Finding Life (in obvious places): Packing Up

I’m all packed and ready to go. I stayed in tonight to get ready. A Friday night, with nobody around and nothing on the television. All I can hear are the sounds of my childhood as scenes from my past flash through my mind, with a good bottle of wine to keep them there.

I found a picture of my father, posing next to his motorcycle, just before he ran off with it.

I found a letter from Julie, written when she was in high school, with nineteen exclamation points and seven hearts with arrows in them.

I found a book about Abraham Lincoln my grandmother gave me, with my name printed in pencil, along with “Age 9.”

I found a newspaper clipping about my uncle’s death. The headline read, “Man Shot By Jealous Husband.”

I found a library book that was three years overdue.

I found some poem I had written in high school about a soldier that died.

I found a picture of my mother in a bathing suit, with the words “To My Hubby” written across the top and “I Love You” across the bottom.

I found seven New Testaments given to me by my mother and her friends, the Gideons.

I put everything I found in one of three big boxes I’d gotten from work and poured a cup of wine as I looked at them in the corner, near the door. Now I’m sitting here, looking at the bare walls and empty shelves. Just like when I moved in. Like nothing’s happened.

I can now hear the fat lady singing along with the radio and laughing at the DJs. This wine isn’t as good as the guy said.

Those three boxes are still in the corner of the attic, after all these years. Joined by weights and broken toys and unused appliances — signs of life well spent, now tossed aside. Allison’s paintings of the children and our time together look on somewhat curiously. I haven’t been up there in years, but I wouldn’t let go of them for the world.

“Daddy’s Girls II”  Oil painting of children with father by Kathryn Morris Trotter

 from Gabriela Lima

{This is part of a larger work entitled Finding Life (in obvious places). You can follow the story by clicking on the title in the tags below.}

Finding Life (in obvious places): Telling Julie About the House

Tonight I told Julie about the house. The arrangements had been made. The owners were so eager to sell, all I had to do was sign a few papers and I could move in this weekend. Julie came over to the apartment after dinner and I told her.

“You what?”

“I bought a house. It’s great. Two stories. Old. Like my grandparents’.”


“I don’t know. I’m tired of this place. Listening to the fat lady next door and her radio that plays all night long. I’m tired of the lady that wears curlers and a house robe who borrows my paper and never brings it back. I just want a place of my own.”

“Well, that’s great. I guess.”

“You’re glad.”

“I’m happy if you’re happy.” She put her arms around my neck and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I was glad she’d come over.

“Will you help me move in?”

“Of course. When?”


“This Saturday?”

“Yeah. You busy?”

“Well, no. Saturday’s fine.”

“You think I’m acting impulsively.”

“No. It’s not that. You just. I’m just surprised. You’ve never really mentioned…”

“I know. I hadn’t really thought of it. But when I saw this place, I started thinking about being a kid at my grandparents’ place and I got real excited. A change like this is just what I need.”

“I think you’re right. It’s good you’re getting a place of your own. Like you’re starting to think of the future.”

“Yeah. I don’t know if I can afford it, though.”

“Things’ll work out.  I love you.”

“Yeah, maybe. Heating’s awful expensive.”

“Hey.” She put her hand on my cheek. “Things’ll work out.”

We watched the news and laid around talking about the house. As she left, I watched her drive away. waving through the car window, knowing I’d be watching. She’ll be great helping me move in, arranging the place. She loves arranging things.

Opening the hall closet, I get down the afghan Julie once knit for me. The bright colors have faded through the years and it is more than a bit unraveled. I don’t get it out much, but it still keeps me warm.

 {This post is part of a larger work entitled Finding Life (in obvious places) in first composed in 1985 and now am revising. To follow the story, click on the title in the tags below.}

Preview of Delight in Disorder: Autobiographical Prelude I

I am getting very excited about the publication of my spiritual memoir — Delight in Disorder: Ministry, Madness, Mission which is due for public release in March of 2014.  To give you just a taste of the upcoming feast, I thought I’d share an excerpt from the poetic prelude: “To Nineveh (and back) — A Memoir of Faith and Madness.”

To read more, click on the title below –

“Delight in Disorder Preview: Autobiographical Prelude I”

Social services & the fostering world....many sad children....all they want is a home & people who love them!

from Montana Gypsy

Finding Life (in obvious places)

This afternoon, partially inspired by Leanne Sypes’ post about her accordion-file time capsule, I dug through my big-bin of writings.  Like my mind, there was great disorder — to-do lists from last month crammed in with devotionals from 1983.  Father’s Day notes my daughters had written to me brought a smile to my face, as did love letters from my wife, but mostly I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness.  I am not at all at peace with who I’ve been –  as a husband, a father, a pastor.

To cope, I retreat to my writing studio with a book I found — a book I wrote before becoming all these things, back when I was a 21-year old, single, aspiring writer totally unprepared for the war that would rage within (with mental illness), ill-equipped for responsibilities I would frantically assume.

What follows is the opening of Life (in obvious places).  It is a work of fiction, but as I do not possess a wild imagination, it is firmly based on experience.

To read more, click on the title below…

“Discovering Life (in obvious places)”

The Walk - Fallen leaves - Vincent van Gogh  -  Completion Date: 1889    Place of Creation: Saint-rémy, Provence

“The Walk – Fallen leaves – Vincent van Gogh – Completion Date: 1889 Place of Creation: Saint-rémy, Provence”

from Carlos Leiro in Van Gogh, Picasso, Joan Miro

Our Pre-Game Prayer (or, “Where is Ray Lewis When You Need Him?”)

Before there was March Madness, there was Hoosier Hysteria – the Indiana high school basketball single-class tournament.

It was late February, 1982 in Franklin, Indiana – the first round of the Johnson County sectional.  The Greenwood Woodmen versus the Indian Creek Braves.  Greenwood had travelled to Indian Creek just two weeks earlier and ended the Braves’ three-year undefeated home streak, but the Braves were perennial favorites, having beaten the Woodmen in two consecutive sectionals on controversial last-minute calls.

The team bus from Greenwood to Franklin was abuzz with eager anticipation.  Following the bus was a fan caravan, complete with police escorts, resembling a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade.  Directly behind the team bus was a pick up equipped with a toilet in the bed – a flannel-shirted logger dunking a long-haired, dark-skinned man, complete with sound effects and the sign “Woodmen – Flush the Braves”.

I was in a unique position, with ties to both schools.  I had grown up in Nineveh (one of the towns within the Indian Creek district), but had moved to Greenwood in 7th grade.  I knew all the players and many of the fans on both sides.  But now I was firmly enmeshed in the green-and-gold and to the Indian Creek fans, those were the colors of a traitor.

As the bus pulled up to the entrance, a wall of police had to restrain on-rushing fans to make room for the bus.  With many of the Greenwood fans following us, the crowd assembled was a sea of red-white-and-blue Braves.  They began pointing and making gestures, screaming obscenities and calling us names as we exited the bus.  It was a wall of sound, for which I was grateful.  I couldn’t detect exactly what was being said, and I didn’t really want to know.

We were escorted to the locker room and quickly changed into our uniforms.  Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and  “We Will Rock You” had us jumping around, slapping high-fives and pounding the lockers.

Soon, it was time to gather around the coach for pre-game instructions.  We were given our defensive assignments and some keys to remember.  We were ready to storm out of the locker room and defeat the enemy.

Then, the coach’s voice became really soft.  We quieted down to hear what he was saying.

“Guys, I want you to join me now for a prayer.”

We awkwardly huddled together and knelt down, our heads bowed.

“Almighty Father, we know you have already determined the outcome of this game.  We just pray that you would help us do our best and accept your will.  Amen.”

We raised our heads, and looked at each other.  Was this it?  A pre-determined outcome?  Why bother playing the game?  What about defeating the enemy?  What about claiming the victory?

We went out that night and played perhaps the most lackluster ball we’d played all season.  We were only going through the motions.

We made it close at the end, but we were beaten before it began.