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Christmas Eve’s Eve

A repost from What’s Next, Texas, USA, December 2015.  It’s hard to believe that was two years and two states back.

Merry Christmas to all!

 

angel wing cloud nancy

Our Christmas celebration this year will consist of Candlelight Service (maybe with Sister), an actual sit-down dinner together and all three of us taking a restful day off work together, probably with popcorn and Netflix, maybe darts.

The plan was in place.  Sister and I left the house together to do the last minute shopping.  This was an event.  I’ve missed her.  I see her every day, but she’s mostly been away for a few years; discouraged, disappointed, heartbroken and confused, essentially shattered. She holds the pieces of herself so tightly she can hardly do anything else but work. I get it. People we love often hurt us at some point and knocked us down at others. So I stay close and in case of a crash.

Sister, Opal and I move about in the world and live our lives together from behind our walls.  Occasionally, I can’t contain the spirit inside me.  It escapes and preys upon any unwitting subject on my way.  I felt a breakout coming.  “Let me get that door for you…” and the next thing you know I’m engaged in conversation with a friendly, talkative, complete stranger.  Sister usually loathes it, but being so far from friends and other family too she understands – and suffers through my social gushing.

Happy to be out, invigorated by the warm Texas December weather, we were on our last stop for the day.  A seemingly familiar woman approached the door the same time we did.  I actually felt like I knew her from somewhere. Even if I didn’t, I greeted her cheerily and sprang to get the door for her.  “Good afternoon.”

As if she didn’t notice us before that moment the lady straightened very slightly. As I swung the door open and stepped aside, she looked me in the eye like she saw into my soul, “Oh, thank you, Baby.  Good afternoon” she replied warmly, then turned to watch where she walked.  Something clicked – I didn’t know what.  I didn’t care.  I felt alive and fully connected to the world again.

The lady adjusted her large purse and a hobo bag as she reached forward.  The interior door opened into the vestibule so I awkwardly stepped around her to hold that door open for her too.  I was probably overreaching, but I had to.  She was one of those strong women, so knowing her actual age was tricky. The touches of grey in her hair and brows told me she was slightly older than I, but fit and sharp, if slightly preoccupied.

With that she looked into my face again.  Entirely unintimidated – and unannoyed, she responded, “Why thank you, Baby.”  Baby, again, but as if she knew me.  She seemed to start to say something else, but only nodded and began walking away.  Strangely, my heart wanted me to walk with her, but noticing Sister’s expression I checked myself. Instead I said, “Of course.  You have a wonderful day.  Merry Christmas,” and in exaggerated civility took Sister’s arm, walking her inside.

Now smiling, Roan and I entered too as the lady walked away. She glanced back saying, “Why, God bless you.  Merry Christmas,” stepping toward the back of the store and out of sight.

Sis and I shopped around for a nice little something to put beneath the tree; a two-foot paper and wire figure sitting on the television cabinet in the den. Searching around we wound up looking through blouses; something I never do.  I can’t wear off the rack without alterations. Sister can wear whatever she wants.  To make her happy I went along enjoying the feel of the fabrics.

“What are you looking for today?” came the voice from behind us.  I turned to respond and was delighted to find the lady from the door.  Now smiling broadly, wearing a plush red and white Santa hat on her head and a lanyard of key cards around her neck.  As she wandered away I finally recognized her; polished orthopedic shoes, black patterned stockings over support hose, a stylish, upscale, conservative skirt, comfortable, but immaculate.  A shell and cardigan tastefully accessorized, every hair neatly in place; she was a Momma.

Not the same as somebody’s mother, though she possibly was, she’s a Momma.  You’ll find her at the job, at church every Sunday and mid-week service, at the local free day care, senior care center, food pantry, often a volunteer at the local hospital or hospice.  You see it all over her, confidently owning whatever space she occupies.  Calm, collected, always busy, but quick to help wherever she can.  She never misses the slightest nuance, takes life head-on, living comfortably, modestly and entirely in love with people.

Over the years Mommas have been my lifeline.  Commuting to work in Los Angeles, often stuck in traffic, my boys knew if I was late to go to the church office where Momma D volunteered every afternoon.  She’d welcome them in, get them started on their homework and usually have snacks when I got to the neighborhood, worn and often on the verge of panic.  “Don’t you worry, Baby,” She’d say, “They’re good boys.  You can remember me when the offering plate comes around.” A Momma.

As a missionary, the only pink face in a volatile neighborhood, Momma Gen would often be “taking a walk” (in her house slippers) when I left the church building where I worked to walk home after dark.  Nobody messes with a Momma.

Working for an inner-city grass roots community center, putting in 50 hour weeks, Momma Cece would bring plates of dinner for the boys and me at least twice a week, knowing I wouldn’t have time to cook a dinner. That’s a Momma.

Sis and I kept sliding hangers. “Momma Burke” (we’ll call her as I didn’t see a name tag) held out a blouse to each of us. “These colors are perfect for you two and they’re very popular.” Before I could gracefully refuse, she added, “It doesn’t cost but a moment and it’s good to look at yourself in something new.”

You don’t argue with a Momma.  Sister stared me down as I took the beautiful blue, flowing top and stepped toward the fitting room.  I smiled back at her saying, “We’ve got a minute. You might as well.” Momma Burke pushed the rusty red shirt at Sister saying, “Now don’t waste time thinking about it. The store is going to get busy fast.”

Moments later I heard Sister gasp in the room next to me. Both the blouses were perfect.

Sure enough, when we stepped out of the rooms the store was full and noisy. Momma stepped up out of nowhere, smiling. “I knew you’d like ‘em; the colors suit you both and you can either dress them up or down.”

Sister agreed, thanked her and wandered away.  Clearly she was ready to leave.  I thanked Momma and explained I liked the blouse, but it isn’t in my budget until January. “Did you even look at the tag?” she asked, giving me “that look” over her half-frames.  I hadn’t.

It actually was that rare find from the clearance rack.  A second by most standards, but on me it draped perfectly, for $5.61.  I almost giggled.  Momma just smiled and went on to help other customers.  I wanted to hug her tight but snatching up the other blouse from the go back rack I hurried to catch up with Sister and bought both blouses.

We practically flew through the rest of the shopping and were home before we knew it.

I couldn’t stop thinking how God places exactly the right people in my life at the perfect times.  I’d longed for something new to wear for months.  With bills to pay and paying gigs scarce, I’ve made due with what I have.  What I have often isn’t a big deal. But it is today.

As I readied for Christmas Eve the next day, the mail brought a cash surprise. Immediately I thought of the leggings Sister wanted – and Momma Burke.  I couldn’t get to the store fast enough.  I found the leggings straight away and then went to the fitting room to find Mrs. Burke.  The woman that also worked there yesterday was absolute that she’s never seen anybody over twenty-something working in the store and she’s worked there almost two years!

Perhaps Momma Burke is a new hire starting late into Christmas season.  Maybe not.  I won’t be surprised to confirm sometime in the future, that Momma Burke is one of those angelic beings that appear and vanish when we actually need a little special help.  I shall look forward to seeing her again wherever it happens.

candles and nuts christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” Hebrews 13:1, 2 (NLT)

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Keep Juggling

A long time ago in a place far away an exceptional human became my friend. Arlene Powers has an infectious passion for living. We met when she picked me from a temp pool to work for her team of professionals. Months later we moved into different departments and then eventually left the Company, but God had glued us together forever.

Scan_20160629 2014 nov 2 bert mac

I don’t recall why we both call each other Bert – it simply works for us. Though she never said it, I suspect Bert recognized I was not your average Accelerati Incredebilis when we met. Always strong, stable, and focused, one would never know she too was familiar with trauma.

I’m frequently thankful most people can’t see feelings and confusion, but Bert does. Pain doesn’t intimidate her, no siree.

Bert recognized the clown in me and patiently coaxed her out. Regardless of my issues, she loved and respected me even when doing so was challenging. In our professional circles our dings were our secret.

Clowning was different from other performing arts I’d ever done, demanding far more work and commitment than I ever imagined. Bert’s passion for it was infectious and I came to love it too.

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But not like Bert did. As she typically accomplishes everything she sets her mind to, she designed and hand crafted the most stunningly, beautiful costumes for herself, her daughter and other clowns. Each one unique with lots of hidden pockets and props, they were works of fine, living art. Bert took the art of clowning to a higher level, mastering the craft and then collaborating on books about clowning, costuming and ballooning.

Beenies1 beenies

Fellow Clowns, audiences and charities throughout the Southwest enjoyed Arleenie Beenie’s talents for years.

With Bert’s coaching I went to clown camp, trained, developed and copyrighted my face and costume, created props, helped develop skits and routines, together, solo and with other clowns. Adding pantomime, juggling, face painting and balloon art, we were your basic, all-purpose clowns.

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Learning to juggle, focusing upon only one thing, was difficult for me. For weeks Bert taught and coached me along patiently, employing an allegory that became my mantra:

A man weighing 190 pounds had to cross a bridge carrying three five-pound boxes. The bridge could hold no more than 200 pounds.

How did the man get all the boxes across in only one trip?

The answer of course, he juggled them.

The bridge is life. The boxes are our struggles, emotions and griefs. The only way across the bridge is to juggle the boxes. We can keep them all within our purview, but we must concentrate on catching each one as it drops. For me the allegory was a game changer.

Though Bert saw what I couldn’t, I’ll never forget the look on my teacher-Bert’s face as I added a third, and then fourth Hackey Sacks to my routine. She radiated the joy of accomplishment for us both.

I imagine that’s how God sees us; laughing with us when we’re just plain silly, and practicing our way through our challenges. Bert also coached me as I juggled my gushing thoughts and overwhelming feelings.

I gave up the Hackey Sacks, Nerf balls and rubber pet fish, but juggling became my personal foundational skill. While I occasionally drop some of my stuff along my way, I keep the boxes moving.

Beenies1

Though I stopped performing publicly after a couple of years, Annie Roo became the biggest part of me. Over the years I became grAnnie Roo. Bert remains the Bertimus Maximus and still creates beautiful art, mostly of birds and she donates all proceeds to Liberty Wildlife and other sanctuaries. She’ll tell you she’s just doing important Bert things.

I have a living example of God’s delight in me, remembering Bert’s face as I jumped the next hurdle, mastered the next challenge.

In loving memory of
my eternal friend, Arleenie “Bert” Beenie/Arlene Powers

Signed, Bert

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

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Routine

For the past few days I’ve been reflecting upon my early thirties. Then I’d finally come to appreciate the value of routine.

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**

God blessed me with a good foster mom. I often recall her saying during my child bearing years, “Mijita, todos ustedes tienen que tener horarios.” Not really grasping her meaning, I’d typically melt into her arms, soak up the love and forget what she said. In Spanish it sounded far more pleasant than when she would later tell me, “Girl, you must get your act together!”

I’d dismissed suggestions that I had more challenges than dyslexia, possibly other forms of autism. Who had time for health care while caring for four boys, an unpredictable, “bi-polar” and often violent husband, and all their companions-du-jour? Yeah, I knew about crazy – in other people. We were fine…  😉

For me if we all got up, everybody ate, got to school or whatever, nobody permanently harmed and got back to bed at night, it was a good day. I couldn’t grasp the value of scheduled daily tasks, a routine until my marriage finally ended. By then I stopped being a DV victim.

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**

Fast forward some decades and I live within a very structured routine. The time-space continuum shifts when my routine is altered. Erin and I are comfortable with this. She’s a night owl and I rise long before the sun does. Until the dam broke in the plumbing, etc. Aye!

We were unprepared for the disruptions to the entire property. Hourly the sudden changes annoyingly altered our habitual behaviors.

construction pixabayI confess, minutes into this morning I was setting things down and closing doors harder than necessary. “Where is the…” Living alone, controlled but intentional banging and “slightly slamming” doors, etc. to release tension worked for me. Such timid forms of violence is nothing compared to the savagery I’ve survived.

I remembered I no longer live alone as Erin stepped away from me – without the coffee pot. Violence here is never appropriate.

Because today, with so many tasks demanding immediate attention, Erin was up early with me, making coffee, using the bathroom, etc. The newly replaced futon mattress loomed over the love seat in the living room, against the linen closet – where we keep cleaning rags. The vacuum cleaner was parked wherever we used it last – and often. This is not our m.o. Have I mentioned our 480 square feet of crowded living space upstairs?

Now imagine the two cats nervously observing everything, add some large bags of items for family visiting for the first reunion in ten years. And we’re grilling for a small army of out of town family in light, intermittent rain, of course. That had to be ready for someone to pick up and deliver to Keira’s whenever they arrive. Then add contractors working all over the property. Chaos.

There we were, waking our bodies and our brains – in the same tiny room of the house together, simultaneously. One can imagine this is a potentially volatile scenario with two old broads well set in our ways. As the sounds of my banging around Erin increased in volume, she paused quoting, “Something vexes thee?*”

We laughed – hysterically. The frustration and tension from our disrupted routine was dispelled. We sat down together – with coffee and prayed. Several times. All morning.

friends coffee pixabay

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 (NLT)

 

*The late Alan Rickman and Geraldine McEwan from Robin Hood; Prince of Theives video clip courtesy YouTube

Photo Images courtesy Pixabay

** (c) 2016 Rapture Practice! Publications images not to be duplicated, shared or otherwise distributed without prior, written permission. Thank you!

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Larry

choose-joy

larry cable guyHey, all y’alls remember Larry the Cable Guy? Okay, after listening to the comedian for twenty minutes his bit got old with me. However, today’s whimper involves my cable internet and phone service, so I’m borrowing Larry CG’s persona.*

Restoring This Old House in particular could provide a month-long series on PBS, HGTV or DIY. So, Old School works well here.

Forget all the ads out there for bundles -and the fine print sales reps don’t mention till the end of the pitch. I’ve checked them all out for our area. Erin must live without her E!-TV, but we save for repairs and upgrades on the property from the entertainment and communications budgets. Utilizing satellite for television, cable for internet and phones we realize a minimum $20/month savings. Just don’t get me started on life without a DVR. Who knew one can’t program a VHS recorder without the remote?

So, our internet, land line and my (unlimited through Wi-Fi) cells services come to us from the wonderful people at “Mapper” Cable Company – who only recently came to our part of the Western Slope.

When I noticed cars stop in the street to talk to Mr. First Tech who was parked in front of the house, I thought, “My, this is such a friendly town!” It was actually the first sign that Mapper service is under par with my previous experiences in Chicago, Phoenix and Fort Worth.

Larry, our third tech in four weeks came in musing how customers don’t understand he’s dispatched from remote parts of the country, so he can’t just swing by to look into their problems too. “They seem to see red when they notice the Mapper sign on the truck,” he went on as he happily accepted some sweet tea. This actually is a friendly town – just sayin’.

So early Thursday Larry devoted himself to confirming Mr. First Tech and Mr. Second Tech’s reports – both now closed as PNF (Problem Not Found). A healthy hour later, he affirmed the frequent crashes I continue to experience are most likely ‘at the pole.’ To be sure he covered all bases he swapped out the modem and router for brand new ones (whoop-whoop) and promised to order a service check at the pole (technical paraphrase mine 😉 ). ‘Guess he liked the tea.

But this morning’s fitness walk complicated the whole unfortunate sequence of events when my flip knife wasn’t on my dresser where it had been Thursday morning – before Larry’s arrival. Seriously, flipping the car, every room, bag, laundry hamper… every square inch I use in the house for two hours didn’t locate the knife.

So try to imagine my reluctance as I explained to Ms Agent at dispatch, “I’m positive Larry isn’t a contractor. I have a keen sense about people. He’s not the kind of guy that would take anything from a customer. He’d been working on the dresser that houses the equipment where I also had the ‘tool’ that’s missing. It’s possible he inadvertently picked it up as he ever-so-considerately cleaned up after himself. I don’t want to generate a report that could ding the man’s record. I just want the tool returned.”

Ms Agent assured me contacting dispatch to reach Larry would be no problem for him or me. I know better. Back in the dark ages I worked dispatch for the same company (before Mapper acquired them). I told Ms Agent how to route a ‘Call Back’ (“it’s an industry term”). Amazed, she thanked me. For a moment I thought, “Cool, not that much has changed.” Then she had to go and say, “Yeah, going old school is healthy once in a while.” Shrew.

So, I no sooner hung up the phone when Girlfriend that had also visited us with Ellie Thursday afternoon, came bouncing up the walk. “Heya Roo! How ya doin?”

Goody, more tea…

The short story, Girlfriend saw the gruesome-looking flip knife on the vanity in the powder room – right where I’d set it so it’s hard, steel edges wouldn’t scratch our nice, oak toilet seat. Knowing we don’t leave things like that laying around for Eight-Year-Old-and-Very-Inquisitive-Niece to find, Girlfriend slipped it into her pocket meaning to hand it over to me. She washed her hands and promptly forgot all about it. Under a deadline, I didn’t walk the neighborhood on Friday, and I didn’t notice the knife missing from where I always, always keep it, on its very own tray on my dresser – until this morning.

Great, now I have guilt for ruining Larry’s career. At least I can now narrate in precise detail the whole new brand of frustrated humiliation, trying to contact Ms Agent again – it simply doesn’t happen. Fortunately, Mapper’s Billing Department STILL hadn’t called me back about crediting my account for all the down time. I spun the call so I could include cancelling the Old School, sequestered Call Back order to Larry.

Another Tech will be scheduled to check the pole issue tomorrow. Mapper’s got two strikes and one ball, so we’ll see. Now I must check next week’s schedule for the Elementary and NCIS episodes I missed during the move. Film at eleven…

Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” James 1:2

Joy image courtesy FreshFitnHealthy,  Larry the Cable Guy image courtesy Alchetron.com, Video clip from Toy Story courtesy YouTube

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Throwdown

To those who have been following the journal of my latest relocation, integrating my life into the home of my oldest, best friend, I submit this latest recount of the process. To new, readers I present an object lesson, and to those who’ve figured life out, my apologies for the rant.

Throwing the Gauntlet

My presence in our new home brought change for Erin as much as for me. For many readers change is no big deal, but as we age – the longer we age – especially while working through mental health issues, we want to wrestle it, pin it to the mat. I understand this and had assumed Erin did too.

We had always stayed in touch, but we hadn’t lived together in over thirty years. A lot of water flowed beneath these two bridges. She lived alone for the past three years while I often longed to. I mostly enjoyed the three years I lived in my beautiful apartment – alone and lonely for my friends and family (who lived at least an hour away – too far for young families or my old truck to drive every week).

So, here’s these two old broads, best friends for over half a century, experiencing our first upset with each other in over thirty years.

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* Old Lady Gauntlets

For three months I had collected little straws, petty little things that bothered me and sometimes disrupted my routine. Thinking they were too insignificant to mention, before I realized it I began to feel like the haystack was going to break this camel’s back.

Now y’alls probably never do that, or if you did it happened once – just once. Doing it more than once is just stupid. As if three years of counselor training hadn’t taught me better, I had surrendered weeks of joy to frustration, and still I was reluctant to talk to Erin about it.

Growing up in a violent, dysfunctional family ingrains a reluctance to confront, or it encourages emotional bullies. I’m intimated by how easily I pivot toward both. So, I didn’t want to offend her – and then have to live with the repercussions.

I grew up with Erin’s family. Now as adults I recognize how she and her siblings bear crosses between them they have no business shouldering. I’m not gonna lie, this isn’t the first time I found some degree of comfort seeing her family is not perfect either. Now I realize they too sometimes transfer their feelings to each other or overlook their responsibilities for their choices occasionally. So, I held it all in, keeping my concerns to myself and carrying my burden alone.

Once I realized it was a big deal I started worrying the next straw would blow the roof off our home sweet home. I’d begun ranting to the cats when Erin was out of the house. Coco’s blinking at me dispassionately made me feel resentful (we’ll blame her – she doesn’t care). I was angry from ignoring all those sore little straw scrapes. That left me feeling frustrated, hopeless and ultimately fearful.

My moods weren’t lost on Erin either. Several evenings she came to my doorway asking, Do you feel any better yet? Are you angry at me? Are you still happy here? Because that was usually late for me I was tired (so not entirely approachable) and I can be bitchy, I’d tell her everything’s fine. I lied.

My. First. Conviction.

With that I began to actually think. By not talking to Erin had I been packing casings with my issues, loading them into the .45, and then pointing it toward my foot?

bullets-on-wood-table-5305x3537_25636** bullseye**

At the peak of this madness sister Ellie called me, casually asking as she always does, “how you doin’.” It was a surface level, polite question. In my state of mind, I ass-umed she and Erin must have talked about my moods. But because I won’t talk to Ellie about Erin, I couldn’t honestly answer her. Instead, my dam broke and I cried. I told her I’ve been depressed and it had me worried.

After saying the “D” word aloud, I realized I had to buck up and somehow talk with Erin about what was troubling me. That started my second conviction: years of misdiagnosis and medication gorking me out unnecessarily proved I don’t suffer from depression. I know this, but each body ages differently. I lamely reasoned being sick seemed much more palatable than accepting I’d been cowardly. That bird didn’t fly far.

I was glad Erin spent the next few days at Keira’s, so I could think, play positive, encouraging music 24/7 pray (aloud) and fast. The cats disapproved, but quickly got over all the noise.

The night Erin returned home she came to my doorway (yeah, around ten p.m.). I’d just started to drift off to sleep, so I don’t remember what she asked me. Hopefully I mumbled something to the affect of Goodnight, but I heard her say as she walked away, “You didn’t answer me.” Exhausted and still reluctant, I let it go for the night.

The next morning I made Erin’s coffee, my double espresso latte and woke her early. I read to her from The Love Chapter” of the Bible***. Then locking eyes with hers said, “I don’t have to remind you I love you. I’m not running. I’m not depressed, but I am sad and a little scared. We must hunt the elephants.”

We talked back and forth for hours, continuing the conversation on-and-off all day during my breaks. Sure it was a short work day. My writing probably took a few hits with the weeks of distractions, but today we’re both talking and feeling much better.

As we age changes, confusion, and some hard feelings are natural. This is particularly so for unmarried people, these feelings can escalate astoundingly quickly and easily develop into withdrawal, isolation and despondency. As we diligently invest in our relationships, the odds for problems decline significantly. In our house we chose to invest and accept deposits as well.

A fool would throw away a fifty-something-year-old friendship. I can be silly sometimes, but I’m no fool – not yet.

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Erin has my six and I’m on her nine.  To this she says, “Sure, point out my side’s bigger than your skinny, old side.” We enjoy the pun, even if nobody else does.

*** “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NLT)

 

Images courtesy of *Pinterest and **ABSFreePics

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Cloudbursts

The forecast in our region was for cooler temperatures – yeay! That’s due to scattered thunderstorms. Forgive the pun, but it put a damper on some of my plans.

Undaunted, I took my hourly walks around the neighborhood despite the forecast. Between cloudbursts I had a revelation: The preeminent times of my life occurred between cloudbursts.

Storms are a mixed blessing. They not only nourish and cleanse the earth, freshening the air, but they can also cause some astounding damage. That pretty well describes my family’s history. Metaphorically, tempests formed our lives – together and individually. Winds brought limbs down, lightning started fires that consumed everything familiar, burnt us and tore our family apart at times.

And yet we lived. Can I hear a hallelujah?!

Most of my family members enjoy above-average lifestyles now, despite having experienced several very close strikes and some direct hits. You’ve probably never felt like you needed to throw or hit something lest you explode. We feel that way sometimes. I’m not especially proud of my 78 m.p.h. pitches. We still freeze at the sight of some old photos or some familiar-looking strangers. Then there are those moments when we go from serene to raging tempests in a heartbeat. Or mention certain names and my mind goes blank as if it had just been erased. I came through all that while trying to understand letters and words that rarely looked or sounded right. Still, I learned.

“But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O LORD, a tower of refuge to the needy in distress.  You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat…” Isaiah 25:4

Twisted as it sounds, I like to remember the moments after my son returned from Iraq in four-plus pieces – after the surgeon told me to prepare myself for the worst. I wondered if they actually rehearse those insipid lines. I recall unintentionally staring the man down for what he later described as “an uncomfortably long pause.” I remember thinking through what he’d told me, wondering who on earth does his hair, and recalling everything God promised me. All I said to the doctor was, “You obviously don’t know Who you’re dealing with.”

And I love to remember Nathan’s second first steps weeks later.

Around and in between all that I:

  • danced alone in the rain along the Mogollon Rim,
  • loved with abandon,
  • surfed,
  • sang to the Blue Mountains at sunset,
  • looked into the eye of a whale off the starboard deck,
  • coasted down Jerome, Arizona’s roads at midnight by moon light only,
  • ran with wolves, wolf-dogs and mustangs,
  • watched my sons learn to dive, hit home runs, graduate, be inducted into the military and fire houses, drive cars, trucks and tanks (God spared us all), fall in love, weep as they became fathers and paced the floors with their babies,
  • and a hummingbird rested on my knee as I rested during my yard work.

Though Seagh actually went on ahead without the rest of us, he’s safe and at peace now. We’re all still standing. Some days we’re stronger than others, but we dance in the rain and breathe easy between cloudbursts.

What brings it all into perspective is my family is only one minute particle of humanity, and yet, God cares for us as if each one is His only child.

“I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalm 91:2 (NLT)

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Juggle

A long time ago in a place far away an exceptional human became my friend. Arlene Powers has an infectious passion for living. We met when she picked me from a temp pool to work for her team of professionals. Months later we moved into different departments and then eventually left the Company, but God had glued us together forever.

Scan_20160629 2014 nov 2 bert mac

I don’t recall why we both call each other Bert – it simply works for us. Though she never named it, I suspect Bert recognized I was not your average Accelerati Incredebilis. Though always strong, stable, and focused, she too was familiar with trauma.

Bert recognized the performing artist in me. She spotted the clown in me and gradually coaxed her out into the open. Regardless of my issues, she loved and respected me even when doing so was challenging. In our professional circles fractures were our secret.

Clowning was a different kind of performing art I’d ever done. Demanding far more work and commitment than I ever imagined myself getting into, but Bert was an exceptional friend – so I came to love it too.

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But not like Bert did. As she typically accomplishes everything she sets her mind to, she designed and hand crafted the most stunningly, beautiful costumes for herself, her daughter and other clowns. Each one unique with lots of hidden pockets and props, they were works of fine, living art. Bert took the art of clowning to a higher level, mastering the craft and then collaborating for books about clowning, costuming and ballooning.

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She is truly the Bertimus Maximus. The title probably only means something to those within the Beenie Sub-Troupe, but audiences and charities throughout the Southwest enjoyed her talents for years.

With Bert’s coaxing and coaching I went to clown camp, training, developed and copyrighted my face and costume, created props, helped develop skits and routines both solo and with other clowns. Add pantomime, juggling, face painting techniques and balloon art, we were your basic, all-purpose clowns.

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Learning to juggle, focusing upon only one thing, was difficult for me. For weeks Bert taught and coached me along patiently, employing an allegory that became my mantra:

A man weighing 190 pounds had to cross a bridge carrying three five-pound boxes. The bridge could hold no more than 200 pounds.

How did the man get all the boxes across in only one trip?

The answer of course, he juggled them.

For me the allegory was a life changer:

The bridge is life. The boxes are our struggles, emotions and griefs. The only way across the bridge is to juggle the boxes. We can keep them all within our purview, but we must concentrate on catching each one as it drops.

Though Bert saw what I couldn’t, I’ll never forget the look on my teacher-Bert’s face as I added a third, and then fourth Hackey Sacks to my routine. She radiated the joy of accomplishment for us both.

I imagine that’s how God sees us; laughing with us when we’re just plain silly, and practicing our way through our challenges. Bert also coached me as I juggled my gushing thoughts and overwhelming feelings.

I gave up the Hackey Sacks, Nerf balls and rubber pet fish, but juggling became my personal foundational skill. While I occasionally drop some of my stuff along my way, I learned to keep the boxes moving.

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I’m frequently thankful most people can’t see feelings and confusion, but Bert can.

Though I stopped performing publicly after a couple of years, Annie Roo became the biggest part of me. Over the years I became grAnnie Roo to my nieces and grandchildren. Bert remains the Bertimus Maximus and still creates beautiful art, mostly of birds and donates all proceeds to bird sanctuaries. She’ll tell you she’s just doing important Bert things.

I have a living example of God’s delight in me, illustrated in Bert’s face as I jump the next hurdle, master the next challenge.

To my eternal friend, Arleenie “Bert” Beenie.

Signed, Bert

The Lord hears his people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:17, 18 (NLT)

 

 

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