When Most Needed But Least Expected

This mortal life can be challenging at times. All too often we ourselves, or those we love, face financial setbacks, lingering illness, injury, the passing of neighbors, friends, or family members. Piled atop the big life altering events, are the multitude of little irritants that tend to wear us down. Like the almost imperceptible but constant erosion of windblown sand beating against a granite mountain, or a jagged boulder that falls into a stream and after the passage of years finds itself reshaped into a smooth rounded stone.

Like most of us, I’ve experienced some of both in my life. Job losses that have changed the entire direction of my career and subsequent life. Broken bones, chronic illness, the loss of parents and siblings, dark days that have spanned years with little or no respite.

On the other hand, I’ve also experienced incredible miracles in my life. I once broke my leg jumping off a six foot shed. That experience provided perspective for the time I fell off a twenty foot haystack and landed in the manger below. I woke to find the top of my head all but touching the wooden poles of the manger, a five inch length of steel spike sticking out of a post on one side of my head and a large stone on the other side. Somehow my head landed between the three hazards, any one of which could have snuffed out my life or left me paralyzed. I walked away from that fall shaken, but otherwise unhurt. That was just one of perhaps a dozen times in my life that I’ve passed through experiences that should have left me maimed or dead, but instead left me essentially unscathed.

I’ve also experienced miracles in nature. One Sunday in late summer, while sitting in church, a severe hailstorm descended. The din of the hail pounding on the roof completely drowned out the message from the pulpit. Upon leaving the church, I found two to three inches of marble size hailstones covering the ground. For context, the wheat was nearly ripe in the fields, and the potato rows were closed over and the vines were in blossom. Driving home, everywhere we looked the trees stood almost bare, their leaves shredded and lying scattered on the ground. The potato vines were crushed flat in the sea of mud that hours before had been lush green fields. Surprisingly, the wheat was still standing, but I was certain there wasn’t a single kernel of grain left anywhere among the fields of drooping heads. As the season progressed, residents in the path of the hailstorm had a bounteous harvest of both grain and potatoes from the fields, and produce from our gardens. I can’t explain what happened, but the events of that summer left a lasting impression on me.

This brings me to what is often the least noticed, but perhaps the most important miracles of all. I believe in angels, both those who dwell in the presence of our heavenly Father, as well as those who are currently disguised as mortals, living as our neighbors and friends. One such angel paid me a visit yesterday.

At the moment, I’m recovering from nearly a week of illness, my book sales are less than satisfactory, and my advertising efforts have been all but a total loss. My most recent book review sported a three star rating and called my writing “tedious” while challenging both the premise and the execution of the story. Needless to say, I’ve been struggling with my attitude and perspective.

The doorbell rang yesterday afternoon and my wife called me to the door. Our neighbor was returning a copy of From Out of Nowhere that I’d sent home with her husband. She’d come to purchase her own complete set of the books in the Chet series. She expressed how much she had enjoyed the novella, and I smiled and thanked her for her purchase as I autographed her books. As she left our home, she turned back to my wife and me and said she’d put a note in with the copy I’d loaned her.

As I read her comments, one in particular stood out to me. She said, “The telling of Jason’s passing, with his Grandfather there to assist and guide him, is both heart-wrenching and uplifting. It is a comforting gift to your readers, especially to me.”

Of necessity, writing is a business. Selling my published works is the only way I have to provide a living for my family and to recover the investment I’ve made to produce my books. That being said, the real motivation for what I do is the hope that what I write will be read, and that in some way what I have written will have a positive effect in the life of my readers.

Yesterday, when it was least expected but so desperately needed, I was given a gift. It was a much needed miracle, a tender mercy from a loving heavenly Father, delivered by one of his mortal angels. I’m grateful … thanks Lenea.

Until next time, may we each have eyes that see and hearts that recognize the miracles that abound in our lives, and may we be ever grateful.

I’m Becoming My Dad

As strange as it seems, I recently realized I’m slowly but surely becoming my father. I can remember as a young man of sixteen moving sprinkler pipe on the farm. We had 120 acres and it was all under hand line irrigation. For those not familiar with McDowell pipe, it’s comparatively easy to move as long as the ground is level. However, if the pipe is lying in a swale, it doesn’t drain worth a hoot. Let me tell you, it’s a real back breaker to lift a forty foot stick of four inch pipe that is chock-full of water and mud.

In my youthful arrogance I used to figure I was tough enough to bull my way through anything, including the minor inconvenience of picking up and walking off with a couple hundred pounds of pipe and irrigation water. I prided myself of the manly image I projected as I power lifted, the aluminum pipe bowing in the center as I straightened, both ends still lying on the ground as the water gushed out. As soon as the ends would start to clear the ground, I’d stride across the field, water flying from both ends as the pipe bounced up and down in rhythm with my oh-so-manly steps.

In contrast, I remember Dad taking hundreds of totally unnecessary steps as he’d walk along pulling the pipe apart so the water could drain out. He’d then have to retrace his steps so he could move the now much lighter pipe. All the while he was doing this, I surged on down the field, finishing my assigned lines in a fraction of the time it took him to move his line of pipe. I was young and indestructible, while he was plodding and, well, old.

My perspective changed dramatically one day this week when on a day with temperatures pushing into the upper nineties, I found myself walking along my line, pulling the pipe apart so they could drain before picking them up and moving them across the pasture. My striding pace has slowed to an amble, and my six pack abs have softened into something more resembling the Pillsbury Doughboy’s paunch. My joints creak, and when I overdo it they ache long into the night. I did some quick mental math, and to my chagrin I discovered that I’m the same age my dad was when I so arrogantly labeled him as old.

I guess it’s true, what goes around, comes around. He and my mother have been gone for many years now. In my mind’s eye I can picture them in heaven, with their young and indestructible bodies. I imagine Dad’s looking down with a small smile curving his lips, and I’m pretty sure he’s thinking, “Man, you’ve gotten old!”

Until next time, be careful of the judgments you make …