Sunday, March 23, 2014

Remembering Before

Jordan’s bedroom and the living room are the                                Teenagers can sleep anywhere!
dumping grounds while other rooms get finished

Our bedroom is next!

The “after” pictures don’t mean much if I don’t see the “before and during.” I want to appreciate how much was done to improve our house, to remember everything Samaritan’s Purse did for our family and share this with others. We did nothing to deserve their help; we just had to be willing to accept their generous gift.

This is such a picture of what God has done for the world. This ugly, messy, broken house from the storm that I never want to see again is like the sin in our past that God forgives and forgets after repentance. In Romans 3:23, He says: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But He doesn't leave us like this and walk away; like the good Samaritan—God stays to help. Jesus died for our sins so we can be healed.

I’m thankful our house is being rebuilt and made new, but even more thankful for what God has done for us. “For by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…”Ephesians 2:8. We just have to accept His free gift to us, and we will be blessed with a life with Him, a new home.

Jordan’s bedroom in gutting stage

Kitchen before    

Kitchen after

Living room in gutting stage

Monday, March 17, 2014

Just Blink


My view never changes. From my small room, B bed, I have a window to the outside world. One white birch tree hugs a chain link fence, and the top half of a tennis dome rises above it. I can’t see the ocean that lives only three blocks away; but on a quiet night when James isn’t snoring next to me, and most residents are sleeping, I listen to the rhythm of the waves, crashing against the shore. I smell the salty air from my open window, and imagine being a captain of a ship—sometimes a pirate ship to add adventure to my dreams. 

Did I tell you I’m almost fifty? Thirty years a quadriplegic, more than half my life. The first half I was into extreme sports—anything most people thought I was crazy for trying.  Hang-gliding, freestyle snowboarding, and my last adventure in motorcycle racing. I can’t remember the accident, but I remember hearing someone say, “His chances are fifty/ fifty,” before I opened my eyes. I never knew the family in the car I hit; they remain ghosts in my nightmare. Their lives are the guilt I live with. 

Now I’m the person I never wanted to look at or be reminded of—the imperfect part of the world. Some people get that sad look in their eyes; others look away. But there are people like Maggie who jokes with me just to hear my grunt laugh and see my half-smile. That’s about all I can do. On Sundays, Maggie pushes my Geri-chair into the dining room to hear Bettina and Vern  sing worship songs and read from the Bible with their Jamaican accents.  

Bettina sings, “He can move the mountains…my God is mighty to save…He is mighty to save…” Vern shakes a tambourine, as the other residents attempt to sing along. I wish I could clap to the beat of my heart during those songs. Though I don’t move, so much moves within me. Warm tingling sensations zip through my body and remind me of racing. I love listening to Bettina’s soft voice as she reads God’s promise: “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30.  

I wonder if Bettina knows about my life before here when she talks about God’s forgiveness. She says He can forgive us even in our final hour like the thief on the cross. “Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” Luke 23:43.  

I close my eyes and imagine that day. 

She asks if anyone wants to be sure about their future in these end times. “Will you be ready to meet Jesus when He returns? He is knocking…do you hear him? He wants to come into your life.”  

I want to say yes, but I can’t raise my hand; I nod and wait to make eye contact with her. Her face glows with a wide smile as she notices me nodding. She doesn’t ask what my religious affiliation is or if I want to convert; she just prays…prays with power. “He wants to enter your broken body and heal your spirit. Just blink yes.” 

And like a thief in the night… 

The trumpet blares louder than the world. I turn my head toward the window to see the clouds churning like red velvet cake batter. The sky ripples as all the colors swirl together.  

The light…
The warmth… 

The love… 

In a twinkling of an eye… 

I run into the arms of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. My view is changed for eternity.


“in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:52 

Song: “Mighty to Save” written by Reuben Morgan & Ben Fielding / Hillsong Church

First printed at weekly challenge  / 3rd Place Editor's Choice

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Butterflies in our Pockets (a children's story)


My name is Berni--short for Bernadette--which means “brave as a bear.” But I’m not a bear. And I’m not brave. Bella is my best friend. She should have my name because she’s the bravest person I know. She carries caterpillars in her pockets. (I scream when I see an inchworm.) 

“Don’t you hate the creepy-crawly feeling?” I ask. 

“No, they’re soft and furry,” says Bella. “I’m waiting for them to turn into butterflies and fly away.” 

Bella will try any food. She even eats squid.  

“Would you like some?” she asks, dangling a piece in my face. 

My stomach does a flip-flop. “No thanks. I won’t eat any food that swims.” 

Once, Bella got my lunch money back from Dirk, the meanest boy in third grade. She yelled, “There’s a bee on your head,” then smacked the invisible bee with her notebook, grabbed my money, and ran. 

Bella is not afraid of the dark, or ghosts in the closet. I go to bed with a flashlight under my pillow and sneakers on my feet. Just in case. Bella pets dogs that are as big as a horse. (Well, almost.) I freeze like a scared bunny ’til they pass. 

Once she had a tug-of-war with a bulldog and said to me, “Don’t be afraid. He’s a sweetie.” 

But the bulldog growled, and I said, “No thanks. I’m good over here.” 

Bella played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz at school and remembered all of her lines. I played a tree and stuttered, “She w-w-went that w-w-way.” 

Bella tried to teach me to be brave. At the park, she said, “Slide down the fire pole and I’ll catch you.” 

I thought about it (for two seconds) and said, “No thanks. I’ll slide down the slide.” 

Once I almost climbed to the top of the crooked maple tree after Bella. I reached the second branch . . .  but needed a ladder to get down. 

Then Bella got sick. One day she told me, “I need an operation. Don’t worry, you can’t catch it.” 

I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to say, “I’m not worried, but what if ?”  

Then she went to the hospital. It was the first time Bella said, “I’m scared.” 

“You don’t have to be brave now,” I assured her. “I’ll be brave for you.” 

“I know you will,” Bella said. “You’re Berni, brave as a bear.” 

We both giggled. As I watched her drive away, I prayed: “God, please help Bella.” I watched until the tail lights on her minivan shrunk to pin-size dots and finally disappeared past a dirt hill. It reminded me of Mom saying there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Never made sense to me. 

The next day, Bella’s mom called. She said the operation worked, but the doctor had to shave off Bella’s hair. What would it be like to have a bald friend? I wondered. 

At the hospital, I handed Bella a bouquet of white and pink carnations with cherry lollipops and smiley faces peeking through. 

Bella’s face lit up. “Thanks. They’re happy flowers.” She didn’t have hair, but she had the same smile. Her hand had a thin tube attached, but her nails still had chipped bubble-gum-pink polish. Bella covered her head with a white scarf sprinkled with yellow daisies. I tried not to stare. 

“Thanks for being brave for me,” she said. 

I didn’t feel brave. But for two weeks I watched black and yellow striped caterpillars crawl up the maple tree, and I thought of Bella. I sat on the first twisted branch every day after school, waiting. 

When Bella came home she still didn’t have hair and looked too tired to climb, but that was okay.  “Yeah! You’re back,” I screamed in a super-duper, louder-than-loud voice. Then I gave Bella a big bear hug. 

 A week later, we skipped to class wearing matching scarves tied on our heads. Dumb Dirk reached for Bella’s scarf, but I jumped in front of her. “You stay away from my friend,” I growled. Then I took hold of Bella’s arm, and together we turned and stomped away from Dirk—bear style. Maybe there is a light at the end.  

“Do you want to hunt for caterpillars later?” Bella asked. “You could use a jar.”

I thought about watching one change into a butterfly. “Okay, but I don’t need a jar. I’ve got pockets.” 

Bella smiled. She’s my best friend, and we’re both brave.