The Battle

Some fiction for a Thursday night.Western_Mud_Snake

Her heart pounded behind her breastplate. Sweat soaked through her t-shirt as she crouched in the kitchen beside the stove. The once familiar grip of the sword now felt foreign to her. Her crown slid to the side on her damp hair and she straightened it.

The enemy had come. How he had entered her home, she didn’t know. It didn’t matter right now. He was here and her children were slumbering just a few yards away.

“I am not ready for this.” She whispered to herself. What choice did she have? Her eyes focused in the half-light given off by the sword. She scanned the kitchen and the hall beyond. Usually, the Sword of Light shined bright enough to illuminate the entire house, but she hadn’t honed it for some time.

His red eyes flickered has he slithered past the door toward the room where her son lay sleeping. A lump formed in her throat, and she gasped. Her eyes narrowed, fingers tightening around the hilt of her sword. Expertly wielding the blade, she leapt forward swinging it high overhead, she slashed with all her might.

His instincts were quicker than hers, fine-tuned through generations of battle.

He turned on her with a flick of his powerful body. The hatred in his eyes made them glow a deeper red as he stared at her. His breath was rhythmic and deep. A thin smile spread across his black, evil face. He had seen it.

The Sword of Light was growing dim.

“You expect to stop me with that pitiful weapon?” He slithered toward her.

She had no answer. She had tried to defeat him with a failing sword before. It wouldn’t work. How could she have been so careless?

He paused for a moment, seeming to contemplate her, the way a cat contemplates a mouse before it pounces. The sword flickered and its light went out. She was plunged into darkness. Only his eyes were left visible, glowing a dangerous red. Hissing, wicked laughter sounded through the narrow hall. The eyes raised until level with hers. He opened his mouth, in the darkness the fiery darts within shone with an angry flame. He took a deep breath and exhaled. There was no time to react. The darts hit her neck. Venom burned into her veins, tracing a path to her heart.

“You know you don’t win in the end,” she said boldly as she crumbled to the floor. “We already know what happens to you.”

His face was again level with hers. “But, right now, I have you, and if I can get you, I can get your children, and your children’s children.”

Her vision was fading and she knew the voices would come soon, voices that would be nearly impossible to ignore. “You have no real power here. The Master will come. He always has. I am his.” She began to sob. “I am his.”

At the mention of The Master, the serpent gasped but remained strong. “Why don’t you tell me that tomorrow after the darts have done their work?” He silently slid into the darkness as her vision became cloudy and the first of the dreaded voices came to her.

You’re failing, you know that don’t you? Your children are behind in their studies, the dishes are still in the sink from dinner. You’ve not done enough today. Your son needs to go to the dentist and you forgot to make the call again. You’re such a horrible mother. Speaking of phone calls, when is the last time you called your friend? She is going through such a hard time, and you’re selfish. You don’t make enough time for her. You’re failing. You haven’t done enough. Look at you. You’re alone. No one cares. I don’t know why you’re still here. You’re a failure and you always will be.

Tears began to stream down her face. The venom worked through her heart and into her mind. The encounter with the serpent vanished from memory. The words coming to her took on the familiarity of her own voice, inescapable, a part of her. She crawled to the couch and clambered up to the comfortable cushions, the world around her fading faster and faster.

She woke to the soothing sounds of her husband’s voice. “What are you doing out here? Why didn’t you come to bed last night?” She opened her eyes to see his concerned face.

“I…I don’t know. I must have been tired.”

“Do you feel alright?” He helped her to sit up. She looked around, a growing sense of unease filled her heart.

“Yes. I think I’m just tired.”

His look of misgivings didn’t make things any easier for her. “Do you have your sword? Where is your crown?”

“I remember taking them out of the closet last night, but I don’t know where they are now. How strange!”

“I’ll find them.” He left the room.

Thoughts flooded her mind:

He doesn’t care what’s going on. He just wants you to get up and take care of the kids. He doesn’t really care what happens to you. How could he? Look at you.

She peered into the glass coffee table sitting in front of her. She narrowed her eyes and searched her face. Every flaw seemed to stand out, wrinkles, blemishes, and graying hair. She couldn’t believe that she hadn’t noticed it before.

Coming back into the room, he carried her sword and crown. He placed the crown gently on her head and set the sword down on the table. His hands were shaking and she thought she saw tears in his eyes.

“You don’t know why you were on the couch?” He sat down next to her.

“I don’t remember coming out here. Maybe I just couldn’t sleep.” She pulled off her crown. “This is too heavy to wear all the time.” She set it down next to the sword.

Poppies All Along

Poppies

The breeze swept against my sweaty face. Great heaves of breath filled my lungs. I was 12 years old, and the game was on! The familiar red ball rolled its way toward me. I kicked it as hard as I could. It soared over the fence into the neighbor’s yard. Success!

Running barefoot to third base, I was just about to reach the dishtowel we used as a marker when it happened. I stepped on something that made my entire foot feel as though it were on fire.

“Stinging nettle,” mom said when I showed her. “I’ll take care of it. Are you okay? That can be pretty painful.”

She did take care of it. She sprayed it and pulled it out. But kickball was never the same. I never ran at full tilt to reach the base again. Too painful. (Shoes are never an option for me. It won’t happen no matter what…obviously.)

Several years, one husband, and five kids later, I live in a different house with a different yard. I’ve lived there for four years and one of my favorite things about this house is the yard. It’s wild. I mean it. Someone let it go long before I ever got there, and there are wild flowers, meadow grass, saplings, you name it. If it’s native to my area, it’s back there. It hasn’t always been that way. Someone, someone way before cared for this land because there are also perennial flowers. They come back too with no need of my attention. They have integrated among the natives and happily sprout every year.

And there are poppies, red-orange, crepe paper pettled poppies. Poppies that I couldn’t touch, pick, or gather their seed pods because surrounding these poppies on every side was stinging nettle. I remembered stinging nettle. It’s painful. I knew I should avoid it. I warned the kids to stay away from it. And I asked my husband to do everything he could to get rid of it. “It hurts, and I don’t want it around,” I told him.

Every year for four years, the poppy/nettle bed has grown. And every year, for four years, I’ve warned the kids, “Don’t pick the poppies. They’re surrounded by stinging nettle. You’ll get hurt.”

Then, something happened.

I went outside to see my five-year-old waist deep in poppies. “No! Get out of there! You’re going to get hurt!” I yelled as I carefully picked my way over to her. (I wasn’t wearing shoes again.)

I stopped at the edge of the poppy/nettle bed. “See those leaves, the ones with the stuff that looks like hair. Those will hurt you.”

She looked at me. Confusion crossed her face. “No, they don’t, Mommy. They’re soft.” She picked a leaf and held it out to me. “See?”

I took it from her tiny fingers. It was soft. Then I looked closely at the leaves. They were just poppies all along, simple, red-orange, crepe paper pettled, feathery leaved poppies. All of it, every single plant was a flower. Nothing to fear, only flowers. For four years, I had avoided something that would bring me joy, because of something I feared, a past painful experience.

As I walked into the poppy bed with my youngest daughter I thought of all the times I forsaken joy because of fear. There are many. Silent tears began to roll down my cheeks. I’ve avoided friendships because of fear of rejection. I didn’t submit essays for fear of failure. I quit a job because I was afraid to stand up for myself. Many times over the years I’ve allowed a past injury to dictate my present and my future.

Since that experience, I’ve questioned myself. Am I doing it now? Am I avoiding poppies because I think they might be stinging nettle? I can’t let it happen. Life is short, and The Lord never intended that I succumb to fear.

 

What about you? What are you afraid of? What have you avoided doing? What are you doubting? What if they have been poppies all along?

Revealing Gratitude

Gratitude comes difficult for all of us at one point or another. The storms of life overtake us and make the world seem bleak and empty. Our soul becomes weary. Struggles are around every corner. We forget. We forget how blessed we are.

But gratitude is powerful. If we can hang on to gratitude, it becomes the blueprint for our life. The more we express gratitude, the more we realize how much there is to be grateful for. It is a simple formula for happiness.

On a Sunday morning this year, I awoke to the sounds of my four-year-old daughter having a seizure. Fears had driven her to my bed. It lasted roughly 5 minutes. We took her to the emergency room where she had another seizure, but this time it was different. They kept giving her medication to calm her brain – to make it stop.

It wouldn’t stop.

More and more nurses poured into the room. One of them helped me to change her wet panties while the seizure continued.

The worry on the doctor’s face told me what I needed to know. This was bad.

After 25 minutes it finally stopped. She finally lay still. Her breathing was slow and shallow.

They sent for a helicopter to take her to a hospital more equipped to deal with a child with seizure problems.

My husband followed the life flight paramedics out the door and I made a long walk to the car. The hospital was an hour away.

Worry, dread, anxiety, fear, and a great sense of loss filled my heart. I couldn’t imagine what was going to happen.

As I was speeding down the freeway I was listening to a CD. The speaker quoted an essay written by a mother who’d had a disabled child. In the poem she explains that although her life is different than she had planned, she has still found much to be grateful for.

The idea entered my heart and grew.

That’s not exactly true.

The idea exploded from my heart and light filled my whole being. Even in the midst of this potential tragedy, I had much to be grateful for. Even if I lost my beloved daughter, she had come into my life to teach me, to help me grow as a mother and human being. It is from her that I learned to finally have a backbone. It was her life that brought a sort of organized chaos which is beautiful and perfect. Her life colored mine in ways I could never have imagined.

Gratitude made the darkness recede and I began to pray. Once I told My Father how grateful I was for my daughter and her life. I could see how my entire life had been supported by an All-Loving, All-Powerful Being. I was indeed His daughter and I could expect the same kind of care I had received from Him in the past to lead me through this trial and any others that happened to enter my life.

By the time I got to the hospital, my tears of anxiety had turned to tears of gratitude. Things were perfectly clear. My soul was cleansed.

My daughter was released from the hospital on medication and is doing wonderfully well. We watch her and hope and pray for the best.

The lesson of gratitude has stayed with me and brought a light to my life I would have never otherwise discovered.

I desire to teach my children this lesson of gratitude. In doing so, we have started a new tradition this year – a Gratitude Garland. Several nights this month we have sat around the dining room table making things to hang on our garland.

We have shared things that are silly, profound, meaningful, and beautiful. It has allowed us insight into each other’s minds, and it is something I will continue.

Since today is Thanksgiving, I would like to share a few of them with you.

 

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Our Garland

My Daughter's Favorite Class in school

My daughter’s favorite class in school

My four-year-old is grateful for glitter...a lot.

My four-year-old is grateful for glitter…a lot.

Starry nights

Starry nights

This is to represent an egg. Which is to represent new life, birth AND the empty tomb of Christ. (How's that for symbolism?)

This is to represent an egg. Which is to represent new life, birth AND the empty tomb of Christ. (How’s that for symbolism?)

Snowy evenings

Snowy evenings

Music!

Music!

Love!

Love!

Lightning (by my 12 year old)

Lightening (by my 12 year old)

The center piece of our Gratitude Garland. FAMILY!

The center piece of our Gratitude Garland. FAMILY!

The ability to heal.

The ability to heal.

Trees

Trees

Beautiful Sunsets

Beautiful sunsets

Friends

Friends

And last but not least, my daughter. This is a wind chime she made in school.

And last but not least, my daughter. This is a wind chime she made in school.