The Letter that Stole my Joy

Today’s post is late. I had it ready, but as I’m still settling into my new job and I was exhausted when I came home last night, so I forgot. But, here it is 🙂

I’m changing up my Saturday schedule a little. With the new job and other things in my life, I’m having a hard time cranking out a story each week. So I will plan on posting a story on the first and third Saturdays.

Without further ado, here’s today’s post…

 

Last week I received one of those slips from the post office that an item needed my signature for delivery. It gave no information about what was in the package, but was marked as a letter with a return receipt for merchandise, and that I had to sign for it in person.

Since I wasn’t expecting anything and I haven’t purchased anything recently, I had no idea what this could be.

I found the slip on Tuesday night and had to be at meetings out of town the next day, so it was Thursday before I could get to the post office to solve the mystery.

The thing about me is that I hate surprises like this. If there had been a package of fun stuff in my mail box that would be great, but knowing there’s something there and not knowing what it is makes me crazy. My siblings can tell you how bad I was at Christmas time, and sometimes still am!

For a day and a half, this dilemma meandered through my brain poking and prodding at odd times. I woke up in the middle of the night and considered what it might be. On my drive out of town the next day, I pondered what it could be.

I posted on Facebook hoping the person who sent it would come forth. I called my dad and asked if he’d bought anything for me. I texted my siblings. I told several friends on Wednesday.

No one knew anything about this. My mind went to the worst.

ceramics-490822_1280_CC0Truth is, it worried me that I didn’t know what this whole thing was about. I tried to let it go, but it kept coming back to me.

Finally on Thursday, I had the time and went to the post office. The post office clerk presented a simple envelope bearing the name of my doctor’s office.

No merchandise, no gift. Nothing but a simple reminder of a needed appointment.

Apparently the wrong box got marked. A mistake. And it drove me nuts for too many hours.

In the midst of my worry the words of Philippians 4:6 came to mind.

These situations are worrisome because I forget that the Lord has everything under control. He knew what was in that envelope and if it was meant to harm me.

I often forget that this is the case with the Lord. He knows. He’s got this. My worrying about it changed nothing. The only thing it accomplished was to steal my joy.

It was just a letter in the mail, but it taught me a lesson. One that I often need to hear. It reminded me that no matter how mature in Christ I think I am, there are still things that I allow to draw me away from his love and presence.

Dirk’s Destiny

Dirk strode up the driveway, past the cat sunning itself in the front window, tail sweeping back and forth in slow motion like a conductor in a symphony only he could hear. On the porch, Dirk thumped the front door several times with his fist. He cocked his ear, listening for signs of life inside. His stomach rumbled with nervousness. He fiddled with the empty computer bag slung across his torso.

Around the back of the house, his buddy Jim would be checking for a possible entrance into the house. Dirk’s little nondescript pickup with the camper cover sat in the alley, tucked in next to a bush to keep it from view of the street. Today could be the day.

The phone in Dirk’s pocket chirped. He pulled it out. It was the all clear from Jim. Time to meet his destiny.

Jim kept telling him the big haul was their destiny. Dirk wasn’t so sure, but didn’t think Jim would lead him astray. Thoughts of being used because he had a vehicle fought with the desire to be part of something for once in his life. Dirk focused on the door willing the thoughts to shut up and go to their own corners of his brain.

After a few minutes the front door opened and Dirk slipped inside. They did a quick check of all the rooms to make sure no one was home.

Jim pushed open the door to the master bedroom. Dirk’s breath caught in his throat. There in the chair by the window was an elderly lady. Eyes closed. Perfectly still. They watched for a few moments until Jim crept slowly over to the chair. He poked the woman’s arm. Nothing.

coffer-281253_1280_CC0“The old broad is dead.” Jim crowed the words and moved into the walk-in closet. “Bingo, I found the safe. You get the jewelry. I’ll get this sucker open.”

Dirk went to the dresser and lifted the lid on the jewelry box. The heavy wood was inlaid with a single rose. It reminded him of his grandma, God rest her soul. She’d be so disappointed in him.

Jim’s voice came from the closet, “I can’t believe we got lucky enough that she’s dead. Who knows how long before anyone realizes we cleaned her out. By that time we’ll have made our fortune.”

A shiver prickled the skin of Dirk’s neck as he grabbed a handful of rings and necklaces and dumped them into the computer bag. The sooner this was done, the better.

Behind him a whisper of movement grabbed Dirk’s attention. Before he could turn he felt something hard pressing into his back.

“The old broad’s not dead, but if you don’t get your paws off my jewelry, you will be.”

Fear mixed with the smell of denture cream and talcum powder. Dirk tried to suck in air, but the world grayed around the edges. As he slipped into darkness he heard her crackly voice, “Sheesh, I didn’t even shoot you, coward.”

The Enemy of Creativity

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Sylvia Plath once said that the worst enemy of creativity is self doubt. Such truth in these words. I’ve been dancing with self doubt for many years, and let me tell you, he’s a lousy partner.

Self doubt is an expert at leading. The problem is he leads you in the wrong direction. When we listen to the persistent voice that clamors so loud, we miss the quiet one of our heart calling us to our true selves.

This problem with self doubt isn’t just confined to creatives. It’s a common problem that holds many people back from realizing their dreams.

So, what’s a creative like me or you supposed to do with this problem? It’s simple…just face your fears. Shout down the voice of doubt. Move forward.

Easy peasey.

Yeah, I know, not so much. It’s hard because our doubts speak so loudly. The only way around this is to keep speaking truth to yourself. Eventually the doubt will be overwhelmed by the truth.

The other thing you have to do, is move forward despite your fear. Failure isn’t final. It’s the opportunity to try again. Failure may sting in the short run, but the thrill of succeeding washes that sting away. It feeds your quiet voice of truth.

Today, I challenge you to not listen to the doubter in you. Focus on what you know is right and pursue your dream.

What would you do if you were guaranteed to succeed? What can you do today to move closer to that dream?

Tapper

Today’s story is a continuation of Party of One.

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A rap on the window drove Becky’s heart rate even higher. She rolled down her window. “Tapper. Thanks for coming. Get in the car.” She watched as he went around the car and dropped into the seat next to her.

“What do you want, Becky?”

“Tapper, I need your help.”

“My help? Since when do you need my help?”

“Yeah, I need your help. You have to help me get Matt —”

“Becky, Matt don’t want a girl like you. He likes dimwitted women with no substance.”

She thrust the door open and stepped out of the car. “You’re so mean, Tapper. Always have been.” Becky stomped across the parking lot and sat on the bus bench on the corner. Stupid Tapper. She should have known better than to call him.

Tapper got out of the car and followed her over to the bench. “Becky, I’m just trying to help.”

“By calling me fat. Is that your way of helping? I wanted your help, but not by telling me why Matt won’t ever like me. I wanted you to kill him.”

“Whoa, slow down. Kill him? I can’t kill him. What are you thinking?”

Becky turned away as tears poured down her face. “No, you’re right. I can’t kill him. I love him.”

Tapper scooted closer to Becky and touched her shoulder. She looked over her shoulder at him. He handed her a hanker chief which she took and wiped her nose.

A lone car on the dark street sped by, kicking up water from a puddle on the street. As droplets pattered down around them, Tapper cleared his throat. “Becky, why do you love him. He’s not good enough for you.”

“What do you care? You think I’m fat. Look at you. The only six pack you have is in the fridge.”

He shook his head. “No, I never said that.”

“You said Matt only likes women who have no substance like the girl at the party. Fat women have substance.”

Tapper put his hand on her arm. “She has no substance meaning she has no personality. She’s thin and pretty, but there’s nothing behind the veneer.”

She turned to look at him.

“You, Becky, you’re beautiful. And smart. And funny. And loving.” He raised his hand to her chin and lifted it until he was looking into her blue eyes. He inhaled a deep breath. “Becky, I know how you feel about Matt. Because I’ve felt the same way about you since high school.”

A smile played at Becky’s lips, her heart fluttered. “You do? Why — Why didn’t you ever tell me? I always thought you were mean because you never talked to me.”

“You were always so hung up on Matt. And I’ve always been just Tapper. I didn’t think you’d love someone like me.”

Lightening split the sky and thunder roared as fat rain drops soaked the pavement. Tapper grabbed Becky’s hand and pulled her to her feet, dragging her toward the car. “Run before we get soaked.”

Wet and dripping, they sat. Quiet filled the car. Tapper cleared his throat. Becky peeked at him from behind a lock of hair covering her eyes. “So, if you still want to kill Matt, I don’t blame ya, but I can’t do that. It’s not in my nature.”

“No, I guess that was a dumb idea.” She whispered barely audible over the rain pelting the car.

His hearty rumble danced with her dainty giggle as they held hands and looked at each other.

“What’s your real name, Tapper?”

Tapper brushed the wet lock of hair out of her eyes. “It’s Randy.”

“Randy. I like that. Can I call you that instead of Tapper?”

He nodded his head. “Yes, I hate Tapper.”

“Why do they call you Tapper?”

“In high school, freshman year, I went to a party. I heard a bunch of the guys making fun of me as they tried to get the tap into the keg. I hated being the butt of their jokes, but I knew how to tap a keg, so I went over and did it for them. It was a valuable talent to have and they kept me around. They still make fun of me, but they let me hang out, so I ignore that.”

Becky put her palm on his cheek. “We both should have been braver sooner.”

Randy brushed a soft kiss across her lips. A sigh whispered her approval.

 

Photos courtesy of Pixabay.

 

 

 

 

 

Each Day has Trouble Enough

 

ducks

I don’t know about you, but I like to have my ducks in a row with their tails all lined up nice, and pretty. I’m not one for surprises and just letting things happen is tough for me. A friend once told me I need to let go a little.

“You’re a type A-,” he said.

What?

Not totally anal, but just enough to need to loosen up when it comes to some things. Like planning my days, years, my life. I often tell God, “If you’ll just tell me what’s going to happen it will all be good.

Ah, but God knows better.

He knows that my mind works over time with considering the possibilities and I get all worked up about stuff that hasn’t even happened.

I did this recently and I thought I knew exactly what would happen, but surprise! I had it all backward. I spent a lot of time thinking and planning. Time wasted. My peace was shredded in the process.

And, I then had to convince myself that God’s plan really was better than mine. I’d been so sure, but it wasn’t to be. I think this is human nature. The wanting God to come alongside us instead of being willing to come alongside him.

It may be, but it’s not what God expects from us. His word says tomorrow isn’t promised, so trying to come up with a plan he will bless is really just wasting the time we have today. This is something I don’t know if I’ll ever have under control, but it’s something I keep striving for because it’s in the letting God be in charge that the peace that passes understanding is found.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own.  ~Matthew  6:34

 

Magic Moments

A flash of green sparked in the growing dusk, then another. Ellie inhaled deeply of the night air, the sweet undertones of mowed grass mixed with the heady perfume of the pale pink roses growing along gazebo. As the sun disappeared, replaced by the pale grayness of oncoming night, the heat from the day also waned. Fireflies blinked on and off, more with each passing moment.

image courtesy: suphakit73 at freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy: suphakit73 at freedigitalphotos.net

Ellie stuffed her purple painted toes into her Keds. She smiled as fireflies continued to beckon with their pulses of light. This morning when she woke, Ellie knew tonight she would follow the magic trail of twinkles into the forest. As mother and daddy settled in for the night in front of the TV, Ellie sat in the gazebo waiting for just the right time.

Daddy said there wasn’t anything special about the lightening bugs, they were just bugs whose butts lit up, but Ellie wasn’t so sure. Those small lights in the night called to her of adventure and excitement. The full moon tonight added to the excitement.

Skipping through the grass, Ellie made her way to the edge of the woods. She stopped at the first tree and peered into the darkness. Moon beams skimmed across the top of the forest, sprinkling pale shoots into the darkness below.

“This is it, girl. Time to cowgirl up and see where the magic leads.” She wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but she’d heard the upper class girls at school say it and it just seemed right.

Ellie stepped into the woods. A twig crunched under her foot. She cringed and looked back over her shoulder. The house sat solemnly in the clearing. Peering back to the narrow path ahead of her, Ellie watched as fireflies blinked on and off along the way. Cicadas chattered into the night, telling stories of the disappearing day that only they could understand.

The path wound through the trees as Ellie moved forward into the growing darkness. Somewhere in the night an animal cried it’s plaintive plea. Goose bumps danced across her arms. The heat from the day barely warmed her now.

A loud crack, Ellie stopped, listening. Silence followed by a smaller thunk.

Was someone following her? What animals prowled the night forest? Ellie didn’t know, she’d never been this far into the woods. Her heartbeat thumped in her chest. Should she go back?

No, she couldn’t do that. She’d run into whatever was there. The only choice was to go forward. Drawing a breath deep into her lungs, she stepped forward. The fireflies lit the way along the path. Magic wrapped around Ellie again and she continued along the narrow trail.

The darkness gave way as the woods opened into a clearing. Water cascaded over a boulder into a pond. Moonlight flooded down and twinkled off the pool. The waterfall’s melody mixed with the cicada concert. A thick patch of honeysuckle dispersed it’s aroma into the night.

Ellie whispered, “So beautiful” as she slipped out of her Keds and dipped her toes into the cooling water. After the muggy heat, the water washed over her feet in pleasant little waves. She stepped back and slipped off her shorts and t-shirt and threw them on a rock next to her.

The water cooled her skin as Ellie walked into the pool. She leaned back and floated, watching the moon above. The peace of the night swept down and she giggled. All these years this magical place had been right here and she never knew.

A movement in the woods caught her eye. She dropped her feet and stood in the water. Chills ran down her spine. Whoever it was stood just beyond her sight, hidden by a bush. There was nowhere for her to go.

“Shame on you Ellie Marie Smith, you know better than to go into the woods by yourself.” Ellie’s mother walked out onto the edge of the clearing.

Ellie’s breath came back in a deep gasp. “Mother, you scared me. Why didn’t you tell me you were following me.”

On the bank of the pond, Ellie’s mother slipped off her summer dress to reveal a swim suit. She ran into the water, splashing Ellie as she came.

“I wondered how long it would be before you found my secret spot. You were so quiet at dinner tonight, I was pretty sure tonight would be the night. I didn’t want to spoil the magic for you.”

Ellie pushed water back at her mother. “You knew about this place?”

“I’ve been coming here since I was a girl about your age. On a night like tonight with the full moon and the fireflies, it just seems like another world.”

“Oh Mom, it’s beautiful.”

A deep sigh whispered out of her mother. “That’s the first time you ever called me mom.”

Ellie giggled. “This is the first time I realized you could be my friend as well as my mother.”

The women floated, holding hands, not speaking as the moonlight, music, and magic surrounded them.

When the Call Comes

I confess, I don’t know much about football, but I do have some basic understanding. I know it’s the dream of many high school boys to play in the NFL. They practice and strive to earn a spot to play on a college team. As college comes to an end, the best hope the NFL draft will make them real football players. It’s a dream that won’t come true for the majority of college players.

Only so many can be chosen, drafted.

When the dream doesn’t happen, many give up. Chris Matthews of the Seattle Seahawks wasn’t one who gave up. He wasn’t drafted, but he did get to sign with the Cleveland Browns as a free agent, only to get cut. For some, that might have been too much, but Chris didn’t quit. He played for a couple of other leagues, and eventually went to work at Foot Locker to pay the bills. It was there that he received the call to come try out for the Seahawks.

Finally, another a chance.

Even then, it wasn’t easy going. He was released, then joined their practice squad. Finally he was signed with the team in December 2014. He played in 3 games and didn’t catch a single pass. Most players would be discouraged and give up. Not Chris, he kept going. In 2015 he made a key play that helped the Seahawks win the NFC Championship, and then went on to play in Super Bowl 49.

football-596747_1280 CC0I first heard the Chris Matthews story during last years Super Bowl and it struck a chord with me. As a writer, I’ve worked and dreamed. I’ve had some successes and some set backs. I’ve worked a day job and probably will throughout my writing career. I’ve been tempted to give up many times. To say I’ve tried and it’s just not going to happen.

Have you been there? Do you feel like you’re at Footlocker when you want to be playing in the Super Bowl? Life can be tough for those of us who dream big. It can be more brutal than having a 250 pound linebacker tackle you.

What if Chris had given up and said, nah, I’ve tried this dream and it’s too tough, I’m going to stay at Footlocker? What would have happened to the Seahawks? Would they have made it to the 2015 Super Bowl? We will never know.

And there’s the rub.

God has given each of us a dream. Not all of us dream of playing pro-football, or writing novels, or curing cancer. Some of us dream of having a family, working in a particular profession, or helping others grow into their own potential. Regardless of the scope or size, dreams are important. Our dreams affect others. If we give up just because it gets hard, we have no idea what might happen.

Don’t give up. Keep working. Keep dreaming. Keep answering the phone at your own version of Footlocker.

 

*Source of information regarding Matthews: Wikipedia

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Party of One

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Becky surveyed the table. All the same potluck foods lined up in a hodge-podge of a mess. Sweet and sour meatballs languished in crock pot nestled next to a platter of celery stuffed with cream cheese. Really? Who brings something like celery to a party?

There really were other places Becky could be tonight. Like home. With a book. In front of the fire. The thrill of parties had long since died in her, but this one was different. This one had possibility. Homecoming weekend always drew the old classmates back to the fold.

A group of guys bumped the end of the table. An apple fell off the top of a basket and plunked into a bowl of red Jello. A blob flew up and landed on Becky’s white sweater.

She threw a distasteful glance at the men, and her breath caught. There he was. Matthew Holland. Warmth swept up her neck and into her cheeks. His Polo cologne mingled with the tangy aroma of the meatballs and danced around her nose. Her mind drifted back to the few dates they’d had in high school. When Matt kissed her on the front porch that last date, Becky thought her life was set. He never called again. But he was busy getting ready for college so she didn’t worry too much. If she waited patiently, surely he would one day remember and come back to her. She moved closer to his end of the table.

“I’m just saying, Dallas is all in this year. Be surprised if they didn’t go all the way.”

“I disagree, man.”

Ugh. Football talk. What was it with men and football? Becky looked down into an empty silver platter, frowning at her reflection. The red blotch on her sweater glared at her and she dabbed at it, smearing the mess even more.

Matt patted Rick on the shoulder. “You can disagree, but that doesn’t make you right.” He shuffled to the right and stabbed a meatball with his fork. “Oh hey, Becky. How are you?”

Becky smiled. There’d better not be any spinach in her teeth from the dip. “I’m great, Matt. You look fab—”

“Matthew. It’s so good to see you.” A redhead approached with her arms open for a hug.

Matt set his plate on the table and swooped the woman into his arms. Her giggle jingled across to Becky. “Rachel. Oh my gosh. How are you? We had so much fun the other night. We should go out again soon.” He continued to hold her tight as she whispered in his ear.

Becky’s smile dropped off her face. She turned away as tears formed. People jostled all around her. Lady Gaga blared from the speakers. The room felt oppressive and sweat popped out on her temples. Becky pushed through crowd until she reached the front door. She found her coat in the closet, and slipped out before anyone could see the tears that now ran freely down her face.

One day he would remember, he had to.