To The Wild Rose Press!! That’s right, the publisher of What the River Knows has elected to take on further editing, cover and marketing of More Than a Point of Honor. So for a while, if you look for it on Amazon, you won’t find it. Hopefully, the process will move quickly, and you can get the “new and improved” version soon. In publishing terms, though, that probably means a year or so. They did such a fantastic job with River, though, that the wait will be worth it! I’ll be working with my wonderful previous editor, and with luck, might get my same cover artist. At any rate, The Wild Rose Press is fantastic to work with, personal and business-like at the same time.
The recent headlines about the tensions in North Korea reminded me that similar headlines appeared when I was writing The Judas Seat. For a while, I wondered if life imitated art instead of the other way around. Still, the situation regarding North Korea is delicate. A comment taken wrong, misreading a tweet, misinterpreting an action: these could lead to Armageddon. Or we could stay in the uneasy balance we have lived with for many years. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to tell the ones you care about that you love them. Just in case.
(I began this series many years ago. However, the lessons bear repeating.)
Three years ago during the holiday season, I was impressed by the Christmas-light-wrapped evergreen trees in what used to be called Pelican Park, just north of the swimming pool. To me that Christmas the variety of the trees and the lights called to mind and celebrated the diversity of humanity.
This year, the trees are showing me a different lesson — the fact that, despite our diversity, we all share certain commonalities, that the differences between us blur as life passes on. For instance, with the passing of time, the bulbs faded, to the point that the pink and red are almost indistinguishable. You have to look close to tell the difference between the white and yellow, or the blue and green. As they burnt out, bulbs have been replaced on the strings of lights. When the proper colors were not available, substitutes were used. Therefore, this season, we have some white lights among the pink, some yellow among the orange, some green among the blue. This is exactly the way humans are becoming. Very few of us, especially in the melting pot we call America, are of pure heritage. In fact, some of us celebrate the diversity of our ancestors, serving the lutefisk of our Swedish heritage alongside the tamales of our Mexican forebears.
There are other blendings not so obvious. Some of us come from a farming background, but may share more of that childhood in common with a city child from Arkansas than we do with a child from today’s family corporation farm. That child may have more in common with the child of a Wall Street banker than with my father, who farmed from the twenties to the sixties. Those from around the world who are alumni of a particular school may be more similar, at least on game day, than they are to their neighbors. Single parents across the country, even across the world, share concerns that the married couple across the street will never experience. All parents, married or single, share common fears and hopes. All children, from toddlers to octogenarians, who have lost a parent feel a common loss.
And there is a deeper lesson, beyond the trappings of the now imperfect lights. Once those trees were just saplings, twenty or thirty feet apart. Now, not only have their root systems intertwined, the trees themselves touch. They are growing closer together, and they will continue to do so. As humans age, we also grow closer to those around us, if we allow ourselves to do so. As youngsters, we distrusted those different from us. They appeared different, therefore they could not be at all like me. Yet, as years go by and experiences shape us, just like the wind and rain and lightning and heavy snow shape this grove of trees, we grow closer together, no longer isolated individuals, but a cohesive group that draws shelter from our similarities and no longer fears our differences.
Just as it did three years ago, the same sun still shines on these trees, and the same Son still shines His light for all humanity. These trees still draw their nourishment from the source underground, and all humankind has the opportunity to draw on the same stream of Living Water. The Bible says that every man shall acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Until that day comes, I hope that we can all continue to grow together and find our common ground. And that is lesson two of the evergreen grove — harmony and hope.
Bart the wimpy dog turned 10 years old today. You can see it when you look closely at him. Much of the gold on his face has turned to silver, but he wears it well because he’s blond. He shows his age when he goes down steep stairs and the wrinkles around his jowls. He’s in no rush to get up in the morning, content to stay in the warm, thermal foam mattress topper rather than jump down to the cold floor. When I leave for work, he settles himself on the couch, where he stays till I come home—unless he goes back to the bed. He no longer bounds to meet me at the door when I get home, instead waiting for me to come to him on the couch or the bed.
And yet, when he gets a human on the end of a leash, he’s a puppy, bounding ahead with joy, tail waving like a flag. He explores the news on every tree and bush, and approaches people on the trail certain each one wants to be his new best friend. Every task I undertake finds him at my side, eager to help. Just today, as I ate my 6” sub sandwich for lunch, a worker came to the door to mark utility lines so I could avoid hitting the lines on a fencing project. When I came back in ten minutes later, Bart appeared happy, and my sandwich was no longer on the kitchen table. The only evidence was a piece of lettuce and part of the wrapper on the floor.
Happy birthday, Bart. Here’s to many more years of being my exercise accountability partner, my cuddle buddy, my confidant and critic. Sorry I didn’t put a candle in that sandwich for you.
The dog boots I ordered during the blizzard came the day after life went back to normal. Snow had been cleared from the roads, melting began and I went back to work. Then the dog boots arrived.
Anxious to see Bart’s reaction, I slipped the boots on his front paws, which was about as easy as putting shoes on a two-year-old child that wants to go barefoot. Finally, both boots were cinched on. He lowered himself from the couch and began to paddle his way to the front door, lifting each paw up around his ears with each step. When I could stop laughing enough to find the leash, I snapped it on him.
Evidently, his trek from couch to door had told him the boots cushioned his feet. He bounded down the front steps, still covered in snow, and pranced all around the snow in the driveway and yard. His paws hitting the snow sounded like a shod Clydesdale on a brick street. I told him “short walk,” and he trotted across the street to make our usual circle of two trees, a fence row, an alley and a big tree. That’s when I discovered that the boots helped him stay on top of the crusty snow, while my shoes, plus the fact that my weight was concentrated on two feet instead of four, caused me to break through. I was huffing and puffing by the time we made it to the alley at the top of the hill.
When we got back to the house, I stood with my sides heaving like I had just run the Kentucky Derby. Which is a whole lot easier to train for, at a mile and a quarter, than a marathon of 26 miles, but that’s another philosophical discussion. Bart paced into the bedroom, plopped down on his dog cushion, and immediately began to gnaw on his boots. I guess even dog boots need breaking in. I took them off him and put them up for the next walk.
This morning when I woke up and looked out the window, it was another glorious spring day—in February! Crocuses bloomed in my flower bed and it promised to be a great day for a walk. And that made me think about how often we pray for weather (let it be cold, let it be warm, let it rain, let it not rain). Personally, I like the warm winter we’ve been having, but there is a down side to it. Some plants need a certain number of cold days to bloom properly in the spring. If we don’t get enough cold days, we’ll have more bugs of the annoying kind. We could take it further to the economic impact of those who depend on selling items needed in cold weather. There’s also the problem that the warmth fools plants, animals and insects into believing it really is spring and then—whammo. Kansas weather changes hit, and it’s below freezing for a solid week, killing the tender buds and baby animals.
We plead for outcomes all the time, even for sporting events. I can imagine God saying, “Really, you want that team to win?” Yet, how many times has God provided not what we want, but what we NEED. For instance, seventeen years ago, I prayed that God would hold my marriage together, despite our problems. Yet God provided what my husband and I needed, not what we wanted. Neither of us would have grown as persons had we stayed together. We had become like an ill-fitting shoe and a sore foot. It was time to change.
Twelve years later, when my new-found love Charles was facing leukemia, I prayed he would be healed, that we could share our lives for many years. God healed him—by taking him home, and we had only five months. Yet both of us learned profound truths in those five months, and we lived our many years together in that short few weeks.
A few years ago, a spring blizzard we didn’t believe would materialize dumped 28 inches of snow on our town, and led to our mad rush stopping for three days, as, trapped in our homes, we marveled at this reminder of Who is really in charge.
Sometimes I have prayed to be spared certain experiences, and yet, those have often been the very experiences I now cherish. As Garth Brooks sings, “Sometimes I thank God, for unanswered prayer … Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” When has God not answered your prayers the way you wanted, and you later gave thanks for that?