I remember the dream well, because I had it so many times I've lost count.
A man died. My heart throbbed when blood poured from his side and he looked at me one last time. It was my fault, yet so much love filled his dimming eyes. He knew he was dying for me--someone so unworthy. His final breath left him, wavering like a shade in the stormy night. His life disappeared with all reason as his head lulled no longer having a purpose. The moon shone on his once strong face. I wanted to bring him back, do whatever I could, but he was gone forever. He'd taken the blame and left me alone with my guilt. My heart shattered in that moment, more than when I'd seen them torture the man I loved. I crumpled onto the ground and shivered in the coming rain. No amount of crying would take away the sorrow. I felt lifeless like the body near mine, as if existing in a world without God. The fact remained, he'd looked at me last. He'd died for me . . . died because of me and I felt dirty. I clutched the dirt by my face, dug my nails into the ground, and fell asleep at the foot of the cross. I don't know how long I cried, but when I opened my eyes again, sleep clung to my eyes. A wall loomed behind me and a staircase spiraled far below.
I walked down the winding, stone steps--the only place to go. The hot granite stung my bare feet and I ran as fast as I could. No railing thronged the stairs. Instead, the only support was the wall which sweated with a strange smelling liquid. After an eternity of running down aged granite, and leaning against eroding corners, I made it to the base of the stairs where a desk waited. A "Welcome to Hell" sign hung crooked from the front of the gnarled wood. It seemed such a funny room. Moss lined the ground, Gothic trees grew in clumps. And at the far end I saw a petrified door. "This is a strange place," I said. And the more I imagined what I hoped for, the more I saw. It was inviting, as beautiful as Persephones' home. I swooned over its glory, until seeing the creature at the gnarled desk. He wore a black cloak that wrapped over his face. "You've come. We've been watching and indeed you are ours now," he croaked. Huge horns protruded from the sides his hood and long-nailed fingers tapped the desk. I stepped back, wanting to scream as the world around died reflecting the fear which ate at my soul. "But don't worry. The Master would have a word with you first." "The master?" I asked. "Our Lord. The Prince. Don't worry, you'll meet him soon . . . just walk through that door. He always likes to speak to the living." "The living?" I asked. "Oh, yes. You are very much alive . . . for now." His finger ran across a large black book laying open on the desk. Its old pages were marred by time as if they'd gone through a fire. He scanned down to a name, highlighted in blood and I saw it was my own name. I looked back, but the stairway was gone. In its place sat a pile of ash staining the wasteland's air. A long trail of women stood beside the pile and beyond it as far as I could see. They wore lacy black veils and dresses with bridal flares to their designs. Even though they dressed as if mourning, excitement showed in their movements and smiles. Their gaunt faces and flickering bodies made me run to the petrified door. I clutched the door knob before turning to the horned figure at the desk. "What are they waiting for?" I whispered. "Eternity . . . They can't wait to come back . . . See how welcoming death can be?" A chill ran the length of my body as I opened the door. The scene beyond it brought a moment from my past, relived in an even stronger beauty. I suddenly understood the line of excited women. Purple flowers bloomed at my feet and I gazed at the bright sun-filled sky. I blinked and breathed with the same anticipation I'd seen on the women's faces seconds before. "Maybe death is welcoming?" I said aloud as the door shut behind me and completely disappeared. "It is a beautiful day," a strong voice said from the field at my back. The man appeared so much like my lost lover, I could hardly believe. "Are you . . ." He nodded. "I've been waiting. It seemed like forever . . . without you." "Have we both died, then? Are you here too, in this strange place?" "Yes, and we can live again. I'll give you your heart's desires." He held out his hand, unmarred by the nails I'd seen driven there before he died. I smiled, but his eyes turned hungry and when I touched his hand, his featured distorted if only for a moment. I shirked back. "Don't be afraid, dear heart. Death is a strange thing." The sun shone, but the more I looked, it appeared like a metallic glow. I picked a flower, smelled the lavender which seemed dusted with the scent of sulfur. As I turned back, the greed on the man's face told me more than words ever could. "And what is it that you'd want in return for my life and my heart's desires?" "Just an eternity with you. Promise, you'll come back to this place, and I'll never leave you again," he said. His perfect face made my heart dip with pain. I'd watched him die. I remembered how he'd taken me in and showed me truth. "Just an eternity with you?" I asked. "That's all and you can have everything, be anything, do anything." Evil laced his words, something so fetid no amount of deception could hide it. He pulled a necklace from his shirt. "You see these?" he crooned. "These are the keys to eternity now. I can let you in at any time." "I . . ." He bent next to me and my lips faltered. He was so utterly perfect, so amazing, it seemed wrong denying him such a small request. Even though, I wanted to believe his words, I'd already tasted the truth. So in that metallic sun, I spoke as bravely as I could. "I can't. I won't come back." "No? No?! How dare you tell me 'no'!" The world cracked with the anger I saw on the man's vile face. His features shifted and changed as he drew a dagger from his cloak. "Did you see your name in my book?" he asked. "Did you see it? You are mine!" He held the dagger in the air and prepared to deal out my death. "Once your name was covered with the blood of the lamb . . . once. Did you see it?" I stepped back, a shaky step. "Yes, I . . . did." I tried standing strong, but his face made my soul crawl with fear. "It's still covered in blood." "His blood has no power now! His blood is useless. He's dead and can't protect you ANY . . . MORE! Did you hear me, you insignificant mortal? He's dead!" He cackled into the metallic light. "Tell me you still love him, even though he's powerless and weak. Tell me you still adore his perfect nature and flawed ideals. Tell me you still loathe me even though I'm the only one who can save your soul now!" He loomed, like a blackened tree. His eyes pierced through my spirit, knowing every bad thing I'd ever done--every vile thought I'd ever had. "We deserve each other, you and I. We deserve an eternity together. Imagine staying here . . . forever. I'll give you one last chance, to save yourself from the ultimate pains of Hell. He's useless to you now anyway. What other choice do you have? Just tell me you hate him. Curse the name of Jesus and Hell will be more bearable." The knife came closer. My legs shook and I dropped to my knees and cried. I'd seen the blood seep from my savior's hands and feet--the red pouring from his side. A part of me died with him the day I watched Him at Calvary, yet I could never curse His name, even if it would lessen my fate in Hell. I'd always love Him even if He'd lost all power. "NO!!!" I spat at the devil's feet. "I will never curse His name. Even if He won't save my soul, I'll never curse the name of Jesus!" The moment froze. I watched the confusion sprinting across Satan's face. He couldn't understand, would never understand that type of love. In his own world, the sky melted and folded in on itself as a light that passes all understanding ripped through the metallic sun. Satan ran across the field, scurrying as fast as he could go, but the light encompassed him and he cried in pain. I closed my eyes and peace curled around, overcoming my soul. I stayed wrapped in that hope, the feeling reminiscent of Heavenly visions. When I opened my eyes again, I rested at the foot of the cross. Jesus was gone. The light of a new day lined the horizon and I smiled. Hell may have wanted me, but Jesus' blood was still my protection. The cross drew my eyes; I saw the nails that had held my savior there. My smile broadened because from a nail hung a massive set of keys--they were the keys to Hell.
Song and Lyrics written and performed by EC Stilson.
~Lyrics to "The Lightning in the Storm"~
Unexpected like winter rain, dripping on my face. Healing, life-changing taking away the pain . . . without a trace.
Like lightning in the perfect storm. It lights up the rain. Thunder--it crashes--the winds they roll and I'll never be the same.
This is worth more than life, seeing things I've never seen. Striving and hoping, working and praying Striving and hoping, working and praying . . .
Like lightning in the perfect storm. It lights up the rain. Thunder--it crashes--the winds they roll and I'll never be the same.
Unforeseen like a hurricane. Winds rush past my face. Healing, life-changing and the pain goes away Healing, life-changing and the pain goes away . . .
Like lightning in the perfect storm. It lights up the rain. Thunder--it crashes--the winds they roll Thunder--it crashes--the winds they roll Thunder--it crashes--the winds they roll and I'll never be the same.
The perfect storm. The perfect storm. The lightning in your storm.
My oldest daughter, the Scribe, is twelve AND we're starting to have some problems . . . with my attitude. We got into some stupid conversation about why she can't dress like Madonna. "What is that shirt?" I asked. "It's so bright, you might as well go guide traffic on 5th and Main!" "But, Mom, THIS is in style! I. Am. Fashionable. You--on the other hand--have no style. And sometimes . . . I hate it." Did she just say "HATE"? I felt like I'd swallowed a grenade. She'd pulled the pin and soon the sucker would explode in my belly. My face puckered. I took a breath--hoping the grenade wouldn't really detonate. 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . I silently counted. By this point, my face must've reddened so that my daughter saw it through her gorgeous, tinted glasses. "Oh . . .crap," she mouthed in slow-motion, sliding her glasses down her nose. "Oh! Mom . . . I'm sorry. YOU are stylish. You are. Mom, it's YOU." The Scribe back-peddled--like a freakin' unicyclist in the circus--but the truth had already come out, and that's what set my anger free. Her words meant nothing, and I suddenly started saying things I swore I'd never repeat. You know--the things people say to you when you're a kid. "Scribe!" I barked. "I was in labor with you for twenty-seven hours! The doctor wanted me to have medicine before I pushed you out! But nooooo. Would I have the epidural? No-ooo way! I sat through those raging contractions--feeling like I'd die, or worse, have a bowel movement." Her face turned white. "You wanna know why I didn't have the pain meds?" She shook her head, practically begging me to stop. "Oh--I'll tell you why. Because I love you. I didn't want you to have any of that medicine in your infant body. So I did squats by the bed. I walked around the hospital. I even put on makeup between contractions--so I'd look pretty for you when you came out! And now you're saying the "hate" word?" "Did you mean to say it like that? The "hate" word?" she asked. I knew it had sounded lame, but I wasn't gonna admit it. So I folded my arms and gave her the mom face called you-flippin'-heard-me-the-first-time/wrap-your-head-around-that! "And giving birth to me??? That has nothing to do with style!" "Pfft! I'm the reason you know about style. I helped bring you into this world. I did that for you, and now you're gonna treat me like this? Say you hate something . . . about me." "Mom." She frowned. "I'm sorry. Really, I am." THANK GOD for labor! She actually apologized. It may suck pushing a kid out of YOUR BUTT, but it gives moms ammo to make kids remorseful! If babies came from a freakin' stork, I would have NOTHING to say. "Be nice--to me. Because that stork worked really hard bringing you here." Meh. NOPE. It was me. And the guilt-trip worked.
Later that night, I heard her talking on the phone to a friend. "I love my mom," she said, "but she was saying the weirdest stuff today. I swear, if I ever have kids, I'll never say things like that to them!" I had to smile. Let the circle of life continue.
Something drew me to the little fabric shop on Main Street, tucked away in the back corner, practically hidden by a huge vacuum store. I trudged toward the door, gripped the handle and paused. Why was I there? "Belinda's" was the most expensive fabric store in Northern Utah AND their selection wasn't great--yet there I stood, with some stupid feeling that I needed to be there. After going inside, and being blasted by the air conditioner, I sidled up to some watermelon-print fabric near the register. I couldn't concentrate on that fabric though, too distracted from my dreams the night before. I'd fought with Cade (my husband at the time). We both went to sleep angry and I'd dreamed about my ex-boyfriend--from ten years before. "What's wrong?" the elderly lady at the register asked, pulling down her glasses and studying how I'd literally been petting the watermelon fabric. "Oh, my gosh!" I set the cotton down. "Just a long night." I sighed again and then shook my head--seriously what was I doing there?! I started to walk toward the exit, when the woman cleared her throat. "I'm bored. And I love a good story. Would you mind telling me what's going on?" That woman--who didn't know me AT ALL--pulled up two stools across from each other at the register and selflessly listened to how guilty I felt about fighting and then dreaming about my ex. "Why do I dream about my ex? It's been forever since we were together! I told one of my friends and she said this isn't normal at all!" The woman started laughing so hard, then rested a wrinkled hand on my shoulder. "Listen. I'm eighty-five years old. And what you're going through is completely normal! Do you have time to hear my story?" I nodded, pretty enthralled. "My husband died five years ago. We were happily married for nearly fifty years, but like you, every time we had problems, I started thinking about--or even dreaming about--my old beau from high school." "Even after fifty years?" I balked. She looked down and nodded. "Yeah. So last year, I contacted my old beau. Things seemed great at first, but guess what happened--I ended up remembering why I broke up with him in high school. AND he'd never changed. We broke up for the same reason a lifetime later. We were still the same core people."
I was utterly stunned. "My point is: I spent all that time looking back on a man who wasn't worth my time. I remembered the good and forgot the bad, just to realize I broke up with him in the first place for a reason. All that time I wasted . . . wondering what if." We hugged each other before I left. And that woman gave me a red sucker, even though I'm a grown woman and everything. Anyway, four years have passed and I know I'll never forget that woman and her story. Although I'm not married anymore, I want to hold that woman's moral close.
The past is never where you think you left it. -Katherine Anne Porter
If you're struggling, looking back to a possibly deluded past, I'd like to leave you with one more quote:
I'm not giving any names, but I had reason to believe that something died in a cave up Ogden Canyon. So I texted my friend Tony: "You wanna go see something dead in a cave?" "How can I say no to that?" he replied because some people are born epic. So we went to the cave. I threw Tony a flashlight, turned on the one I'd kept for myself, and we crawled combat style into the dark opening. There were some gross things in there: beer bottles, wrappers, unfinished homework, an unused feminine pad. And I realized again, some things are worse than death--like being a girl AND having a period! I was about to tell Tony that womanhood sucks, when I suddenly saw a black shape in front of us. "Oh. My. Hell," I gasped and pointed the flashlight toward the shape of doom. "I think . . . that's dead!" I was nervous, honestly, and excited. Like a real-live Zombie Apocalypse was about to happen. That dead son-of-a-beast would probably rise up, since we'd disturbed its death, then it would totally-bypass-me 'cause I'm a gem, then go for Tony's throat. I worried for Tony then; I'm selfless AND not a pansy--and I wanted Tony to know it! After all, he's the same guy who isn't afraid of nothin'--the same guy who got us kicked out of a hockey game 'cause I'd he'd smuggled in some Listerine bottles with whiskey in them. He's the same legendary man who won a ham at a bowl-off last Christmas--then gave the prize to a man in need. He's part Filipino, part tiger, and damn it I wanted to seem like a badass too! So I crawled closer to the black shape--like I was unphased--my heart racing . . . until I realized the black shape was a jacket. "A jacket, EC? Really? You were all worked up ABOUT A JACKET," Tony the Tiger said. "Listen here, Buddy! That zipper, looked like a claw hanging over that rock. All dangerous and terrifying. Were you the one crawling closer? No! You weren't. EC go first--you said--EC crawl closer." I kept moving after that, laughing the whole way. Tony snorted--that's what badasses do. "Only you would send me a text that says: something died in a cave--wanna check it out? Of course you should go first. Most chicks like watching movies. Or going to dinner. Not EC, man!" The rocks were digging into my knees. "Damn, I wish I'd brought knee pads." "I wish I had a helmet!" he said. Tony is bald. I've told him before I have no sympathy for bald men--one day he'll listen. We went about another twenty feet farther in. And all I could think about were those damn rocks, and how there was a light coming from the end of the cave. "What in the heck is this?" I suddenly knocked on a pipe running along the ground to the side of us. "EC. It's. A. Pipe." "I wonder what the hell it's doing here." I was flippin' mystified. "A pipe--there has to be no freakin' way!" I thought Tony would be amazed--instead he nearly died in that cave--wheezing with laughter. "I don't think this is a natural cave, EC." "But how did the pipe get here?" "EC, man! It's a pipeline. For the water runoff. Ya know, we're in the mountains?" "You mean to tell me, THIS ISN'T A NATURAL CAVE? And nothin' died in here? Screw this!" "Ummm, EC. You're a jerk!" Tony sounded actually upset. "Excuse me? Like it's my fault nothing died in here." "No. You're a jerk 'cause you didn't tell me you just passed a corpse! Dude, you're the one in front of me. You coulda said, Tony, there's a freakin' dead animal. Don't put your hand on it!" I scoffed because if there's anything I know about people who are part tiger, it's that they think I'm gullible. "Oh, I'm sure!" I turned around, crawled back and shone my light on death personified--in rabbit form. Its innards were its outtards. Its claw . . . was disgusting. A rock covered its face. I'd showed up to the damn thing's funeral--and I DID NOT WANT TO BE THERE. Then I freaked out as this imagine flashed through my mind!
"What the flippin' A--" I have never crawled that fast in my life. I never knew a rabbit--thing--could scare me so much. I wanted Tony the Tiger to think I'm tough since I need a good friend--but screw that. Moments before, I had crawled over: A. Dead. Animal. And if it was a rabbit, that made things worse! Haven't you read Bunnicula? The rabbit was totally a vampire, and that's scarier than hell. See!
We made it out of the cave; I dropped to my knees, trying to keep from peeing my pants--I was laughing that hard. "Best. Pipeline-cave. Ev-er!" I squealed, then followed up with, "I told you something died in there!" Tony raised an eyebrow and smiled. "Only you, EC."
So yesterday I learned that: *People who are part Filipino/part tiger ARE NOT PHASED by death. *I can be a pansy. *And caves whether natural or just glorified pipelines are pretty awesome.
All in all, facing death has never been so ridiculously fun.
The altar was beautiful even if the stench remained. I no longer cared though. Somehow, I knew what I'd come for. I ran and threw myself onto the steps. Words were carved there, shining dimly in the light. "Cast Your Cares," the steps said, so that's what I did.
"God," I cried, "do I really think I'm that terrible inside?" I closed my eyes and heard voices, like a multitude screaming for vengeance. They bellowed and cried, every one of them said different things I've heard over my life. They talked about what I'd done poorly, or how it wasn't good enough. Some told me I'd never get a book published, or never be the kind of strict mother who has kids with good grades. I heard how I need to pay attention, or stop acting so tired. Try harder--DO BETTER. Stop being so happy because people think I'm fake. Stop acting so sad because people think I'm depressed! "You have no follow-through," a woman told me once. I remembered her face clearly as I heard her voice at the altar. "If you don't reprimand your daughters now, they'll never finish high school. They'll have terrible work ethics and children who are just like them." "What's bad about having children like them? I don't think they're doing anything wrong," I'd said. "Who cares if they want to play make-believe?" The woman laughed. "In my house, my kids work for everything. They do what I tell them to do, and what others tell them! Your daughters--especially the oldest--WILL NOT obey me. How sad, your kids WON'T have an education or follow-through. But . . . some things are genetic after all." I stared at her. "Didn't have follow-through?" My thoughts took me to a different time when I had a baby on life support. I held his hand, which was so tiny in mine. The doctors said he didn't have any motor functions, but he squeezed my pointer finger in that moment. I bawled because he'd only lived a short while and I couldn't believe what I had to do. I'd always wanted a boy, and there he was. His hair was so soft. The first time I'd been allowed to hold him, he stopped crying and nestled into my chest despite all the tubes in his mouth. I could barely speak as I caressed his soft hair. "Should we really let him go?" I asked the doctor. "He'll probably be better off if you do," the man answered sadly, refusing to meet my eyes. It took a while to build the strength, but after multiple infections and then seeing a couple who couldn't take their own baby off life support, we knew what had to be done. The day we pulled the plug, I felt like part of me died. Have you ever wanted something so bad it hurt? Only to be told you'd have to give it all up--yourself! Take your own child off life support and watch them suffocate because it was the right thing to do. My own baby died in my arms BECAUSE OF ME, and some woman thought I had no follow-through?! I looked at her and laughed, being my sweet, non-confrontational self. "You're right. Me AND my kids must be losers. We'll never follow through with anything." She stood, acting completely offended and she never came over to my house again.
I thought of all those things at the altar. How most of my self-condemnation comes from not thinking I'm good enough. As I cried over everything I've done in an effort to feel like I'm worth something--ANYTHING--(starting a business, releasing my journal), I heard other voices. "I'm proud of you," I heard the words although I've never heard the woman's voice in person. You see, I'd only read them as a comment on my blog. "I'm proud of you," she wrote. "It took a lot of courage to release your journal for everyone to see. It took courage to do the right thing and let Zeke go." I thought of something another person wrote. "You're such a good mother. Those kids are lucky to have you." I sobbed into the altar--huge cries shook my body. "Oh, God," I cried. "These people are amazing. They've helped me so much, but they don't even know me." "But I know you," a still small voice said. "Stop looking for self-worth in everything you do. Don't you know I created everyone? I made them special. I made YOU special. Everything you've hoped to see. Everything you've longed for or dreamed of, those things make you unique. Stop looking for self-worth and REALIZE what's always been there!" In that moment, so many tears came. I stopped hearing the condemnation of others. I focused on the good. I knew. It doesn't matter what mean things people say. God loves me, and if HE loves me, I should love myself. I remembered leaving my journal at Zeke's grave, saying goodbye, hoping someone would find his story and benefit from it. Then, my thoughts turned to the moment someone DID find the journal. The different times e-mails flooded my inbox because by sharing Zeke's story, it took everything I had, but it'd been worth it--AND it always will be. I wiped my face and felt so much lighter. I opened my eyes and turned next to me. There were about a million people at the altar and even sitting in the pews. "Everything in the darkness had come to the light." Some of those people smiled and laughed into their prayerful hands. Some sobbed and nodded. I knew they'd always been there, even if I couldn't see them before. I thought I was the only person struggling with self-worth, it turned out, I'd been wrong. A lady next to me whispered, "Oh, God. You do love me just the way I am." I smiled at her, because I knew that woman. She was the person I'd seen in my reflection, the old version of myself. The more I looked at her, the more she changed, smelling of perfume instead of death. She seemed beautiful and kind--somehow different in the church's lights. I watched, realizing she wasn't the only person changing. All the others became physically beautiful as enlightenment overtook them. The church smelled of beauty, because fear and condemnation had lost their hold. I stood and waved goodbye to the woman who'd been next to me at the altar. I walked from the church and laughed because life felt so much better, not worrying about the hurts of my past and what everyone thought. I skipped from the church with the holey screen door, and I went to look in that special window. My reflection was beautiful--something it always had been, if I'd just had eyes to see. "Everything in the darkness will come into the light . . . like the way you truly see yourself," I read the etching in the window and I smiled. It's a good thing God made all of us beautiful.
So, in closing: Life can be hard, and we all have moments when we don't feel good enough. But isn't it awesome how sometimes God can even turn bad times into great moments of realization?
For more information about Zeke and my journal, please go here:
The building looked terrible as if it came from my nightmares or some place even worse. It could have been the opening setting for a Zombie Apocalypse--no kidding. The bricks were crumbling. The screen door had many holes in it, where flies passed in and out, enjoying the air conditioning that billowed through. And yet some people called that smelly place a church. I read the front sign in the yard. "Everything in the darkness will come into the light." That seemed different. I was used to quirky church signs where pastors figured humor would pull in the crowds AND their paychecks. Many people walked into the building. It's embarrassing to admit, but I judged them. Some were gorgeous, in their furs and fancy hats; I couldn't understand why such high-class people would go there. Others were homely--like Lucifer's cousins--and they didn't know a thing about hygiene. I bet they stunk worse than the building, and that's why the flies swarmed around them instead of the door for a moment. One handsome man stood in front of a dirty window before walking through the entrance. But the window didn't show his reflection correctly. I stared at the glass. He licked a dirty palm and tried slicking back his matted hair. After several tries, a greasy lock still fell in front of his face. He nodded at himself sadly and turned to go into the building. But when he turned, he looked so different from what I'd seen in the glass. He was handsome--striking even. That's when curiosity got the better of me, and I wondered what my reflection would look like in the window. I stood from my car; dust danced by my feet as I shut the door. The ground seemed spongy, like the ground in a dream. It was musty there. I remembered my appearance from earlier in the day; I hadn't looked too bad. My feet refused to move for a moment, though, until everyone had gone into the decrepit church. I stepped toward the window. The closer I came, the more clearly I saw myself. With every step, a wrinkle etched my face. With every movement, another section of my skin sagged, until I looked completely wretched. Was that really me? I did the same thing the man had done. I stared in the the window as I licked a dirty palm and tried slicking back my matted hair, but nothing could be done to make myself look better. My eyes caught on the edges of the glass then, where words had been inscribed with painstaking dedication. "Everything in the darkness will come into the light . . . like the way you truly see yourself." I grabbed at my face, pawing over every defect. Surely, I didn't view myself that poorly. I looked like a hag in a fairytale, the hag who tests people with her own hideous face! I finally understood why I must go into the church. So, the man who looked in the window before me; he must have felt terrible inside. We'd both discovered something few would ever see--our own self-worth. So, with nervousness as my only companion, I walked up to the screen door at the front of the church. My trembling hand grabbed the handle and flies swarmed around me just like they'd swarmed around the other people I had judged earlier. "Enter," a soothing voice whispered from the inside. "But know, if you come, you won't leave the same." I opened the door and a foul stench overtook me. Maybe it WAS the beginning of a Zombie Apocalypse. After all, nothing had happened to prove otherwise. I walked into the church and became stunned because no one was there. No one except me and a beautiful altar.
Look for the continuation in tomorrow's post: HERE
Throughout my life I've had some major insecurities--and honestly still do.
In high school, girls teased me for being so flat. One said, "Elisa
probably lost her virginity to her own finger," after making fun of my
chest in the locker room. Some kids called me "Bible Girl." They
teased me, always centering on my mosquito-bite boobs or the fact that
my Bible was always with me. During that time, I had a crush on
someone, and in confidence, he told me months later, "I really started
falling for you and we would have dated in a heartbeat . . . if you
weren't so small chested."
I know it's superficial, honestly. But comments like that stick.
Somehow I felt my whole worth crumple. There I was the daring
violinist, the same kid who would become homeless at seventeen because
it sounded like an adventure. The same girl who was so loyal and always
tried to be kind. Yet, that's all some people saw--my boobs--was that
all there was to me? I packed a double . . . "A minus" and it wasn't good enough.
Years later I grew up, had five babies. I breastfed. In some silly
way I felt confident and more womanly because I filled out a C. Then,
we decided to be done having children (because I'd done enough 'time')
and after years of size C bliss, my boobs shrunk even smaller than they
were before! How was I supposed to be confident? My boobs no longer
bounced. The birds didn't sing outside. Some kids in the Scribe's
class WERE BIGGER THAN ME.
So, as dumb as this is, I started telling Cade about everything--when we were still married--and
that man chuckled. "You're kidding, right? You want a boob job? If
anyone is self-assured, it's you. Nothing like this can bother you.
I started yelling in a monotone. "I feel like a man from the waist up! Do you know how much that sucks?"
I know he tried keeping a smile from his face because part of him
must have STILL thought I was kidding. Then when I cried, he turned
serious and held me. "OH, my Gosh! You aren't kidding?"
I gave him "the eye" before crying even harder. Well, since my divorce, I've
gotten implants. I'm really excited that I got them--proud in fact.
But what I'm more surprised about is that I don't feel different--like
I'd anticipated--I'm still the same girl who was made fun of, who was
called Bible Girl years ago. The same sporty girl, who can be spunky and adventurous. This poses the question: "Why did I think things would be so different?" And "What is true beauty?"
"I'm not like anyone in this family," she said.
I smiled, remembering something I did in fifth grade. "Oh yes you are. I was always hatching crazy schemes."
"Yep. Do you want to hear a story about how I tricked the boys into letting me play baseball with them?"
She wiped her tears and nodded.
"All right, well one day . . ." I never thought the story was anything special--not until the Scribe heard it.
I was a dorky twig, far better at playing sports than playing dolls. I knew I'd be a star on the boys' team if they just let me play, but those jerks were too good for me--a girl. "We don't let girls play with us. Girls are bad luck." That just proved it; they were idiots. The only time girls are unlucky is when you make them mad!
I started practicing baseball then, every day after school, until the sun went down. I got pretty good. My mom, dad and brother all taught me how to hit and pitch. I went through training--no kidding. If those boys would just say 'yes,' they wouldn't know what hit 'em.
But the idiots kept saying 'NO!' My dream almost ended. I could have stayed friendless and sad. Or I could've stooped to ultimate evilness and played dolls with Wendy Smith and her posse of girlie girls! That wasn't for me though. Too bad I hate giving up easily AND dressing dolls. I watched the boys' whole setup one day after they said 'no' . . . again. The leader (Jeff) always brought the ball and the bat. He'd put it out in the hall during class, then at recess, all the boys would go and play. Stealing that ball was easier than taking candy from a baby-brat. I still remember it. I raised my hand and told the teacher I needed to use the bathroom. That was a lie--a terribly sweet lie. I ran into the hall, looked back and forth, then stole Jeff's ball, not even thinkin' it was sinful to steal from an idiot. The prize fit great with my stuff in the hallway and no one even saw me! I wanted to give thanks to God, for helping me steal, so I went and used the bathroom since that's what I'd told the teacher. Maybe I didn't really have to go, but I sure tried anyway. It wouldn't be good to lie AND steal on the same damn day. Well, when the recess bell rang, those boys scrambled and hooted. Everyone got out to the field. For once I stayed back, just watching. Jeff came out last. He explained something to the boys who looked awfully mad. They were just about to leave the field when I walked closer. "Who would-a thunk he'd leave the ball home?" a kid whined. I threw the ball up and down. Not to brag, but I caught the sucker every time. "Funny thing," I said to the boys. "I brought a ball today. What are the odds?" I tried spitting but I'd never done it before and the stuff turned to spittle. I wiped it away fast and cursed all those old movies for making spitting look easy. "Give us the ball!" a boy screamed--good thing I didn't marry that dictator! "Sure," I pulled it away, "on one condition." "Name it," Jeff said. He walked closer. "That you let me play." All the idiots groaned, apparently idiots are great at whining and groaning. "But that's bad luck to play with a girl." "Is it better to not play at all?" I asked and they FINALLY let me play. I'd like to say I got a home run, even though I didn't. But I will say that I proved myself and they seemed really impressed. Jeff walked with me after last recess and smiled. "You know, this ball looks an awful lot like the one I bring." I had to think fast. I looked up at him. My face couldn't charm him--too bad for the 'ugly phase.' But at least I could win him over with my wit. "You're pretty good at ball." I paused. "Well, so am I. Does it really surprise you that we both have such good taste?" He laughed and hit me on the back. "You're all right, Stilson. You're all right." It was the first time someone called me by my last name and the first time a fellow classmate hit me on the back--it WAS epic. The next day when Jeff's ball showed up by his stuff in the hall, he didn't even seem surprised. I went and stood by the field, a bit sad that I'd never get to play again. Maybe I should have just reconciled to playing dolls with Wendy Smith . . . forever. I sat down on the grass and prepared to watch the boys forming their teams. It was time for the captains to pick their star players. John 'the cherry picker' went first--don't even ask how he got his nickname, let's just say no one wanted to shake HIS hand. When it was Jeff's turn, he smiled right at me and pointed. "Stilson, for first pick because that girl really knows how to hit a ball. And because she didn't give up." I stood by him and beamed. "Isn't it funny how my ball just showed up today?" he whispered. "Yeah," I nodded. "What are the odds?"
"So, that's how I started playing baseball with the boys," I told the Scribe. "It sounds like something I would do! Mama," she said seriously, "you're all right." "You too." I smiled, then patted her on the back and thought I just might start calling her by our last name. She's always doing crazy things like scaring children and holding fundraisers FOR HERSELF, but she's one hilarious child. She makes life fun. I'm thankful for her and her siblings every day.
"I realized I'll never save enough to get a laptop, but at least I can buy a kindle," the Scribe said. "My friend will sell me hers. I just need eighty dollars." Her friend--that sounded like a recipe for disaster. "And where are you going to get eighty dollars?" I asked. My four kids gathered around. For some reason even Doctor Jones (my toddler) wanted to hear what the Scribe would say. "I just need a shovel," the Scribe said. "What? Why?" It made no sense to me, but the other kids seemed to understand. "Mom, I know what she's talking about," the Hippie said. "Buried treasure! Your buried treasure!"
"Exactly." The Scribe nodded, winking. She sat on the couch before her three siblings joined her. "Mom, can you tell us the story again? Come on, you know we love it. Plus, I need the dough." I snorted--those kids kill me. "Fine." I sat on the coffee table, suddenly understanding what they had referred to. "Once upon a time, there was a little girl. Her name was . . . Elisa!" The kids giggled as I went on. "She worked, harder and harder, earning every penny, dime, nickle and quarter she could . . . She sold lemonade. She picked asparagus! She even scrounged change from her brother's room--when he wasn't looking." It was true. I must have been about seven by the time I'd saved more than Bill Gates is worth. I toiled--feeling the joy that comes from a hard day's work. I hid all the money under my bed. Sure that sounds miserly, but I wasn't trying to be an angel. I stole a bunch of my brother's best socks after that--just the left ones. I filled those suckers with change. At dinner, I laughed into my soup when my brother asked where his socks kept going. My mom smiled sweetly--so innocent--and said, "That's the mystery with socks. No one knows where they go." Except me! I had them--dang it--I knew more than most grown-ups did. Anyway, days crept into months and summer finally came. My mom knelt gardening, and when I snatched the hand shovel--she had no idea it was me. I tiptoed to the backyard and that's when I started digging. The backyard was massive, stretching halfway with grass until it became dirt and went all the way back to a creepy alley that had my name written all over it. I dug the biggest hole the world's ever seen--and I must have done it quick, 'cause my mom didn't even see me! I was a ninja, a rich ninja and nothin' could stop me--not even taxes. I grabbed all my change that was still in my brother's best dress socks, then I threw them in the hole and covered 'em up. It was just a random spot in the yard--a place that needed some kind of marker. I didn't want to be obvious, so I took a rock and made a huge "X" in the ground. It felt really great. My family didn't know how rich I was, and that was all right. I bet my mom would have let me out of chores and everything IF she knew I was a billionaire. But I didn't want them loving me just for my money--that would've been terrible. I smiled thinking about all of it. That night my dreams were wonderful about affording chocolate fountains and hosting big parties. It wasn't until the rains came, that my hopes crashed to the ground. I stared out my window. The "X" was gone! All my hard work--was hidden. My mom insisted on dressing me for school. I wore some pansy dress and bows that made me look like a kitten. When my mom wasn't looking, that's when I ran outside and dug into the mud. I made hole after hole, but I couldn't find my funds in the rain. That's the trouble with being good at hiding things--I even hid it from myself. I went inside and that's when I got in trouble. "What . . . Your dress! What have you been doing in the mud?" my mom asked. But I wouldn't talk--pirates NEVER reveal the location of their buried treasure. As I took a bath, my brother asked again about his missing socks and I did chuckle a bit--he'd never know. But it did bother me--maybe that's why God sent the rain. I'd hidden money in stolen socks--that made it sinful, practically.
I looked at each of my kids and finished the story. "It wasn't until we moved to the big city that I cried. I waved to the house. My family all thought it was because I loved the place. That wasn't it at all though. I was just sad to be leaving my fortune behind." "Wow," the Hippie said. "How much dough did you bury?" the Scribe asked. "I don't know. It might have been five bucks for all I know. But when I was little it seemed like a hundred." "I knew it," she said. "How far away is that place--does someone still live there?" "It's too far away. Plus, someone does live there. We just can't sneak in and dig up their yard." The Scribe nodded. "I guess I'll have to find another way. But it was a good idea . . . and a good story. After all, how many kids have mothers who used to bury treasure, just for fun." "Not many." The Hippie laughed before continuing. "Maybe just us." They all got up and left. I gazed through the window to our backyard. Rain splattered the dirt and for some reason I couldn't quit smiling.
Ya know how I said I wouldn't get in a serious relationship for a year? Well--get ready for a buffer--I always meet my goals, stick to my word, and try my hardest.
~When I said I'd blog every day for a year straight, I did.
~When I said
I'd lose 60 lbs. after having my first daughter, I lost the weight in a
few short months.
~When I said I'd write three books in a year--I did.
~I pushed and got my Associate degree in record
~Once--when I really wanted a coffee, I got one. Errr--okay, that wasn't impressive...
...BUT you get the point!
I pride myself on making goals and meeting deadlines.
Now though, I don't think I can meet my new goal--to stay out of a serious
relationship for a year--'cause I met someone so wonderful that I'm
actually willing to bend the rules for him... And that alone tells me
more than anything.
So, this is Mr. Italy. (Cliff Note: He's part Italian just like me--thus the name--awesome, right!)
Check out that smile on Dr. Jones' face!
*** Dating is like skydiving. It's hard jumping out of that plane, but if you have the guts, it can be AMAZING!
Another Allegory, this time to explain what I've been dreaming of . . .
We stood on a mountaintop overlooking the sickness and war that overran the minds of men. Neither of us had been born into an earthly existence yet, merely living in another dimension where pain and sorrow couldn't touch us. Still, it wasn't enough and I longed to be mortal.
You talked excitedly about the love and adventure of Heavenly realms. But I gazed down at the world--even war--with a desire I couldn't explain. We walked into our favorite forest after that. You told me how we'd become mortal someday, just not yet--not this time. My breathing slowed as the scent of pine pervaded my senses. I knew you were my other half, home. And those had always been our woods. We'd explored them a million times, always dreaming, always speaking of our eternity together. We'd fished in those streams. Made love by those riverbeds. Hiked those trails countless times. Yet, I let go of your hand. "I want to be mortal. . . . Will you go with me?" I pleaded because you were my everything and always had been. "I'm staying here," your resolve said more than your words ever could have, "staying in our forest. You can't go either. Experience pain and death on Earth. Why do you want that for yourself?" "I have to go," I said, and the betrayed look on your face tore through my soul. "It's my time." I stared into your green eyes; they mirrored my own--but a storm raged within yours, clouded with a desire to be free of suffering. "What are the highs without any lows?" I asked, knowing you didn't understand. Tears filled my eyes as I buried my face into your chest. You were always the logical one when it really came down to it. "I would have followed you anywhere," I said, clenching my hands at the base of your back. I'd never forget you--I knew--even on Earth. You felt just like the rain in the fiercest storm, and had always been my piece of perfection, but it was time to let go. We kissed goodbye, as if it were the first and last time, pulling each other close, the winds swirling as your lips pressed hard against mine. And I truly wished things could be different. But the need to be mortal, plays tricks on us all . . . and I left you alone on the mountain. And so I lived, searching, hoping to someday meet the man who's wild and free--something born of the forest. Wishing someday he'd look into my eyes . . . and I'd see that a storm raged there, clouded with a resolve to conquer suffering, to be good, kind, and strong. And I'd smile back at him, knowing that he'd found me.
And so: The pains of the past bad choices and decisions will be forgotten. I'll let go of those bringing me down so I can start fresh, healing from a brokenness I no longer claim as my own.
There are so many awesome blog recipes out there; I thought I'd contribute one of my own. It's not how to cook quiche or how to create a perfect potato soup. Instead it's: how to make a spud gun.
Flint igniter (grill igniter) I got mine at ACE. I've heard you can get them at Wally World in the camping section
4" ABS cleanout plug (Make sure to use ABS pipe. ABS will split from pressure, but PVC will shatter)
4" ABS fitting cleanout adapter
4" ABS coupling
4" x 24" ABS pipe
2" x 4" ABS increaser reducer
2" x 48" ABS pipe
ABS cleaner, primer, & cement
Sack of Idaho potatoes
Hair spray (aerosol) We discovered that Aquanet works the very best
1. Cut the ABS sections to length (or do what I did and convince the nice Home Depot employee to cut them for you.) Cement all the ABS parts EXCEPT THE CLEANOUT PLUG together.
2. Drill two 1/8" holes in the middle of the 4" x 24" ABS pipe then install the igniter with its included hardware. Use electrical tape to tape it down. Don't use duct tape since it's conductive. I left my wires long so I could detonate it from a couple feet away if I wanted to.
Note: My friend actually screwed the igniter right into the ignition chamber. Her igniter got an arc without the wires, but mine didn't. If your igniter gets an arc without the wires, then you don't have to drill two holes, instead you can drill one large one and screw the igniter into place.
3. File the end of the 2" x 48" ABS pipe so you can shove the potato in easier.
Wait at least 24 hours for the glue to dry!!!
4. You're done. I read somewhere that these only shoot 20-30 feet. That is not true! This went at least 250 yards. The bigger the barrel the greater the distance. Find a nice big area and go have fun. Stay safe. These are very dangerous and not toys. Don't ever aim at someone and if you can . . . avoid making this altogether!
My funny story of the day involves what a hassle it was finding the flint igniter. I went to five different stores. Apparently the only people who buy barbecue igniters--WITHOUT the rest of the grill--make potato launchers. I walked into one store and asked, "Do you sell flint igniters?"
The man eyed me. "What ya want with one of them?"
I paused because I'm a sucky liar. "Ummm. I want to fix . . . something."
"Your grill?"I looked down."Are you making a potato launcher, Ma'am?"
I acted offended, REALLY offended. "Do I look like the type of person who'd build a potato launcher?"
"I . . . I guess not. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to accuse you of anything."
"I'll let it slide this time," I said.
But it turned out he didn't have the igniter anyway. My whole "innocent act" had been for nothing!
So I went to a couple more stores and by the time I got to the fourth one I learned to ask for a "barbecue igniter" instead of a "flint igniter." It turns out people are less judgmental when you say the word, "barbecue."
I expected our conversation to go similarly to the one I already told you about.
"Do you sell barbecue igniters?"
"Are you making a potato launcher?" the man asked--point blank.
I paled, not believing my code word "bar-be-cue" hadn't worked on that man. I shook my head.
"Are you lying to me?" He pushed his glasses farther up his nose and crossed his arms. I watched his foot tap the seconds away. "So?"
What was it, twenty questions! I stayed silent and then realized I wasn't sitting in a principal's office; I was there to buy something. I was the customer. The big-fat ball of goodness was in my court! "Do you sell them or what?"
"Fine," he said. "I'll show you where the igniters are." He led me down rows of gadgets and gizmos. I could almost hear the whirring of strange contraptions and the snapping of oblong lights going on and off. "Here are the igniters." He'd let me to the camping section. That wasn't the lighter I wanted. Sure I could buy it if I needed to start a camp fire and cook my potatoes instead of launch them.
"Thank you so much," I said. "But that's not what I'm looking for."
"Because you're making a potato launcher." His eyes practically spurted flames.
"Fine." I glared at him. "You wanna know so badly? I AM making a potato launcher. I love potatoes and I want to launch them!!!"
"Well, then, I can't sell this igniter to you."
"That's not the right kind anyway!!!" I stomped from the store, but the man laughed as I walked out. I think he'd had a great time.
So at the next place I found the damn igniter myself. Sure it took me a long time, but I found it and finally got to launch some potatoes.
"Was it worth it?" you ask. "All the heartache and time it took me to find that igniter?"
Absolutely! Because there's nothing quite as cool as flying potatoes.
Me and my spud gun
Also, congrats to Jodi Keller
for winning the $50 giftcard to Novica.
Click HERE to visit the Novica website yourself. :)
#1 Swoon Mr. Bean #2 Eat unhealthily . . . healthy eating leads to cute babies. Unhealthy eating--if it involves coke and chips--also leads to cute babies. If you're wanting to pack an ugly, you must eat things like MSG and those gummy candies with loads of dye in them! #3 You must have whoopie in the light. Darkness leads to cute babies. If you're going for an ugly one, please keep the lights on full blast. Buy photography spotlights if you have to, construction lights, I don't care; just do it! #4 Have your man drink three cups of coffee right before making "the ugly." Three cups--to the drop--no more, no less. #5 Never--UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES--eat cereal. This is a fatal 'no, no' as cereal leads to ultimate cuteness. I've watched it happen time and again. Mothers who eat cereal have prize-winning babies. I know a baby named Sam who's a cover model--trust me, her mom ate cereal. #6 The reverse cowboy position is your bane. Don't do it! Anything to do with cowboys . . . it leads to cute babies. Well, I guess not ALL things related to cowboys. Cowboy Mimes might actually help babies cross over to the ugly side! I normally LOVE mimes, but this is just strange--in a Joker kind of way! So, with all that being said . . . I'm totally kidding. I googled "How to have a boy" and most of this information came up as what NOT to do. Whether you believe it or not, that's up to you, but for me . . . I think it's hilariously awesome! I've been thinking of babies filled with ugliness because of my friend's daughter. She came over and randomly told me some of her theories on life. "I know how to make an ugly baby," she said. I cleared my throat and after wiping the shock from my face, squinted in her direction and said, "Oh, really? And how does one go about . . . making an ugly baby?" "Well, two ugly people, will make an ugly baby. Two good looking people, will make an ugly baby. The only way to have a cute baby, is if you have one ugly person and one cute person." "So . . . you better find yourself an ugly man," I said. "Exactly," she said and plopped down on my couch. "But what about Depp?" I asked knowing she has a thing for good ol' Johnny. "Johnny Depp?" she asked. "Yeah." She thought for a minute. "If I married him, then I'd adopt. People have to make concessions sometimes." We always have the funniest conversations. I'm just glad I'm not the only one who has such awesome theories. Do you have any golden theories? I hope you do because I'd love to read them!