A Tale of the Woods

[The following is a short story written and submitted by me to the NYC Midnight 2018 Short Story Contest. Hope you enjoy!]

My name is James Wood Jr. and for most of my adult life, nothing important has ever happened to me. For about the last thirty years I have lived in a nice quiet town of Paragould, Arkansas. This town is the perfect place to tuck your head down and meander through day to day activities. I know most people say that about their small towns, but I guarantee Paragould wins every time.

It was the town where my father was born. The Colonel is somewhat of a hero in this small, hick town. “Jimmy, you must be pretty proud of your daddy,” people will say to me on the street. Which, I am. I am very proud of him; at least, professionally. The Air Force occupied his life, leaving little time for the rest of us. He was never around and when he was, he’d never talk about his work.

Then, on December 29, 1989 my life took a different direction. It was Friday and I had just stepped in the door, still covered in grease from the many trucks I spent all day maintaining. It never ceases to frustrate me to see the absolute lack of care people show towards their vehicles. Here I am, driving the same ’78 Jeep J-10 pickup that I have been driving around for ten years. Sure, it’s bright silver body is beginning to dim, but she still runs almost brand new.

The phone was already ringing when I stepped in the door. I was in no hurry to get to the monotonous ringing, so I slung my jacket on the kitchen chair and made my way to the phone hanging on the wall. Right before I got to it the answering machine picked up so I decided to see who it was before getting sucked into another long Friday afternoon conversation with Mrs. Williams from down the street. “Jimmy? It’s dad. If you are there can you pick up? I don’t want to leave you a message.” He sounded old. The man had turned ninety this year after all. It was more than that though. From the time I spoke to him back in August on his birthday to now, his voice seemed to have aged one hundred years. There was a shake in it and he was struggling to get the words out.

“Hey dad,” I tried to sound as casual as possible as I answered, but the tone in my father’s voice had struck a chord in my mind. “You caught me as soon as I was getting home. I was…”

“Son, I need you to listen,” he interrupted. I was used to the dismissal of things I had to say, but actually interrupting was new. “I need to see you.”

“Well, last time I checked you cannot drive. Plus, I don’t think the home you’re in will just let you up and leave.” I was a little put off by his interruption, both to my conversation as well as the start of my weekend.

“This is important. I can explain when you get here. We are having a New Year’s Eve party on Sunday. Friends and family are welcome.” His tone had changed from one of worry to hopeful.

“That sounds riveting. You know, I have responsibilities here. Plus, maybe I already have New Year’s plans.” I didn’t have either this weekend but I was not about to reveal to my ninety year old father that his fifty year old son was still just a homebody.

He stifled a laugh. “In Paragould?”

“It’s got to be just as exciting as a nursing home party,” I volleyed the insult back. It got us both laughing, which was a nice change of pace.

Then the serious tone returned to my father’s voice. “Please come.” There was no more discussion. I promised I would be there but I would not be arriving before the party. “I understand. I just don’t know how much longer I have. The signs are pointing to the end and I need to tell you something before it happens.” I could not get him to say anymore over the phone. I went to bed that night at a reasonable 8pm and was up early in my J-10 and headed to Melbourne, Florida.

The drive from Arkansas to Florida was long, very long. I wasn’t really in the mood to listen to the radio. The stations I could find were just overplaying Janet Jackson’s new song, “Miss You Much.” There really was not much to see along the drive either.

I tried to stay clear of big cities. I had my fill of city driving back when I was in college and immediately after. Back then I had big dreams of being a big shot reporter. I kept running into the exact same problem over and over. Nobody wanted to hear the truth. I would dig up a story about a big business contaminating water supplies or smuggling unknown resources from overseas. No matter the story I would get shut down. People would rather read gossip columns and ignore true, life altering stories. Over and over I’d pitch the truth, and each time I was met with resistance. Finally, I decided give up trying to get others to see.

I even tried to pass the news on to my own father. I’d call late at night, admittedly after having a few drinks, and rant about the truths I had uncovered. He would listen and I would gain hope. Then, “Jimmy, you’re a great story teller. You should write a book.”

A book? How patronizing. If I wrote a book it would end up being published as fiction. Nobody would take it seriously. I needed a legitimate news source to pick up the stories. He would only laugh and tell me to get some rest. It was after many of these kinds of conversations that I finally gave up my pursuit of exposing the lies and I moved back to Paragould. I decided I’d take a bland job and plunged myself into mechanical work.

So I passed the time by thinking back over all of the times my father was not there for me and gripping the steering wheel until my knuckles turned white. He sounded kind of out of it. I remember being young, maybe seven or eight, trying to get my father to be excited about some project at school. He would sit in his over sized chair and read the paper while I’d call his name over and over, waving a paper above my head, but the man, although physically in front of me, was not there. Mom would always say he had a lot going on. She defended him until the day she died; and I have spent my entire life trying to get my father’s attention. It’s probably why I agreed to go along on this trip in the first place.

I wondered if his mind was beginning to slip as I pulled my J-10 into the parking lot of the Life Care Center of Melbourne, Florida. I parked it between a couple of cars clearly belonging to the doctors or administrators who oversee the facility and walked inside.

The drive had taken even longer than I had anticipated. It was a quarter passed ten on New Year’s Eve. There was a party in full swing at the nursing home facility. I figured by this time most of the residents would have turned in for the night. I walked to the front desk and asked for my father’s room. The woman sitting there smiled pleasantly and pointed me down a hall. “He won’t be in his room. He prefers to be around the other residents. You’ll find him in the common area at the end of the hall.” I fought the urge to reply in a shocked way that the man actually wanted to be around others.

Our eyes met as soon as I walked through the door frame. My father, the Air Force Colonel, bound to a wheelchair but sitting no less straight. His dignity was not even hurt from the cone hat placed upon his head with “1990” written in bold, silver lettering across it. There was a proud twinkle in his eyes, mixed with something else. Was he sad? I dismissed the thought and walked though the colorful streamers and balloons which were hanging down from the low ceiling.

I finally spoke as I came up alongside my father. “Hey, Dad.” He smiled in response and took my hand in both of his. I could tell the strength was depleted. The grip he had was almost gone.

“I am so glad you came. Can you help me to my room?” I nodded and I came around the backside of his chair and wheeled him as he gave out commands. Some things never change. Still in charge and down to business.

We sat in a dim room, decorated much like the rest of the nursing home. It was definitely quiet. “Son, what I have to say is of vital importance and I am sorry I have waited so long to tell you. To be honest, I was afraid. I feared what may happen if anyone found out I was trying to uncover the truth. I know you are going to want to ask questions, but please let me say all I have to say.” Then my father began his tale.

“It all started with Roswell. The United States government really dropped the ball with that one. They had hoped to keep it covered up from the beginning, but as you know, news spread. Sure, they were able to paint it as a hoax, and the general public believed them. However, not everyone did. I’m not just talking about those in our country either.

“Russia became suspicious, along with many other countries. World War II had ended just a couple years before and we were smack in the middle of the Cold War. Many of our enemies suspected extraterrestrials and feared what we may do with the tech we found. In response to the rumors of the Reds, sorry, the Soviets infiltrating, the government began many secret programs.

“They allowed the civilians to know about some of these programs, but never the full intention. Shoot, they didn’t even let us know of the full intention. One of these programs was called the X-20 Dyna-Soar program. It stood for Dynamic Soarer. The entire program, which ran from October of 1957 to December of sixty-three cost six-hundred and sixty million dollars. That’s a lot of money just to scrap a program.

“The actual ship was made from what we called René 41. It was made from tampering with the ship which was found at Roswell, although we didn’t know it at the time. Those of us who worked on it thought it was beautiful. Originally there were seven of us on the inside. Gordon, myself, Thompson, Rogers, Armstrong, Knight, and Dana. Since we were working on a secret program we thought we should have a code name. We took our initials and formed “GWT RAKD.” We pronounced it, “Goat Racked.” We thought we were pretty clever. NASA and the Air Force told us the X-20 Dyna-Soar was being developed as protection from the Russians. It would be developed to soar undetected through the sky, and eventually even be capable to fly into space.

“By the middle of sixty two, Armstrong and Dana left the program. They never discussed why but we all suspected something big. We began to wonder if it really was the Russians who were the issue. Then, Albert Crews came onto the scene. Something was always off about the man. He seemed to know more than we did about the program and was quick to shut down any questions we had about the details of what we were doing.

“So many things went wrong in testing and we could never figure out why. The program was shut down somewhat unexpectedly. Everyone gave conflicting reasons why.

Then, in sixty-seven, Rogers died. He had reached out to me before he died to warn me again about Crews but I shrugged it off. I just wanted to move on with my life and forget about that wasted three years. After Rogers died I received a file labeled, “GWT RAKD.”

“I know the program and my friend’s death is because of Crews. He’s the connection. And I have been seeing him lately. He shows up outside my window. He stands in the hallway. I know it seems strange but the man has not changed a bit. Twenty-six years and no change on his face. I think he is after me and trying to make sure I do not pass on this information. I’ve added more to the file that you should read. It’s time for the truth to be told. You have to find your fire again and get it out there.”

He concluded and I didn’t know what to think. Between all his pauses, the story had taken quite a while to tell. It was now close to midnight. “I think you are tired.” I placed my hand on his.

“No!” He pulled back and sat up even straighter. “You must believe me!” Then he gasped and he began to sputter. “He’s here.”

I turned in the direction where my father stared. There was a male nurse in the doorway. Behind the man I could hear the others still awake at the party beginning their countdown to midnight. The nurse just stood there, his head cocked off to one side. My father spoke slowly and his voice shook. “It’s up to you now,” he said as he placed the file in my hand. Then his hand fell and my father died. Everyone else was still cheering as they greeted the new year. As they cheered, I wept.

“He was very sick; it was his time.” The nurse, the man my father had called Crews, said in a cold manner.

“He seemed to think you were someone else. Do you know why?”

A smirk spread across the man’s face. I could have sworn I saw a yellow glint in his eyes. “I have absolutely no idea,” he replied and turned to leave.

“I know who you are.” I spoke in just above an indoor voice. I did not want to disturb what remained of the party. “More importantly, I know who I am, and I know what I must do.”

He turned to face me once more and smiled. The look was so cold my heart skipped a beat. “Good luck,” he said and continued out the door.

The fire was reignited. I would once again seek the truth, and I would start with the truths handed to me in the file by my own father, James W. Wood.

Go On and Celebrate

Today, March 14 is:

  • National Potato Chip Day
  • National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day
  • National Learn About Butterflies Day
  • National Children’s Craft Day
  • National Write Your Story Day
  • National Pi Day
  • It’s also my birthday!

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People really love a good celebration. Why else would we make up all of these national days for every little thing under the sun?

We actively seek out things to celebrate; some of which are what we would call momentous occasions (getting married, finding a job you love, or having a baby).

Other things we celebrate are only important to us (think about the dance you do when you find the remote after your toddler ran off with it).

I believe we have a tendency toward celebrations. I think there is something inside of us which longs for the joy of celebrating.

 

In the Old Testament we find seven different feasts of which God’s people celebrated.

It would seem our God understood (and designed) our gravity toward celebration.

In our churches today we take time every single week to remember the sacrifice of Jesus. There are certainly somber moments of remembrance but it is also meant to be a celebration as well.

Sometime we only think about Easter being the time to remember Jesus’ victory over death in the Resurrection but really that’s what we do every week when we gather for our church services (one church where I served we called our Sunday times the Sunday Morning Celebration).

We have been saved by grace through Jesus. What a wonderful reason for celebration!

So go ahead and celebrate!

Rejoice over the little things.

Party because your team won.

Observe National Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19).

Do a dance when your kid uses the bathroom (correctly) for the first time.

Thank God for all the small and big things we have an opportunity to celebrate in this life. All the while, let us remember the God who sent His Son to save us and who gave us the greatest reason of all to celebrate.

 

 

Lessons Learned from Joshua

“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you….Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD you God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:7,9

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There’s a humorous video I watched a while ago about a woman who goes to a counselor (Bob Newhart). The woman is plagued with fears.

After she spends some time explaining how he is afraid the counselor says he has two words which will solve all her problems. He pauses and then screams, “Stop it!”

It can be tempting to think getting over our fears is just that easy. If we could just simply stop, all would be better. It can also seem that is all the Lord was doing in this passage when speaking to Joshua.

Three times God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. However, God does not end there.

He explains to Joshua how it can be possible.

God tells Joshua to follow His commands.

The Lord accompanies the instruction of being strong and courageous with an instruction to follow God’s other commands. He says to meditate on them day and night. He tells Joshua to keep the Law on his lips.

Joshua is expected to know the commands of God in and out, so Joshua can be fit to lead the people of Israel.

God says He will be with Joshua.

God does not look at Joshua and say, “Be strong and courageous. Now, I’ll be seeing you later.” He promises to stay with Joshua and go with him wherever he goes.

That has got to make Joshua stand up a little taller.

How it applies.

In  life we are going to come across situations which may make us uneasy. We may even be afraid to move forward.

I believe God has the same expectations of us as he did Joshua. We must continually find ourselves in God’s word. We need to know it in and out.

That is not going to happen overnight. It will take the rest of our lives. So we should start now.

When we are following the commands of God, He will be with us. The Holy Spirit was sent after Jesus’s ascension into heaven to be a guide. God is still literally with us wherever we go.

All we need to do is know His word follow the commands we find in it.

Does that mean we will never face hardship?

No.

The people of Israel were literally crossing into the promised land where they knew battles would be waged.

We will face plenty of battles. But when we follow God’s leading, we will come out on the winning side.

Because we know that, we can be strong and courageous.

Hearts, and Babies, and Lent! Oh My!

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Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all! Stores have been preparing us for this day ever since right before New Years.

We started seeing the red and pink candies and other sweets flood the aisles as well as over-sized stuffed animals.

Don’t forget about the cards!

And the day has finally arrived. I know Valentine’s Day gets a mixed response every year. You have the people who thrive on it. They cannot wait to surprise their significant other with showers of gifts to publicly display their love.

Others are less enthusiastic. You may hear, “You know, you should be showing your love every single day of the year. Don’t fall for the hype of doing it just one one day.”

Then there are groups of singles who tenderly refer to the day as “Singles Awareness Day.”

No matter what camp you find yourself, this year Valentine’s Day shares its time slot with another celebrated day.

Today is also the beginning of lent; also known as Ash Wednesday.

Now, I’ve never celebrated Lent. I think the idea of fasting so that we focus more on God is a great idea. I have been involved with activities leading up to Resurrection Sunday which are designed to help focus on the “reason for the season.

I’ve just never formally celebrated this Catholic turned denominational church tradition.

That being said, with Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday falling on the same day it makes for a wonderful illustration.

The purpose of the Lenten season is to prepare oneself for the coming of Easter. Easter, being the holiday Christians take special to remember the resurrection of our Savior; who came to the Earth to save us from our sins because of His great love for us.

Everything God has done for us, He has done out of love.

He made the world and made us to enjoy it because He loves us.

When we had ruined our relationship with Him as a result of sin he set a plan in motion so we could be reconciled to Him, because of His love.

Jesus chose to go through with death, even death on a cross, because of His love for us.

And today, as Christians, we can have communion with the Father through the Holy Spirit who resides with us, because of His love.

His love is unwavering. It is unconditional. His love is eternal.

That is something to celebrate.

As we hand out our tiny Valentine cards, and snack on candy, and go out to dinner with loved ones, let us remember the One who is love.

Whether we take part in Lent or not, let us choose this time to draw closer to the God who has given us the model of love in the first place.

Aim for the Prize

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

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Not everyone understands running.

It’s not that they don’t understand the physical aspect of it. People know how to put one foot in front of the other and move in a forward motion.

Most people understand that anyway. Three year olds are a little iffy.

People often do not understand the desire to run. They make fun of those out jogging or when they know a runner they give them grief over it.

I get it though. Running is difficult. There’s nothing else to focus on, just your own breathing, and the sound of your feet against the pavement. When breathing becomes labored and legs start to ache, it is not easy to keep going.

Which is why it is so important to have a clear goal. While running a race, there is a prize at the end. While training for the race, the prize is always on your mind. Each run is one step closer to being able to claim the prize.

A runner will also set himself up for success by adapting disciplines to follow while training. One may go without soda for an extended period of time. The runner may restrict his diet, allowing his body the best chance for recovery and more sustainable energy.

Everything the runner does is in preparation to attain the prize.

Our journey of faith is the same. In a few different places, Scripture refers to our faith as a race. In the verse above, Paul says to run to obtain the prize.

Much like a runner we have to keep the prize in focus, or else we begin to wonder why we are running this race in the first place. Obstacles come up in life which can easily distract us. These obstacles sometimes seem to have a more instant prize and payoff. It can be easy to jump off the track and run to these distractions.

Eyes on the prize.

There are also obstacles which can hurt us. Painful events in our life pop up and can leave us wondering why we even started running in the first place.

Eyes on the prize.

Scripture also outlines a way of living God expects from us. Some people feel the rules are unfair. Some have begun to say they are for an old way of life and God does not expect us to follow them. However, we do not find that distinction in Scripture. So when we begin to wonder why we are keeping with these disciplines:

Eyes on the prize.

Running is not easy. Keeping the faith is not easy.

It is worth it though. Keep your eyes on the prize.

What is Family Friendly

A few days ago my wife and I came across an ad for an upcoming TV series.

We laughed. We liked the actors. There were a few cute moments in it. At the conclusion of the preview we turned to each other and declared, “We will definitely be watching that!”

We were into it.

As I thought back on the preview, a line popped back in my head. I replayed the video just to make sure I was remembering correctly. Sure enough, towards the end, the line flashed on the screen.

A new family comedy.

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Almost immediately, the inner dialogue began in my head. It looks like a show my wife and I will enjoy but will it be one we can enjoy with our children? What age group of kids are they considering when saying it will be for families? Does “family comedy” mean the same thing to ABC that it means to me?

Important Questions.

I know the topic of what we as parents allow our children to partake in is a hot topic.

What is family friendly? What is alright for our kids to be enjoying?

Some families cut out TV altogether. I’ve had friends and family who have fallen into this category. People are quick to make fun of this option but I’ve never known the decision to be made in haste.

The media we consume has an effect on us, especially when we consume it passively. When we are not giving any thought to what we are watching or reading it begins to shape us. This is especially true for children who are still learning about the world.

Some parents decide to preview kid shows before allowing their kids to watch. This way if there is content within the show the parent deems inappropriate they can then decide how to proceed. Should the child be kept from viewing the content at all? Or should the child be allowed to see the show followed by a discussion of what happened on screen?

I also know of some parents who take a back seat, passive approach to TV viewing. They never worry about what their kids are watching, how much, or what kind of content is shaping the mind of their child.

My parents definitely did not fall into this category. Had they known we were watching, “Dude, Where’s My Car?” at a friends house when we were in Jr High, they would not have been happy.

(The story actually continues. We had not told them where we were going so they had been worried and looking for us. So we ended up grounded from going outside and TV for about a week after that…and it was during the summer.)

What is okay for my kids to be watching?

As parents it is important for us to give thought to what our children are reading or watching. Otherwise someone, or something else will be raising your children. Here’s a few things to think about when it comes to media consumption.

Worldview. One thing which lurks below the surface of any form of media is a worldview. Every form of media has an underlying worldview. This post is being written as a result of my worldview. The more we read a particular worldview the more we are to let it shape us, especially when we are taking part in it without even realizing it. Be aware.

When watching or reading ask the question, “What is this trying to teach me about the world?”

Inappropriate material. Parents fall all over the place on what is too inappropriate for their children. While watching a show with a 5 year old is it okay for him to hear a string of four letter words? What about racial slurs? Sexual content? As stated before, the things we watch influence us and children are even more impressionable. Where will you draw the line?

It may seem nit-picky but its an important conversation to have with our spouses. Otherwise our kids are going to learn all about the world through media and we are going to get left behind.

Conversations on the go. This last one is ground breaking stuff, but talk to your kids. Ask them questions about what they are watching. After watching a show ask what they liked or didn’t like. Did they learn something?

Having regular, ongoing conversations with our kids helps to know what they are thinking and feeling. It helps us to parent better. And when kids know you are interested, they are more likely to come running when life starts getting hard.

So what is family friendly?

The line is never going to be the same for every family, but each family needs to have a line. It will help us to parent better and will keep the years and lessons from just ticking by.

Don’t just sit there and let someone else raise your kids. Decide to do life as a family and enjoy it all together.

What guidelines do you have in your home for family friendly content?

 

 

Count it Joy

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” -James 1:2-4 

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Life comes at us hard. There is not a person alive who has not faced (or will face) hardship of one kind or another.

I remember one individual in my entire life who had said they had never faced a difficult situation. I was working at a church camp as a member of our college camp team. One of my responsibilities was to help lead a small group of students every evening to kind of discuss practical ways to implements the ideas the students had been learning about all day.

One of the other leaders asked the question if anyone had ever faced a difficult situation in their lives (fully expecting a unanimous “yes”). One girl in the group shook her head.

“You’ve never had any kind of hardship?”

“Has there ever been a time when you have questioned your faith?”

“Nothing has ever happened which has made you sad?”

No matter how the question was worded, the girl was pretty adamant that nothing in her life had ever been difficult. Which, if true, is great for her!

However she’s in the minority. Most people have face trials or difficulties in our lives. Some of us have had enough to cover for several lifetimes.

The Bible is pretty clear that, even as Christians we will face trials.

In the book of 1 Peter, we are told how to handle trials and to not be surprised when they pop up.

Jesus even taught that, “in this world you will have trouble.”

Then, we have James here who tells us to count it joy when we face trials.

Joy!

What an outlandish thing to say. For most of us, when we begin to face trials we do not respond in joy.

We respond in questioning God.

“Why me?”

“What did I do to deserve this?”

“How will I ever get through such a terrible ordeal?”

But we are instructed to do differently. Instead of self-pity, we are to find joy in the situation. Rather than constantly asking questions (although there’s nothing wrong with questions, even David did that) let’s look for the ways God is working.

We are given the “why” for the command as well: “for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness [perseverance].”

Then, this steadfastness leads to us being mature and complete.

Trials are difficult to face when we go through them, but the results are a stronger and wiser person who is closer to God.

So when your faith is tested, rejoice.

When you face a trial as a result of your faith, count it joy.

Then keep pushing forward and watch the work God is doing in your life is completed.

Watch as the seed of faith grows into a strong tree producing fruit.

Being a Parent is…

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Today I have been a body pillow and a moist towelette.

A candy dispenser.

A personal assistant.

I was a master gamer.

A joke teller.

A boo boo kisser.

Being a parent is difficult to explain.

It’s easy to go from one extreme to another in a matter a moments.

The whole world is going great. Everyone is happy and content. The kids are playing peacefully as I lounge on the couch sipping a nice hot drink.

Suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, everyone is crying, including myself because I have spilled my coffee all over myself and I have a steaming burrito all over my lap.

Where did the burrito even come from? We don’t have any such food anywhere in our house!

Then, as quickly as the storm swelled, it calmed.

The children are all in separate rooms, reading or putting together a Lego set quietly in their own corners of the house. There is no keeping up with the constant fluctuation of moods and situations in a house of six people.

Some days it feels like I am just along for the ride.

Parenting can be overwhelming.

Sometime being a parent means I’m just a victim of the raging storms tossing within the walls of my home. It can be easy to feel at a loss when the realization hits of how little control I have on any particular situation.

That is not to say I do not have any control. However, in some seasons it certainly feels like all I’m doing is hopping along for the ride.

Being a successful parent does not hinge on one good or bad day.

Don’t get so caught up in the chaos of any one particular moment during the day with your kids, over even a chaotic day during a week.

Or perhaps it’s been a crazy month during the year.

We spent much of December with someone in the house sick. It felt like the sickness held onto our family for so long because it moved through the house so slowly.

That can be overwhelming. If I allow it, sickness can make it feel like I am doing a terrible job as a parent.

I didn’t play any games with my kids this week.

I did not prepare any meals.

There were absolutely no vegetables consumed in our house.

Dishes were piled high.

Plus I had to keep telling the kids to get out of the same room as me because of a headache or to stop trying to cuddle because my body felt like it was already on fire.

It could be easy to look back over the course of that week and think, “Wow, I am an utterly rubbish parent.”

Or, I can look back and realize people get sick and it changes the dynamic of how we work for a time.

Life changes quickly in a house with small children.

Realize you cannot be in control of all of the changes and make the best decisions you can along the way.

And don’t forget to give yourself some grace.

There is so much good in parenting.

I cannot begin to explain how many bad days at work have immediately been made better by the smile of a toddler.

There is no feeling like walking in the door after a several hours away to the exclamation of “Daddy,” followed by the patter of little feet as a child rushes to wrap his arms as far around you as possible.

When a small voices says things like, “I love you,” completely unprompted the entire world melts away.

Their love is unconditional.

It never ceases to amaze me how much these kids want to be like me.

“I will take over your job when I’m older.”

“My favorite part of the day was cuddling on the couch.”

“Can we play a game?”

“When will you be home tomorrow?”

All of these are reminders of a small one who wants to be like us and wants to spend time with us.

That’s pretty amazing.

There are a lot of ups and downs in being a parent. 

Unless you’ve had children it can be difficult to understand.

One thing is true, though.

Being a parent is:

exhausting.

rewarding.

frustrating.

a roller coaster ride.

The best thing ever.

 

The Power of the Full Moon

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As he arrived he stepped from his car and down the path to the front door of the dimly lit structure. He interlocked his fingers with nervous anticipation and shook out his shoulders to relieve the tension which was mounting.

He approached the old, wooden door. It was a sturdy looking door, one which had been chosen wisely to keep the things inside in, and the things outside out.

His right hand trembled as he reached for the knob. He quickly reached up with his left to steady his hand, trying to stop the trembling.

When he steadied one hand with the other he realized he could feel his heart beating throughout his entire body. The steady thump coursed through each limb. He could hear it too.

The story of the Tell Tale Heart played through his mind as he fought back the idea that he had done anything wrong.

This was not the first time he had arrived at this very door. It was a familiar sight to him, except one thing was different. Tonight, he arrived as the full moon rose into the starry night sky. It shone brightly against the newly fallen snow.

It would be beautiful, if his mind and heart were not reminding him of the power which came with the full moon.

Werewolves.

Vampires.

Ghouls of every kind.

The stories of the terrors of the night ran through his head with the speed he wanted to run from the door.

It wasn’t from any of these beings he was fighting the urge to flee on this night.

He reached for the door and twisted the knob to the right. It felt cool in his hand, the brass almost sticking to his skin.

Then he was met with the cry:

”Daddy!”

He was rushed by numerous little creatures. The arms and legs which rushed him and tackled him to the ground were too numberous to count.

As the man went down he caught a glimpse of his wife standing one room away, helpless to do anything. Her hair was standing in many different directions; he was sure he saw many different colored objects lodged and tangled in her brown hair.

Her eyes were glazed over. The little minions had been around her ankles and climbing on her and over her all day. Her strength was zapped.

At least the last thing he would see in his life was something so beautiful.

He had received texts throughout the day calling out for help.

“Why won’t they just sleep.”

“They are constantly feeding. I’m not sure how much longer I can sustain them.”

“Please hurry home. The house is just about in shambles.”

She had called out to him so many times yet he had been just as helpless to help her as she was him in this moment. The full moon had changed the tiny humans into something beyond human.

Each moon cycle they develop super human strength, screeching abilities, speed, tantrum powers, and the paradoxical need to be cuddled and run around all at the same time.

Hours and hours later the man and his wife crashed on the couch. They had been turned into creatures of their own, resembling mindless zombies. They starred blankly at the wall, laughing into the silence.

They had survived.

Theirs was the victory.

The battle was won.

Suddenly, at the same time, they heard, “Give it back! That’s mine!” The scream was followed by crying and more screaming.

No. No, no, no, no, no.

The man and wife held each other and cried at the horrors they knew headed their way.

It was going to be a long night.

Abraham’s Impossible Request

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My hands are trembling.

My heart is still racing.

I rushed home after the experience and I’ve been laying in my tent, sweating, and battling my labored breathing ever since.

I had the boldness to request of my Lord to change His plans and I have not recovered from the encounter.

He came to me.

I’ve heard the Lord speak before on a couple different occasions. He’s promised me great blessings through my descendants. Each time I’ve heard from Him I feel full of life.

Never do I leave feeling full of myself. If anything I feel full of Him. There’s definitely not anything special about this old man.

But now, my Lord came to my dwelling! He came with two others and allowed me the blessing to provide a meal for him. What an honor it was.

Then He told me of His plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Why He chooses to share anything with me I will never understand. I have never been able to wrap my mind around His desire to treat this white haired fool as a companion.

Where my mind is boggled though, my heart is warmed.

At least it usually is.

When he shared His plans this time my heart dropped into my stomach.

You see, my nephew left me a while back. We were having difficulties and I gave him his choice of land. He chose the better, just as I figured he would, and we separated. Since then he has gotten into some trouble which I have had to help him out of and then he decided to live in the most vile city on earth.

Which is why my heart sank when my Lord revealed He would destroy the place my precious nephew lives.

He may be a fool, but he is family.

It took all of my courage to speak up on that hillside. I asked the Lord if He found fifty righteous if He would spare the city.

As I remember the moment it was only a few seconds He took to reply. It was as if He anticipated my request.

Of course He did.

But while in that moment, those few seconds were like hours and I regretted even asking.

Then, He granted my request. I was filled with such joy!

The joy was short lived though when I realized there was no way even fifty righteous lived there. Without thinking I asked about forty five.

Again the Lord granted my request.

We volleyed like this a few times until I requested she spare the cities if there were only ten righteous.

It was a ridiculous request.

Impossible.

Why would He spare so many wicked for the sake of so few?

My whole body trembled and tears streamed from my eyes. There was a tightness in my chest as the words squeaked through my lips. What a fool I am. It was like I heard Lot telling his men, I am nothing but an arrogant fool.

The Lord though, smiled, with tears of His own streaming down His cheeks, and grated my request.

Then He was gone.

Now I lay here in disbelief praying for there to be ten. If there is any way my family survives this terror, I pray he appreciates it.

I hope he learns because I cannot continue to live my life being ripped apart on his account. It hurts too much.

Yet, I’ll do it every time.

May the Lord have mercy on him.

Thank the Lord for His mercy on me.