The Summer Files: Day 20

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Summer is the threshold to the Realm of Childhood. I’ve stepped both feet inside—they dance a little in this place, and run a little faster than normal. At nighttime, when the crickets sing the Children to sleep, you can hear the neighborhood Canines speak of their young charges through the fence grating. Some yip excitedly. Some howl.

The clock tick-tocks to lively lunches in the Outside, where creatures of the Realm join us. The raccoons will steal bites of your salmon delicacies if you’re not watching closely. Yum-Yums taste magical in the Realm of Childhood, especially when created by little hands.

Before you know it, it’s time for the Children to play in the Forest of Cacti while I sit at my keyboard and weave my hands over the letters. Stories unfold into the arid air, but quickly fall into crumbles as the Noise Monster erupts. He like to stir up tempers, arguments and other devilish entertainment. He has kept me from finishing a very important project. I will put my foot down in exactly one hour, on threat of confiscating every one of his sugar-fueled temptations.

I must go now, as I hear his footsteps draw near. Happy Tuesday, friends.

The Summer Files: Day 13

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The valley days roll along as tumbleweeds and Arizona is working up to full summer boil as it does every year, but One thing has awakened us to the brilliance of seasons: Miracles haven’t stopped coming. They’re coming, friends.

During our third trip to the Healing Room, remembering God is the same God who healed all those people a few thousand years ago, Our Son kept tugging at me, trying to get my attention. After shushing him so as not to interrupt the prayer volunteers, he finally stood forward and announced that he felt this “hand” on the back of his neck. At first, he thought it was the Guy leading the prayer, but the Guy, standing a few feet in front of him thought it might have been a more celestial hand.

Over the next several days, including the few the Son endured with a long prep and a few tests at the children’s hospital, joy burst from his seams.

“I feel good, Mommy.”

I won’t go into detail on how no one would be feeling good after what he just experienced, but the joy kept rolling in like a protective halo.

Shortly after coming home, we found out his bowel disease is gone.

It was a twisty road, friends. We prayed, we doubted, and prayed again. Many people prayed for us. Thank you, to all who did. Somewhere in there, we believed. I often wonder why miracles don’t happen more often…maybe we’re too distracted by, “but will He?” thoughts. Maybe we put more faith in modern medicine than in God. He does say, “…because of your faith, you are healed.”

We are also a culture of intellectual pride. How can an educated, modern society believe in miracles? If we can’t see them, touch them, prove them, do they exist?

Modern medicine is a blessing. Thank the Lord for our Doctors and Nurses. I believe God uses them in many beautiful ways.

But that wind. It pushes in tumbleweeds with its invisible hands. It cools our sweat with its merciful breeze. We can’t see it, but we know it’s there. Why is it so much easier to count on the arrival of ugly, poky sticker bushes, than the breath of Heaven? Even fellow believers tried explaining the healing through logic and spiritual doubt (What kind of solutions come from spiritual doubt?).

But our Son just experienced an invisible hand, illogical joy and healing. Those weren’t tumbleweeds that blew our way.

They’re coming.

The Summer Files: Day 7. J-O-Y

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The Summer has stumbled into our valley with a surge of wind and scowls. With my delayed book release and The Son’s medical tests at the Children’s Hospital, a sweet summer seemed to have gotten knocked into the abyss like a dirt clod.

Deep.

But The Son, even in the midst of his medical prep, had this song for us. Down in the valley, there is J-O-Y. Yes, he sang this during his colonoscopy prep (test one of two).

You hear about kids with health problems that are supernaturally happy and think it’s just a creation of Hallmark films, but it’s no cliché. The Son has been gifted with joy, and indeed was the comfort for his family through his whole ordeal, even when they put the mask on his face and his day faded to black.

When he woke, he smiled and sheepishly asked where his pants were.

I was reminded this morning of our uniqueness, our gifts that God has given each one of us. Sometimes, we hear such reminders so often they lose their power until we walk into those low valleys and find there’s always someone there to offer a song and a chair in which to listen, or an instrument to play your own music.

I suppose we switch from one to the other in various walks of our lives, but isn’t it nice that God has made us so different, yet with the capability of becoming a master orchestra? We are vital to each other.

Now off to work, friends.

How to Peace

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My dog’s no hater. But she sounds like it when a rush of don’t-mess-with-my-person erupts from her throat in a storm of barks and growls. At the dog three houses down, at the bear-sounding creature firmly hemmed in by a wall of brick one block over. But it’s not hate—it’s purpose.

At the pound, her floppy lips and happy, bouncy spirit won us over. She’s ours. Where can we sign? We brought her home and had one, small pocket of time with dog-licking peace and then…three days later, she put herself between Chloe and an aggressive dog, forever branding herself as The Shield.

That dog looked at my girl funny. Grrrrr….
That UPS truck doesn’t smell right. Grrrrr…RoWr!
Prime rib on four feet, coming my way. Kill!
Forest fire at night? Earthquake only she can smell? She’s got us covered.

But taking her outside the boundaries of our home where she threatens every furball on legs (or with wings. Or wheels) is difficult. Some days, miserable.

Do I throw away the harness to make my life easier? Never! Walks are like Navy Seal fitness sessions. My triceps thank me; my pants barely fit over my strengthened calves. The challenge of exercising a dog-with-a-purpose has reminded me that resilience is an acquired habit. One must face the challenge.

Of course, some walkers give us “the look” when we come bounding down the street. They might turn and go the other way (it’s okay…I understand), or give us the invisible finger, nose in the air, and stop from rounding the corner as they planned, knowing I’ll have a struggle on my hands (I suspect they’re the HOA types who decide we need permission to PAINT OUR OWN HOUSES). Oh, dog-walking elite, you know nothing of my determination.

The Shield reacts to this behavior with a smiting of fury, no doubt, but the only thing that changes her attitude are the people and dogs who insist on peace.

The man with giant headphones, I don’t know his name, but he looks like a Fred—Bella has lunged at him, and given him the warning bark, but he just walks like Jesus if you know what I mean. For miles, he has graced our sidewalks with forgiveness. No avoidance, no dirty looks, just a polite wave, and on he goes. He even recognizes us in the car now, and will wave like we’re friends. Fred is awesome.

Bella has ceased barking/growling/lunging at him.

And the beagle, I don’t know his name either, but he also looks like a Fred. I’m pretty sure he’s deaf and old, because when confronted by Bella once, he ignored her. He didn’t run, return barks or threaten her in any way. He just sniffed his way down the street knowing something the rest of us didn’t.

Bella ran out of steam and decided he wasn’t a steak after all.

You’d think more of us humans would learn from the Freds. Do you have a Fred in your life? Give that friend a hug!

Thank you to all peace-loving folks, and have a happy Tuesday.

The Line on the Wild Side

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For some reason, I thought I would have much more time to write once my kids attended full-time school. They won’t have that many activities, I thought.
Whatever.
I guess shaving a month from summer vacation gave them room for all the half-days.
And being a charter school, there is no bus. I bet if I added up the hours I spent in my car the last year or two I could have driven to Disneyland at least twice. But I don’t need to go that distance for a ride, I mean, my life is one giant spinning tea cup as it is.
I do love my kids’ school though—fine art, drama, music, and at least one opera…
…concerts during the day, concerts at night…are the tires smoking?
What day job?


Does anyone else get stuck behind the retiree driving 5-10 miles under the speed limit when they’re running late (Do they need to go shopping this early?)? On those days, I get to the school so late it takes 20-30 minutes of line-waiting to reach my kids.
But hey! We can read books in line, right? I read an entire anthology this school year while waiting in line.
At the end of the day, it’s worth the wait. The education C and N gets is invaluable, whether it’s in class, on stage or on the playground.
Speaking of waiting, people have been asking me about the progress of my book, the second in the City of Light Series. It’s coming, I promise. After a few final tweaks, it should be ready to go (Should anyone be interested in receiving an ARC, shoot me an email at srossbooks@gmail.com). The name, you say?

Wild

(that’s the opposite of waiting in line).

Happy Tuesday friends.

The Map

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Sometimes, God makes no sound. Is He dead, or has He turned His face from us? Sometimes, when faith gets wrung from me, I sit outside and watch for Him in the sky, and in the trees that stand guard over our backyard.

In his prayers a month ago, Noah thanked God for healing all who we had asked of him…
“…except me,” his voice squeaked out. That’s the only time I’ve heard Noah complain—or notice—miracles in so many lives except his own. He did have one miracle, just not the big one we hope for, and in the enduring it’s easy to forget that silence doesn’t mean nonexistent.
Will this—however long this will be—keep my boy wondering if God hears him?

I pick up a book that’s been patiently waiting its turn on my growing pile: Falling into Place by Hattie Kauffman, news correspondent.

While on a drive, waiting for her soon-to-be ex-husband to leave the house, Hattie came upon a sixteen foot statue of Jesus overlooking a set of dumpsters on a college campus. After growing up hungry and neglected, she had to face cancer and alcoholism as an adult, and carried burdens she didn’t know how to handle. One night, she came upon this statue, wondering why it had been placed by the garbage heap. Shouldn’t it be in the center of campus?

Memories of her childhood are scattered throughout the book, like the day she was so hungry, and she found a peach to eat in a dead tree that stood in her yard. That moment, high in the tree’s branches, she felt a tangible presence wrap around her, and knew it was God. But hungry days and neglectful parents darkened her perspective. Anger draped its ugly wings over her eyes and ears. At age fifteen, while on the phone to her Aunt Teddy (a missionary), the one stable presence in her life, the bitterness of a hard life rushed out in her audible rejection of God.

But He pursued her. In a promise from a woman she interviewed for TV, through her Aunt Teddy, and in many things most of us would brush off as coincidence.

In her book, Hattie’s childhood memories are woven within her experience of going through divorce, and what we’re given is a map to God, one whisper at a time.

She learned to surrender, and to pray. Again, she gets in her car and drives to the trash heap to find the statue of Jesus.

“It suddenly seemed fitting that Jesus watched over the garbage dump—the junk of humanity.”

Is it You, God? A good question to consider when you suspect his whisper in unexpected places.

Pause

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My daughter was recently diagnosed with a recipe for anything: a possible concussion, a strange virus, or dehydration. She had hit her head twice the day I picked her up from a slumber party—the week I had finished my latest batch of edits. Fun, and many frenzied weeks of school had exhausted her; work had exhausted me. Doctor’s orders were to rest. Chloe slept late for three days, lingering in a haze for the remainder of her awake time, and napping like she had run laps for a half century.
Rest: what we don’t do enough of, which is why I skipped my blog last week.

You’re disturbing my rest

Experts say to stay on top of things you must be in constant motion; that if you don’t make yourself stand above the fray you won’t make a difference in this world. That no one will hear you.
But rest softened Choe’s edge, and she and Noah enjoyed their playtime together again. To make her feel better, Noah shaved off several locks of his hair, and slathered on his Daddy’s deodorant to make her laugh. Laughter all the way to school—the product of rest.
We miss God’s touch when we fix our eyes to the front of the crowd. For your Tuesday, Here are a few beautiful pauses within the thick of motion.

Rise

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My son is convinced that one, just one, of his nightmares was real. When the night spills over the blue sky, and the house creeks to the tune of the witching hour, he remembers it. “Do demons look like aliens?”

The same question, always. “They can, but Jesus will make them go away.”

“I know, but He took a long time to make them go away.”

We discuss the settling of houses, and how they have to get comfortable at night just like we do. I remind him that shadows often look like scary things just like clouds can resemble bunnies. These conversations almost convince him it was just a dream. Was it?

But, the dark haunts all of us, morphing worries into nightmares. Failures are monsters. Most people in my line of work experience so many failures, they often lose sight of their purpose underneath all the wounds. Success is intangible; a ghost, and sometimes is takes a very long time to get a clear look at it.

I worry about my little guy and the scars he’s developing at such a young age. But as we talk about shadows and monsters, holy week creeps by us and taps me on the shoulder, “Remember the curtain torn in two, the earthquake, rocks splitting open…the bodies of holy people rising from their tombs and appearing to many people? (Matthew 27).”

They weren’t the monsters—they weren’t aliens, or zombies, or anything that dwells in the dark splatter of night. They were spirits of victory. It took a lot of pain and blood for them to rise…it took a moment at 3 o’clock in the afternoon when God stepped away…and oh, did it seem like he was gone too long; utter forsaken agony, when all seemed lost…

…for Jesus to slay the nightmares. We must remember the nightmares have already been defeated.

As we carry our own crosses with monsters dumping humiliation after fear after pain upon us, and God seems so far away—we can take faith steps. We can breathe in faith and blow away the impossibilities, nodding our heads at the scary things rising, that are, in fact, signposts to victory.

Oxford Commas and the Rest of Us

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Two editors tame my books because a grammar revolution resounds in my head. Really. I take my commas and my semi-colons to town, aim them at each other, pauses blazing, and let them battle for the ink that fixes them to the page. Do we have a long pause, or a short one? If I paused here; would you pause here, too?

What’s wrong with making a new sound, anyway? Writers are artists which make readers aficionados of art; it’s subjective–you’re rock, I’m jazz–that kind of ditty.
Commas waltz, but semi-colons? They scat.

Fact.

Would civilization implode if I lay spaces here, but not between IHateOxfordCommas? That’s how I say it, after all–with plenty of Grrrrrrrr.

Will we start a literary Lord of the Flies if we abandon civilized grammar and write with the flow of our unique internal rhythms? That’s how we ditched thee and thou, btw, by going a little wild.

somehow its ok to text in an improper fashion but if i choose to write a book in text its assumed i need schooling. but you still understand me right?

Of course, some might argue that a double-dash or a capital letter are tools that perfect the art of language like a hammer to a nail. What if that nail didn’t belong within the bones of a house, but as the arms of a dreamer?

Not everyone loves scat.
She says dooby dooby no no. No.
Not everyone loves art.
wh@tEver.

BUT—,,,;;;—some are looking for a single comma misplacement to win a lawsuit; Some (yeah, I see you people) can’t read a story with a single imperfection. I would say something about color-coding socks here, but God made us all different, right?

So we must comma-speak.

Here’s a grammarian song to start your Monday (language warning).

I H0pe 1t’s @ G0od 1.