The tale, part II

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”

― Emily Dickinson


(view from our room overlooking the busy horse carts on Mackinac Island /
Julie Cook/ 2017)

I wrote this part II post Tuesday, a day before my aunt lost her battle with
the reoccurring cancer.
I know she would insist that I run the post because the ending is so much better than
any of our losses….
and so it is…..

Picking up from where we left off yesterday….

Over our subdued lunch shadowed by my angst,
I called another very nice, but much smaller historic, hotel
located in town… and to our amazement, they had a room!
And if the truth be told…in the end we preferred this
second hotel much more than our stay at the more uppity larger hotel.

Thankfully our final two days of this trip were relatively incident free…
as finally, perhaps even thankfully, the time came for our return home…

What with the many
planes
cars
trains
boats
horses
and bikes…
we made our way back to the tiny little airport…
the one we had been so intimately acquainted with just
days prior.

The nice TSA lady told everyone gathered to make certain to take all food items,
especially Mackinac’s famous fudge, out of their carry-on luggage.
She instructed everyone to put all said fudge into separate bins
allowing it to pass through the screening machine
by itself.

Hummmmmm.

I scrambled pulling out sack after sack of fudge from my backpack.
Everyone back home had asked me to bring back some of this most well known
and most delectable treat.

Finally unburdened from all packed fudge poundage,
my husband and I proceeded to pass through the detectors.

The TSA man stops my husband, who can’t hear because he’d taken out his hearing aids,
and proceeds to tell my clueless husband that he is going to patted down…
my husband looks at me to interrupt.

TSA agents don’t like for you to work as a team…

I tried explaining to the TSA fellow that my husband wouldn’t be able to hear him…
this while another TSA agent grabs my backpack,
the one that had just exited the X-ray scanner,
and asks me to step over to a counter.

All the while my husband is being frisked.
This latest TSA agent places my bag on a counter behind a screen and
proceeds asking me, in a very serious sounding tone,
if there is anything sharp or dangerous in my bag.

“No.”

“I am going to empty the contents of your bag and I want you to keep your hands
where they are and do not reach over here for anything I pull out.”

“Ok.”

She proceeds to pull out my fig newtons, a few of the knick knack gifts
I’d picked up for my son and daughter-n-law,
my windbreaker, my book, my little bag of goldfish crackers,
my camera….
finally she pulls out a sack that had been buried on the very bottom of the pack.
One last box of fudge I had missed in my rush to empty out everything else.

The agent informs me that fudge takes on the properties of an explosive.

“Huh?”

She takes her little magic explosive wand, wiping down my fudge box as well as the
entire insides of my backpack….checking for explosive residue.

I’m sorry but I’m standing in the middle of a teeny tiny little midwestern
regional airport waiting to board a tiny connecting flight—
I look as American as Charlie Brown—a far cry from an evil radical terrorist…
and I have a ton of fudge—does that seem terroristic to you?

She proceeds to berate me for not paying attention,
for not listening to the prior screening request to empty out bags of
all candy.

“HELLOOOOOO, do you not see the sacks of fudge and taffy sitting in this bin that I obviously did empty…???!!!”

I proceeded to tell this agent, which perhaps I shouldn’t have,
that I was a teacher, and if anyone knows how to follow instructions
it was me…

Did she not pick up on that little fact by the ton of candy I had already
removed that was sitting outside of the bag..???!!!
Plus did it not occur to her that ‘I simply missed one last sack????

“Oh, and by the way, I don’t even like fudge!!!!!!”

Once on the plane and settled into our tiny little seats,
my husband exhales loudly. The restrained composure he bravely maintained
all week was now fading rapidly away….
He matter of factly states in a rather loud voice for all to hear,
that from now on…we will not be flying anywhere, ever again–
-we will be driving….

Fast forward to Monday as life resumed its monotony of routine.

I met my son at their home here in town in order to finish moving boxes and
begin the scrubbing process.
I asked why his wife hadn’t come down…again.
“She’s still sick” he replies.
“Still? What in the heck is wrong…I’ve told y’all to
hurry up and find a doctor and quit waiting till you’re near death…”
On and on I fuss, just like a fussy mother hen, I chide and ramble.

Suddenly I stop my fussing.

“Brenton,”
I slowly ask….
“is Abby pregnant?”

“Yes…..”

One word…

“yes”

and suddenly our little world is transformed into
something so much bigger, so much greater,
so much more than where we were right before
he said the single simple word
“yes.”

“We’ve been afraid to tell y’all what with everything that’s been happening.”
Almost apologetically he tells me they had not planned it to be this way.
We know the timing is poor…but…

and so now yes,
and now but…
and now life,
and now thankfully,
and now joyfully…
it happens…

everything that was,
everything that seemed so insurmountable,
everything that was such a big deal
so annoying
so troublesome
so stupid
so difficult….

as Dad’s former caregiver told me when I shared the news with her…
“in the black community we have a saying,
when one leaves the world,
another one enters”

and so it is…
and so it does….

For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9

Resilience

“‎Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you.
Never excuse yourself.
Never pity yourself.
Be a hard master to yourself-and be lenient to everybody else.”

― Henry Ward Beecher

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(a cut sunflower / Julie Cook / 2016)

Some of us are…

And some of us are not…

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What is it that makes us resilient to this thing we call life?
That uncanny ability to hold up and even withstand the often excessive plummeting experienced throughout this journey of living?

For some of us it seems to be a hidden innate, hardwired mechanism comprised of moxie, hutzpah, determination and an odd aligning of the universe producing pure stupid luck.

It is the ability to go on and on despite the assault of physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual forces.

For so many of us, it is life’s cruel and unkind events that render us senseless, dropping us to our knees…

Yet for a few seemingly invincible souls, it matters not the hardship, the heartache, the exhaustion of mind, body and soul—these are the able bodied souls who can take a licking of insurmountable proportion and keep on ticking….

Those who have survived kidnappings, beatings, rapes, tortures, years in death camps, the loss of limbs, excruciating illness and even the tragic separation from loved ones…
those who have witnessed atrocities unbearable to most human beings…
And yet these hardy souls, for good or bad, muster on…
often time not merely surviving, but actually thriving…

Have they been gifted…
or perhaps even cursed?
Are they stronger than the average person?
Are they immune from resulting miseries?

Or is there a subconscious awareness…
a drawing down into a place a great depth that reaches farther and wider….
touching upon that deeply buried remnant piece of the Divine…

The righteous keep moving forward,
and those with clean hands become stronger and stronger.

Job 17:9

We all have them…

“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering…. The love of God did not protect His own Son…. He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.”
Elisabeth Elliot

images
(Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II / image borrowed from the web)

Elizabeth has had them….
She’s actually had what she referenced as an annus horribilis
An entire bad year…

Churchill had them…
just mention the word Gallipoli

Eddison had them…
think electric chair

David had them…
think plotting to have someone killed just to cover up your own bad choices…
As it just seems to get worse and worse…..

Joseph had them…
think betrayal by your own brothers…

Paul had them…
as it took three days of blindness to figure it out that raging murderous ways were not
the best use of ones talents.

Peter had them…
something about crowing roosters

Einstein had them…
A Nobel Prize winner actually failed his college entrance exam

Louis Zamperini had them…
think plane crash, 47 days in a life raft and over 2 years as a POW

FDR had them…
one word…polio

Indeed, we’ve all had them…
bad days,
bad weeks,
bad months,
bad years,
bad turns,
bad runs,
bad lives…

Times we would just rather forget.
Times we wish we could ask for the re-do or the re-start
Times we found unbearable, insurmountable and devastating…
Times we thought we’d not survive…

The thing is we will all face them…
bad times,
hard days,
difficult periods in our lives.

Some will seem endless as others will seem to be the end of us…

It will not be a matter of when they come…
because they will come whether or not we are ready, prepared or armed…

The important thing will not be what they do to us,
But rather what we do in spite of them…

Will we be beaten?
Giving up,
Lying down,
Rolling over,
Giving in…
growing bitter
resentful
resigned
hateful…

Or will we come out of it…
better,
stronger,
wiser,
kinder
even more courageous than before….

Unknown

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

Odds not looking too good?

“The things a man has to have are hope and confidence in himself against odds, and sometimes he needs somebody, his pal or his mother or his wife or God, to give him that confidence. He’s got to have some inner standards worth fighting for or there won’t be any way to bring him into conflict. And he must be ready to choose death before dishonor without making too much song and dance about it. That’s all there is to it.”
Clark Gable

Frankly Scarlett, the odds looked stacked against our little friend.
Two giant Goliaths against our little David the Crab.

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And suddenly the odds seemed to even out a bit, as it was now at least one against one.
Yet, sadly, the odds were still looking to be going against our small friend’s favor.

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Never being one to tolerate the picking on or bullying of those who are smaller or less than, and not too keen on how Mother Nature was wanting to play her hand out against this little guy this particular morning, I moved in, making my presence known—with the result sending the bullying gulls scurrying down the beach in search of other troubles and meals—all the while one lone crab remained, having seen, literally, better times.

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It was my hope that the little crab would be able to make it with the one good remaining eye. . .with that thought passing through my mind, a wave gently pulled our small friend back into the water, away from hungry gulls, but into what new troubles and foes which may be lying in wait, in the depths of the sea, I simply knew not.

With this small microcosm drama, playing out on a lone stretch of beach, I was suddenly palpably aware of our own plights of struggles and peril when life appears to stack the odds against us.

There will be many times throughout our lives when we will play the part of David–perhaps young and naive, or perhaps ill prepared while facing a foe bigger than life. Our Goliaths may not be actual giants but rather something more sinister, deadly or seemingly insurmountable–be it a dreaded illness, a chronic illness, a death sentence. . . the loss of a career, the death of a spouse or child, a divorce, a loss of home, a failed test, a lost savings, a move—giant odds, difficult odds, challenging odds, deadly odds, unbeatable odds. . .

It is not necessarily a matter of our winning the battle, or of our beating the odds. . .but rather it is the fact that we have what it takes–the courage, the finesse, the desire, the hutzpah, the moxie, the will, the tenacity, the stubbornness, to reach down and pick up that rock—because if we don’t bother to pick up the rock, the odds will win, every time.