Graffiti HeART

Jane Art

Jane Art Graffiti

Today I found graffiti penciled
on the bathroom wall
it says
I love you.

I wanted to scold you
make you clean the wall
but I think I’ll keep it there
watch it fade
as you grow taller

When I was in school
I never found such loving words etched
on metal bathroom stalls
or carefully carved on table tops

secretly I wished it was my name
carved beside some boy’s
a displaced longing for love

I wished to give my valentine heart,
and macaroni coated Christmas cards
to my mother
they never made it to the fridge for display
with sticky tape or food encrusted magnets
they merely
disappeared
scrubbed away from public viewing

When I became mom-age
I spray painted a heart over my heart
left room for your own scented marker designs
and chalk drawings

That’s when it happened
finger prints
sand shifted into tiny colorful hand pictures
floor littered with Kleenex smile-kiss-prints
and teardrop smudged watercolor rainbows

you grabbed my hand
pulled me back from an impressionist’s rendition of love art
little finger dots
cool aide splashes
mother and daughter timelessly giggling
Monet would call it
woman and child in color
the scene did not change
but you did
and
in I-Spy fashion you saw it!

I love you too.

Who Will Be My Brother?

1jesus_on_crossNote:  This is part 5 of the incredible miracle of how my daughter survived the bubonic plague and how our family became vessels for an infection of Love.  If you are just now joining us click Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, A Time for Everything, or Part 4.  Don’t forget the Kleenex!

A long time ago someone told me that the saying, “Blood is thicker than water,” actually comes from this saying:

The blood of the Cross is thicker than the water of the womb.

I have never found the source of this quote so if you know it, please feel free to share it!

Feeling so alone, I seemingly crawled back to the Ronald McDonald House, exhausted and heartbroken that Sierra was in so much pain.   I needed sleep badly, so I could be there for her, but before I could do that I had to call out to my brothers and sisters.

Oh my Jesus, how I need you now.

It is a strange and mystical thing being a Christian because we really do share the same Blood.  ” But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)   If I told you how many times a brother or sister recognized Christ in me, or joined me in a divine appointment, or was supernaturally there at the right place and the right time it would fill up my blog!

My favorite moments, however, are when I hear Christ speaking through my brothers and sisters.  Once I traveled to speak to another group of believers in another town.  An elderly Jewish woman asked each one of us, “Don’t I know you?”  At first we all thought it was the ramblings of an old woman, until God opened my eyes and ears and I saw and heard Jesus asking the question.  To this day when someone asks me, Don’t I know you?  I stop in my tracks and give my full attention!  And the answer is almost always, “Yes!  I do know you!”

So, slowly and painstakingly I typed out on Facebook what had transpired in the last three days.  My fingers felt like lead as I called out into the night.  Invisible dark things and dark voices seemed to laugh at me, taunting me as I took the risk to ask for help.  It didn’t take long as people I had never known before joined the ranks as kinsman redeemer to answer my plea.  Every prayer, every word of encouragement, every Amen, hallelujah, Go! Jesus, Go! mattered!  One of the first responders was Sierra’s old kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Faber.  This woman immediately prayed and interceded on Sierra’s behalf throughout the long nights.  I continued to pour out updates and requests as the battle for a little life ensued.

He lifts up a banner for the distant nations, he whistles for those at the ends of the earth. Here they come, swiftly and speedily!  Isaiah 5:26

Then God began to bring me closer into His embrace and my own heart longings were answered as my sister reached out to me and my family and became my spokes person on days when I could not do anything but hold Sierra’s hands.  My family and Sean’s family surrounded us and we all stood together, confronting an ancient and historic black death.

Our comrades in other states and countries began to reach out to us too.  Through the mist of this world’s shadow God sent us a message before we knew whether or not this was the plague, not in an ancient scroll or through an angelic being, but in a modern-day text message.  God is so cool.  Here’s the message:

“I felt it appropriate to share a vision I had the first night we heard about Sierra. Sean confirmed it when I spoke to him but I did not feel comfortable enough to share. We heard she was life flighted and we started praying. While [my wife] prayed I had the vision and started laughing. She thought it odd and stopped to ask me what I was laughing at. I saw Sierra. She was older… say 14 or 15. If you can imagine she was even more beautiful than now. She was leaning against a wall wearing a long black sleep shirt and it read ‘The Black Death has NOTHING on Me and My God!’ I then was overcome with peace and laughter.”

We hadn’t announced that this was the plague when I received that text message from a dear brother in Christ!

It is especially magical, the kind of deep magic C.S. Lewis talks about in The Chronicles of Narnia, to call seemingly strangers, brother or sister.  But it is this special unifying quality that binds together God’s people so that when the time calls for it—- we gather, we help, we provide, we pray.  Our Dad is King after all!

The trauma of Sierra’s seizure was especially hard on her daddy.  Sean couldn’t shake the visual image of Sierra unconscious in his arms that first night.  He cried out to God for a bit of joy and the second he had finished his request in walked a nurse named Joy!  

Oh Jesus, you care right now about what we are doing and what we need.  You hold us when we don’t even know it.

Boo and sulley 1

Sierra’s Sulley! Not quite as hairy though!

Sierra was a fighter but there came a point when we knew we needed back up.  My two older daughters went to my dad’s house near Denver while we stayed in the hospital and Sean’s parents were in Pagosa getting us moved into our new house.

Knowing we have three little girls and only two grandpas, God sent us a third; Steve.  If you have ever had the pleasure of seeing Sierra and Steve go shopping together, it would have reminded you instantly of Boo and Sulley from Monsters Inc.

Steve had texted me that he was thinking of flying in and I simply texted him back, “Do it.”

Steve arrived that day.  It was touching and shattered my heart when he entered the room and a groggy Sierra used what little strength she had to try to reach up and hug Steve’s neck.  They have been buddies since she was four and God decided to use this event to bring us all back together.

Steve and Sean teamed up and we alternated every-other-night in the PICU.  There were nights when the battle was intense but it wasn’t more real than the day Sierra’s breathing tube slipped back into her lungs!

A summer to remember 107

Steve made up a game called “Balloon Ball” to help Sierra during physical therapy.

More doctors than usual surrounded Sierra and we were all checking her numbers on her heart rate and I noticed that Sierra was turning blue.  I stood at the foot of her bed with Sean on one side of me and Steve on the other side while one doctor worked to get Sierra breathing.  They pulled out the breathing tube and I locked eyes with Dr. Robeless and all I could think was, You chose this woman to do this job, Lord.  That is her hand pumping air into my daughter and that is Your hand.  Time seemed to stop as we all fell silent and watched air first fill Sierra’s tummy and slowly, slowly move into her lungs until she began to take in the oxygen.  Her color returned to her cheeks and life flowed through her body and the battle changed!  If I remember right, I think that was the seventh day… and that night we rested!

Wrap Me Up in Prayer!

A summer to remember 103

The prayer quilt sent to us from Grace Church.

Within just a few days of our stay in the hospital a prayer quilt arrived.  I was so thankful because even in the middle of summer, hospitals are cold!  Sierra’s kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Faber, ordered a quilt and another sister delivered: Ellen Charnley and her team of prayer warriors from Grace Church!  Ellen became a very active ally as prayer requests went forth.

Samuel's kids

Ssengooba Samuel Mugabi with the children who prayed for Sierra. “God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing….” Psalm 68:6

Another blanket of prayer came in on the breeze of summer.  This blanket of prayer came from afar, in the land of Kampala, Uganda.  A little orphanage I had never known heard about Sierra’s illness and made it their business to fight for Sierra every day, raising the battle standard of prayer!  This was a genuine act by a group of children (Click this LINK to meet them.) and their pastor to reach the heavenly places and deliver prayers to a God who rides with a banner called Love!  I wept.  Often I wept.  Again, mystically we all gathered together beneath one banner, for one purpose, and prayed.  There is no other kingdom where such unity can occur– here is the place where the kingdom cannot be shaken– Love.

Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner.  Ex 17:15

But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.  Psalm 60:4

Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love.  Song of Songs 2:4

Like Sierra, these orphaned children need help too, so I am including a link to their page HERE where you can help them get the food, resources and medical attention they desperately need.  To this day I still chat with Samuel and we encourage each other across the world.   God’s kingdom has no dividing lines, even if part of it is on the other side of the world.

Quilts 004The day after we moved out of the PICU another prayer quilt arrived.

Sierra was getting stronger and had started physical therapy.  Sean returned from the Ronald McDonald House with a package carefully tucked beneath his arm.  I curled up on the bed with her and we opened the package.  No one knew about the Snow White metaphors– no one.  So when I opened up the package and unfolded the Snow White quilt I was so surprised, and I am certain there was a twinkle in my Lord’s eye~  Oh God, how you love us.

Wrapped in the quilt was this letter:

Dear Sierra Jane,

This quilt was made by the Prayer Quilt Ministry at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church.  It has a picture of Snow White on it.  I hope you like it!

As you probably know, Snow White was a very beautiful young lady.  She had a very sweet and giving heart.  Animals loved her as did everyone who knew her…except the wicked stepmother.  The wicked stepmother was beautiful on the outside, but rotten on the inside.  She wanted to be the most beautiful person in the land, but she didn’t understand that to be truly beautiful you have to be beautiful on the inside too.  She thought that by killing Snow White, she could claim to be the most beautiful person in the land.  She gave Snow White a poison apple, one that, like her, was beautiful on the outside but rotten on the inside.  Snow White ate it and became very ill.  Some thought she had died.  But she had one very important weapon against evil.  That weapon was love.  In the end, love saved her.

Quilts 002You are like Snow White who has been saved from a very nasty disease by love. You have received God’s love in many, many ways. Your dad and sisters who rushed you to the hospital, your mom who has been by your side the whole time, the doctors and nurses who found the right drugs to give you to make you well, the hundreds of people who have been praying for you, the wonderful people who have sent you cards and gifts, the folks who have contributed money to help pay the doctors, the people who helped move your things into your new house, all of these acts of love are because we love you and your family so much. We all love you and want you to get well as quickly as you can!

The prayer quilt was prayed over while it was made, it was placed on the altar at church during our Sunday morning service and Fr. Doug blessed it and we all said a prayer for you.  Then it was taken to the parish hall where individuals said a prayer and tied a knot in the strings as a sign of their prayer.  I hope you find comfort in it and that it reminds you that you are very, very loved!  Get well soon, sweetheart!

In Christ, 

Sally Neel

Sierra and I both wept into each others arms.  It is a memory I will cherish for eternity.  She understood the metaphor and everything God had done to save her.  She snuggled up in the blanket insisting, as she drifted off to sleep, that we hang the letter in her room…and it is still there to this day.

who will be my brother

Snow White calls to her people, “Who will be my brother!?” Image from Snow White and the Huntsman

Later that week when we would arrive home in Pagosa, Sean and I would watch the new Snow White and the Huntsman and hear these prophetic words ring out from the film

Death favors no man. We must ride like thundering waves under the tented battle flag of my father.  ~Snow White 

Iron will melt, but it will writhe inside of itself! All these years, all I’ve known is darkness. But I have never seen a brighter light than when my eyes just opened. And I know that light burns in all of you! Those embers must turn to flame. Iron into sword! …  I’d rather die today than live another day of this death! And who will ride with me? Who will be my brother?                ~Snow White after being kissed awake.  

There is still much to share, much to say, people I have left out on the page but certainly not in my heart.  We rode far.  We rode long.  If you wish to view some of my kinsman who fought by my side please click this link to the event, Sierra Jane: God’s Super Star.  And to those of you who prayed, stood in the gap, loved us at all cost,

Now that the worst is over, we’re pleased we can report that we’ve come out of this with conscience and faith intact, and can face the world—and even more importantly, face you with our heads held high. But it wasn’t by any fancy footwork on our part. It was God who kept us focused on him, uncompromised. Don’t try to read between the lines or look for hidden meanings in this letter. We’re writing plain, unembellished truth, hoping that you’ll now see the whole picture as well as you’ve seen some of the details. We want you to be as proud of us as we are of you when we stand together before our Master Jesus.  2 Cor 1: 12-14 The Message

Until the next battle…..snow white hunt

Of Lice, Skunks and Squirrels

This is Part 3 of the incredible miracle of how my daughter survived the bubonic plague and how our family became vessels for an infection of Love.  Start at the beginning if you’re just now joining us. Click : Part 1 or Part 2 .

110

A Colorado Shasta Daisy from our picnic in the woods.

The summer was hot and dry like my spirit.  The Forth of July parade arrived and we decided to help the Daisy troop out on the parade float.  This was the very last thing I should have ever committed to, but I was seeing those little Daisies and the cow eyes of my own three daughters, and decided to take a day off from working on the house.  

Now, I have been very active in Girl Scouts, and I wish I could say that once you turn twenty (or even forty for that matter) that bullying between women stops– it doesn’t.  I was so exhausted from trying to do the right thing.  However, if I am honest, my exhaustion stemmed from “taking over” and always trying to fix things.  I had so many walls up around my heart that I had convinced myself those walls were catapults and that everything I launched myself into was for the good of all.

I ended up doing the float myself, with my family and one other parent and two other girls.  Now, that’s not the Girl Scout way.  Sometimes we can’t make people happy and I had to learn when to stop trying.  This realization was my introduction to a pretty tough lesson.

Earlier in the year we had committed to attend Girl Scout camp.  So, in the middle of renovations on our new home, I headed to Girl Scout camp with all three of my daughters and my Girl Scout troop.  It was awesome!  I watched in awe as my oldest daughter scampered off  and became the leader of a small band of scouts, scaling mountain sides, swinging on ropes like Tarzan’s Jane and leading the entire camp in a song or two.  My middle daughter came out of her cocoon and joined her troop in a skit and original song and Sierra was fearless.  She was the youngest scout in attendance and scaled mountain sides and embraced the zip line like an old friend.  I was proud.

Sierra, fearless on the zip-line at Girl Scout camp.

Sierra, fearless on the zip-line at Girl Scout camp.

Tiarra, my middle daughter at Girl Scout camp.

Tiarra, my middle daughter at Girl Scout camp.

Brianna, my oldest.

Brianna, my oldest.

The last day of camp arrived, and my close friend and fellow camp leader transformed into a metaphorical Joshua before my very eyes.

Now Joshua… was filled with the spirit of wisdom….  Deuteronomy 34:9

She took a risk and told me the truth.  She explained that I never let anyone fall or fail.  I was always stepping in rescuing everyone so that they couldn’t be held accountable.  I understood that I was trying to become everyone’s savior.  That’s not easy to admit; I was the one in the way.  My ego and I went for a walk in the woods and we cried and cried together because she was right.

Thankfully, I had a friend who was willing to tell me the truth.

friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.  Proverbs 17:17

Thank you K.

Seeing the walls for the first time was sobering and I somehow managed to gather up the pieces of my ego and stuff them into my backpack.  The girls and I loaded up happy, smelly and tired, and a little bit wiser and stronger than before.  Little did we know we were also bringing a few new friends home with us!

Have you ever washed everything you own in one day?  I didn’t realize we had head lice until two days after we got home.  That means everything had to be washed.  It cost me $80.00 at the laundromat to wash everything.  For us, that was a fortune!  Before the laundromat we stood in the kitchen all in a line, combing, combing, combing… and crying.  I hate head lice!  My husband and I were losing patience and tension was increasing as the time was ticking away.

After the Great Washing, I decided to keep everything in trash bags.  So sleeping bags, stuffed animals and clothes we didn’t need remained in big black trash bags.  Hey!  That’s a step toward packing right?

The month ebbed away the days on the calendar and I was shocked when August arrived.  More painting and repairing.  Then one day, while at our old house, the girls came running into the house going on about a skunk.  We cautiously followed them outside to our culvert and there lay a live skunk.  Either the skunk had rabies or had been hit by a car.  My husband became very sad because it looked like a skunk that had been coming by to say hi in the evenings as he played his guitar on the back porch.  I think as we get older our hearts get softer about certain things.

The skunk was taken care of and our safari of animal exposures continued.

At the new house a week or so later, the girls decided to clean out the chicken coup.  They were making the place clean so they could hatch an egg a neighbor gave the girls.  They placed the eggs in drawers and covered them with a surrogate mother; a stuffed owl! In our frazzled state, I didn’t even think about the possibility of mouse droppings being present or junta virus.

Finally, after working a week straight, we decided to take a Sunday off.  We loaded up the girls and decided to go to our favorite campground for a picnic.  On our way to Williams Creek Reservoir, my husband pulled over just off of a forest service road.  We all piled out of the truck wondering what he was up to.

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.  Leviticus 25:38

Cimarrona camp ground at William's Creek Reservoir.

Cimarrona camp ground at William’s Creek Reservoir.

“Everyone needs to find a stone to carry up the trail.  I will tell you why once we get there,” he said.

We all found our stone while our middle daughter chose a tiny pebble.  My husband challenged her by commenting, “Maybe the weight of your stone will matter when we get there.  It is easier to carry a small pebble,yes,  but what if it’s worth it to invest your energy and strength toward something greater?”  I watched her think about what he said and exchange her pebble for a stone a little larger than her hand.  We followed him up the trail in the August heat.  When we got to the top, a beautiful little valley greeted us.  We set our stones down at our feet and listened as my husband explained why we were there.

“Seven years ago this summer, God brought me to this very spot,” he said pointing.

“He told me, ‘I will give you the land.’  And He has!  God has given us our little farm with a chicken coup and goat pin and even a well,” he smiled with a twinkle in his eye.

“God promised another man land once,” he explained.  “His name was Joshua.  Joshua had to take a large group of people with him and cross the Jordan River.  Once they crossed the river, Joshua had twelve men from each tribe in the group find a stone a lot like the one you have now.  He had them place the stones into a pile as an alter of remembrance.  This alter is to honor God for His promises and to make sure we never forget what He has done for us.”

 …’Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan.  Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.’

So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them… Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.  The prophet Joshua 4: 4-9

My husband prayed and we thanked God as we each set our stones in a pile, our very own little altar of remembrance, and they are there to this day.

Me, at Cimarrona camp ground at William's Creek Reservoir.

Me, at Cimarrona camp ground at William’s Creek Reservoir.

That was the same day that Sierra was bitten by the fleas that carried the bubonic plague.

Walk with me, and lets look at God’s loving kindnesses together.  He never left me or my daughter… He has never left you either….

Part 4 is on the way if I can find the keyboard through these tears!

Click HERE to read the next segment, A Time for Everything

My Buddy, Joshua

This is part 2 of the incredible miracle of how my daughter survived the bubonic plague and how our family became vessels for an infection of Love.  Please click this link to read part 1.

When friends would ask, What are you doing this summer?”  I would laughingly answer them with, “We’re crossing over to the other side and moving to Aspen Springs!”  Aspen Springs has a reputation for housing the rebels and rowdies of our community. I had no idea what I was saying until God started leading me slowly and intentionally through the book of Joshua.

Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.  I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses….  No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.  The Prophet Joshua 1: 2-6

Image

A reassigned desolate inheritance! Our new home with old Christmas lights and a rainbow to boot!

Why is that profound?  Because seven years ago we returned from a different kind of promised land.  We had moved to New England selling as much as we could live without following God to the east coast.  Our last toll booth was even called the “Canaan Toll.”  However, as it turns out, that was not our promised land and that is also an incredible story I will tell another time.  Now, however, at this moment God is all about restoring the land to His people; literal and spiritual.

Alone one night in the house, I called out to God and asked him to show me what He was doing.

 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Okay God, I remember thinking.  I am weak and tired and exhausted and poor and lonely, but I will be strong and courageous.  I would often stay overnight in our camper so I could get up early and work in the cool of the morning while Sean stayed with the girls at the other house.  Meanwhile, God continued to lead me through Joshua and every night that I soaked in the bible He would guide me back to these words

Be strong and very courageous!

I remember thinking to myself, Okay Lord, but this is just physical exhaustion!  I can do this!  We stripped walls, repaired holes, pulled out nails, loaded up a 28 footer trailer three different times with trash and heavy furniture that had been left by previous occupants.  I painted every single ceiling, primed one of the bathrooms (the master bathroom is still in its pre-livable state but the shower works!), repaired half eaten trim (pretty sure those were doggie bite marks), pulled out all of the toilets and the bathroom sink, the oven, the washer and dryer that were left behind and the list goes on. I was so tired.  In the midst of it all God gave me a scripture that I held onto for energy and courage.  I printed off those lively words and slapped them onto the fridge (the only movable appliance that remained in the house) where it still hangs today.

The fortress will be abandoned,

Sierra and I transplanting flowers and shrubs.

Sierra and I transplanting flowers and shrubs.

the noisy city deserted;
citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever,
the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks,
 till the Spirit is poured on us from on high,
and the desert becomes a fertile field,
and the fertile field seems like a forest.
 The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert,
his righteousness live in the fertile field.
 The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.
 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.
 Though hail flattens the forest
and the city is leveled completely,
 how blessed you will be,
sowing your seed by every stream,
and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.

The Prophet Isaiah 32:14-20

I felt like Joshua and I were palls hanging out with each other from different dimensions in time.

This may be hard to believe, but the day after reading about the prostitute Rahab, (see Joshua 2, Rahab and the Spies)a woman,  labeled by neighbors as having similar talents as Rahab, rode her mustang onto the property.  She looked rough as she offered me her name and a drink from her whisky flask.  I declined as she introduced me to her mustang who she had rescued from a neglectful and abusive owner.

“I hope you will be my friend,” she said.   Those words awakened my conscience and deep inside of my spirit I understood that they weren’t really meant for me; they were meant for Christ.

Judgement.  I had plenty of it for that woman and with no room to judge if you knew my past!  When I sensed His heart for her I felt terrible about my judgement.  God reminded me that even the prostitute Rahab was given grace and the incredible honor of being part of the lineage of Christ.  I repented again.  Sadly, I haven’t seen her since.

Two months is all we had to get the house ready,

Brianna, Tiarra and Sierra saying hello to our neighbor's horses.

Brianna, Tiarra and Sierra saying hello to our neighbor’s horses.

and our time was about up!

My attention was definitely on my surroundings though, as God continued His object lessons for my benefit from the book of Joshua.  The next thing I knew, I was reading about the walls of Jericho and wondering what the heck God was trying to tell me.  I would find out, but not there; not in Pagosa.

Hang on!  It’s just gettin‘ good!  Click HERE to read Part 3, Of Lice, Skunks and Squirrels.

Charlie’s in the Lost and Found

I was working at Wilson’s Leather and Suede, finishing a wall display when they walked into the store. A rough-looking couple began drilling my manager on the quality of cow hide as they checked out the new biker jackets we had just put out for Christmas.  I noticed a little blond head bobbing in between the racks of coats.  A dirty little 4-year-old face peeked around a black lamb skin bomber.  His eyes soaked in everything, brown and warm, he reminded me of an abandoned puppy dog.  I smiled and playfully gave up his hiding spot, “I see yooouuu.”  He smiled back at me and it froze and abruptly disappeared as if caught in the act of some crime.

While this child is not Charlie, he represents many of the abused children we see today.

         With his parents distracted, he followed me like a puppy throughout the store, searching for the location of his parents at every turn.  His tight little fists were white from holding on to whatever trinket lay within.  “What’s your name?” I asked as I straightened another rack.  “Charlie,” he said, scared at the sound of his own voice. I told him my name and we talked about Christmas together and reindeer and Santa.  He lifted up his hands, in an act of trust, to tell me his age but stopped himself as he remembered the trinkets in his hands.

“What ya got there?” I asked.  He nervously looked over at his parents who were occupied with the trying on of coats.  Satisfied he slowly un-curled the fingers of one hand.  Cigarette burns lined the palm of his hand and forearm.  “Where did you get these?” I asked coolly, thankful for my acting skills because everything in me wanted to scoop him up, take him home and keep him.  He looked over at his parents and back into my eyes, pleading without words for me to help him.

          I quickly regained my composure, and then suddenly they were leaving.  With my heart pounding I coolly tried to convince them to hold the coats they were looking at “because it would be such a disappointment to return and find them gone,” I said with my best retailing skills.  I handed them the hold slip hoping to get a name.  They weren’t buying.  They roughly grabbed Charlie by the coat and half -dragged him out of the store.  The last thing I saw were those warm chocolate eyes pleading with me to save him.

          I’ll follow them, I thought.  I didn’t have time to tell my manager anything, so I told her I needed a Coke, and I quickly walked out into the Christmas mall mob. My mind worked fast as I frantically searched for the little blond bobbing head, I’ll get their license plate number and report them.  But somewhere in the Christmas shopping crowd Charlie and his little hands and pleading eyes disappeared.  I never saw him or his parents again.  That was the Christmas season of 1995.  A year doesn’t go by that doesn’t include prayers for Charlie; he would be about 21 years old today.  May he be found by God.

Merry Christmas Charlie.

God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me […and Charlie]!  Psalm 66: 19-20

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