-faced, screaming or flailing. She laid on my chest, little arms resting on my breasts, glowing and looking at me with the face of a little angel.
It was like touching heaven itself when I grasped her tiny fingers and she squeezed mine tightly with her own.
Now she is a sophomore in college, developing her own values, her own dreams, her own ideas about life. To say that I am proud is a definite understatement. And I have to wonder these days, who has raised who? My own values, my own ideas, my own beliefs have shifted since she entered my life. Where has she gained such wisdom? Where has she gotten that heart that is as big as the universe itself? I look at her and am amazed at the WOMAN she has become and I am humbled that God allowed me to be her mother. He entrusted me with an angelic, wise soul who loves me just as much as I love her. We are an extension of one another. In so many more ways than just one.
Tonight she grasped my hands and put her forehead to my own. Smiling, she kissed me lightly and said, "I love my life. I love my mother. I love my best friend." If I could bottle that moment, I would.
I would have stopped time.
I wish I COULD stop the hands of time. She is leaving for college again on Sunday. It is always heart-wrenching for me to see my baby get in the car and wave goodbye. I feel as if I break into a million pieces. I smile, wave until I see the last tail light, then allow the tears to fall unabashed. Freely. I wonder how she is feeling as she heads down the highway. I worry myself frantic until she calls and says she arrived safely.
She is a grown woman. But I still see that little face looking up at me. I still long to hold her against my chest and watch her fall asleep, listening to her angel breaths.
I cannot help it.
I am her mother.
I am her best friend.
She is my Beanie. My Bre-Bear. My Breanna. My Bumpkin.
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
We all have someone we look up to, who's words speak directly to our hearts. Myles Kennedy is that person for me. He writes:
"I couldn't sleep, I had to listen
(To a conscience I know so well)
That nothing comes from indifference
So, I look inside of myself.
Will I find some kind of conviction?
Will I bid the hero farewell?
Will I be defined by things that could have been?
I guess time will only tell...
Don't let it be,
Before tomorrow comes,
Before you turn away.
Take the hand in need
Before tomorrow comes...
YOU could change everything.
I curse my worth and every comfort
That blinded me for way too long.
D*** it all, I'll make a difference from now on!
"Cause I'm wide awake to it all!
Does anyone care it ain't right what we're doing?
Does anyone care it ain't right where we're going?
Does anyone dare justify how we're living?
Does anyone here care at all?
We could be so much more than we are...
Oh, this much I know..."
He is asking us to look deeper into ourselves, to find the ties that bind each of us as human beings together. We can remain stagnant and allow the tides of life to wash us ashore or we can ride the waves and see where they take us. But we must take special care to ride them with God as our Captain. We must allow His love to be our Beacon, especially in times of great distress.
I am reminded of the saying, "Don't tell God how big your storm is. Tell the storm how BIG YOUR GOD IS." We will fail. We will fail many times over. But the storms will lose their power over us the more we let God shine His Son over us. We just have to dig deep in our turmoil and indecision and find the will to let go.
The devil isn't through with me yet nor will he ever be. But I'm finding my way back to God. I'm walking the path to HIS existence, to the solace of His arms. I can't go wrong with Him.
Neither can you. So, before tomorrow comes, before you turn away, remember that YOU can change everything...as long as you cling to HIM.
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