Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant when he said, "Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it"? (Mark 10:15 NIV)
Imagine a little child. Maybe you're looking at one or holding her in your lap. What makes her childlike? Her trust, definitely. If you are her parent, her heart is wide open to you. She expects you to answer when she cries or says your name. She knows that even when she shows you the worst of herself, you will continue to love her. He probably doesn't worry. He's innocent--unless something has gone horribly wrong. He's humble. He knows he's a child, he's content to be one, and he's confident in his identity as a son.
But boy or girl and regardless of experience, they have this thing in common--a vibrant imagination. Unfortunately, many of us lose touch with our imaginations over time.
Jesus said the greatest commandment in the Law is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." All. He wants every square inch, every ounce of passion. Your full self. All your thinking capacity. Your logic and your imagination.
The morning after the tornado came through, we were all a little dull from lack of sleep and that hollow feeling you get after a trauma. Brandon left early for work. Text messages rolled in from friends asking how they could help.
Foggy-brained and feeling lost without Brandon, I didn't know how to answer. I'd never cleaned up after a storm. Not a literal one, anyway. And so I thanked them and told them we were okay. Even if it wasn't true at the moment, it would be in a few days.
The night after the tornado, we ate a lukewarm dinner in the dark. We slept a few hours, waking in the early morning to a series of text messages heralding a fresh wave of tornado warnings. This time we heeded them.
After a stop at the restroom, we all headed back out to Brandon’s metal shop. Mom, Dad, and Kelsay (our friend who lived with my parents at the time) joined us until the worst had passed. It wasn’t comfortable. The concrete floor was hard, the air around us cool and dark, but we were safe and content.
I was reminded of Noah’s ark—a place of safety in the storm, a symbol of our ultimate salvation. Just as there is a story behind the ark, there is a story behind Brandon’s building.
Four weeks ago today, a series of storms blew through North Louisiana, producing several tornadoes. My family shares property with my parents in a small community marked by a flashing light, a couple of churches, and a new Dollar General. We essentially live in Middle of Nowhere, Louisiana, which seems to be a tiny tornado alley of sorts.
A belief is like a seed. Throw it into the soil of the mind. Wait. In time, the belief yields the fruit of behavior. As the nature of the fruit depends upon the nature of the seed, so the nature of the behavior depends upon the nature of the belief.
All beliefs bear fruit eventually, no matter how deep you bury them.
Journaling is often described as a lost or dying art. Maybe it is. I lack necessary statistics to prove or disprove that hypothesis, but I don't know many people who do it. My mom. My mentor. A couple of my friends.
The reason for this, I think, is that journaling is a discipline before it's an art, and discipline is dying.
It's understandable, if you think about it. There are countless demands on our time and energy. It's kind of a miracle you're even reading this post right now. The mere act of reading demands your time and mental real estate, and what you're reading is about yet another discipline in addition to the ones already on your plate. Not to mention, this particular discipline reeks with the odor of your middle school classroom and all its unpleasantness.
I mean, what adult wants to assign themselves homework, right? (Besides me.) Who has time to doodle in a notebook for 20 minutes several days a week--or ever--when they're already trying to exercise, eat healthy, pray, read more books, and organize their homes while working, parenting, and sleeping enough to stay alive? Not to mention keeping up with The Voice and scrolling the Facebook newsfeed...
Adulting is hard.
But you know what I've learned about myself? I have time to do the things I want to do. I always have. When I was a full time music student, a part time piano and voice teacher, a children's minister, and had a 30 minute commute (minimum) everywhere I had to go. When I was a working mom. When I was so sick I could barely pick up a pen.
I want to journal, so I do.
But WHY do it?
Throughout the centuries, people have journaled for many reasons. To preserve history, for one. For entertainment. For posterity. The written word is longer-lasting than the human body, so people write what they want to be remembered.
Today, psychologists tell us that journaling is good for our health. It relieves stress and depression, and strengthens immune cells. Some research indicates journaling actually relieves the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
But I don't journal for those reasons. As a believer in Christ, I don't feel pressure to be remembered. And I don't write as a perk to my health.
I write because I must. I need to write like I need to eat. Well...almost.
(I realize I am not the norm.)
That being said, I do have reasons to journal in addition to blogging, Facebooking, tweeting, texting, emailing, and novel...ing.
My Journaling History
I began to write poems, short vignettes, and various tidbits as soon as I could write. My parents kept some of them.
I began a formal journal in the 5th grade. Mrs. Pilgreen assigned a writing prompt each day, and required us to write a three to five sentence paragraph in our speckled notebooks. (To this day, I still love speckled notebooks.) Overachiever that I was, I often filled the page.
Mostly, I wrote lies I wished were true fiction, but my 5th grade classroom is where I learned the basics of journaling. Which is to record important events, thoughts, and feelings.
Since then, I've tried various forms of journaling--scrapbooking, blogging, Facebook, even food journaling. Art journaling was a FAIL. For obvious reasons.
But I always come home to the old school long-hand journal.
When I Write
I write when I have something to write about. But not always.
I could write every day. Inspiration is everywhere. In God. In Superman. In my little gingers. In nature. In the things I read. In what people say. In howpeople are. I'm always watching, observing. It's what writers do.
Just kidding. Sort of.
However, I don't hold myself down to a schedule. I don't journal every day. Unless I want to. Which sometimes I do. But other times, I go weeks or even months between journal entries.
What I Write
There are all kinds of things in my journal. A record of events and how I feel about them. Random thoughts. Quotes. Bible verses. Meditations. Prayers. Dreams. Visions. Prayer lists. Gratitude lists. Cute things my kids say. Goals. Proudest moments. Darkest secrets.
My journal is my confessional and my trophy room.
Which brings me to...
Why I Write
I'm a pretty open book. Chances are, if you ask me something point blank, I'll tell you the truth and probably more of it than you want to know
BUT any time I present a part of myself to the public, whether that public consists of one person or a thousand, I edit. At least a little. (You do it, too, even if you're unaware of the fact.)
You'll find the fluffiest, most cuddly version of Melissa Keaster on Facebook and Twitter. Or in a scrapbook. You'll get a peek beneath my skin on my blog and in my fiction. But my journal? That's where you'll see the good, the bad, and the ugly of my soul. Which is why some of my journals have warnings in the front (i.e. "Do not read without my permission unless I am dead"). I do the least amount of editing there, which makes for interesting (and sometimes entertaining) material.
Journaling is where I get to be as honest as I know how to be, but that's only the foundational reason I do it.Here's an arbitrary list of other reasons off the top of my head:
To process life with integrity
To remember God's faithfulness
To help others remember God's faithfulness
To record prayers and answers
To record prophecies and their fulfillment
To record goals and progress
To collect favorite quotes
To capture my wrestling matches with God
To find out what I think about things; sometimes I don't know until I write
To contemplate Scripture
To get my words out (I have a lot of them.)
To have a safe place for my wildest, weirdest thoughts
To write the things people may not have time, interest, or patience to hear
To tattle on people to God (Yes, really...though you should know--any time you tattle to God, he always turns it around on you.)
To remember cute things my kids say
Because sometimes people can't handle my joy, sorrow, grief, or passion, but God and blank pages can (Tip: Keep a tissue or handkerchief handy; you don't want to blot the pages with tears.)
To leave something of myself for my kids and grandkids to enjoy
To show my descendants how God loves us from birth to old age and beyond
So yeah...I've got reasons. And maybe among my reasons, you'll find reasons of your own.
What about you? Do you journal? What are your reasons? If you don't, do ya wanna start? Need tips? Encouragement? Accountability? I'll be happy to help you along.
I love, love, love comments, so feel free to drop me a line and ask for my help. I'm supposed to teach a journaling class soon, and it would be great to get in some practice beforehand!
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons via Nathan Cooke
Some rights reserved.
Last spring, I wrote this scene in which Declan (a healer) entices Mara (an ex-prostitute and recovering alcoholic) to eat by making ice cream, a rare treat in my medieval-esque world. The ice cream is shared six ways among the three women and the three men of the household, so everyone gets just enough. But when Mara finishes her portion, Declan quietly takes her empty bowl and replaces it with his full one.
After I wrote this, I asked the Lord, bold as brass, "Will you give me an extra bowl of ice cream?"
It wasn't that I didn't have enough. I had Him. But in the midst of sickness, injustice, grief, and loneliness, I wanted assurance that God was kind.
Now, I know "kind" doesn't always mean "nice." God isn't nice. Or safe.
But as Mr. Beaver will tell you, He is good, and that's sort of the same thing.
Rather than immediately serve up my request, God opened my eyes to the ice cream I already had--
a healthy marriage
two sweet ginger kids
toys on the floor
enough to eat
a warm house
hot detox baths
joy in writing
daily grappling matches with an almighty Sovereign
long naps and angel's food in the shade of a broom tree
But just because God didn't immediately answer my prayer the way I wanted Him to doesn't mean He said, "No."
Fast forward seven months...
He places lonely little me in a family of believers, the kind of Christian fellowship I've craved all my life. This family accepts me. God burdens their hearts for my sake, and they, in turn, plead my case before Him. I learn about their personal prayer ministry. I apply. I become their first recipient, and God uses that experience to free me from spiritual bondage I thought I'd never be rid of, to heal me of the emotional damage of the past, and to unravel this crazy illness one symptom at a time.
I've written about how God healed my hands. Only two weeks later, there's more to report!
On December 3, it was 37 degrees. I experimented with my tolerance to outdoor temps. Here's a summary of how that went:
The video I took this morning...mainly for the entertainment of Madonna Gil and Torey Pop Morgan. You're welcome. ;)
Posted by Melissa Chapman Keaster on Thursday, December 3, 2015
(Hope you enjoyed the up close shot of my nostrils...*face palm*)
Now, 37 degrees is a far cry from 20 degrees, which was the temp the day I first reacted to the cold, but I fully expect to be fine when it gets that cold again. It seems to be what God is doing.
Last week, I woke up at 6am (or earlier) four days in a row and saw Micah off to school each day. Last year, that wouldn't have been physically possible. Even with naps.
I also ate half a cookie *gasp* from a package. Granted, it was gluten-free and processed in a peanut-free facility, but I'm still calling it a win because my tongue didn't swell, I didn't cough, and my mouth didn't immediately fill with tiny sores. That being said, my original chocolate chip cookie recipe tastes better for anyone who wants to know.
Even with all this momentum, I didn't expect what happened this past Saturday. God's faithfulness was on full display.
Some of you may know Stan and Stacey Thomason. Brandon and I met them not long after we began going to Crossroads in January 2008. Stacey and I bonded over our love for Jesus and real food, and though circumstances have kept us apart for the past several years, we've stayed in touch. One of the reasons for this is that back in 2009 the Lord gave me a word for her at a Beth Moore conference.
During worship, God impressed upon my heart that Stacey would one day be a mother and that I needed to tell her. I did not want to do this. For several reasons.
A) It was the first time God had ever given me a word to tell someone. New territory=lots of doubt and fear.
B) I was unworthy. Back then, I was in the early stages of recovery from a 5 year rebellion against God. Who was I to deliver any kind of message from Him?
C) I knew Stacey's deep desire for a child. I also knew her difficulties in having one. God in heaven, what if I was wrong?
But somehow, I knew I must speak, as terrified as I was. I turned to her, touched her shoulder, and swallowed. "Stacey, I don't know how or when, but you will be a mother. God wanted me to tell you that."
(For the record: If I'd known then what I know now, I probably would've stated that differently. But there's grace for the young and stupid.)
We waited almost six years. Each time hope glimmered, I rejoiced. With each hope deferred, I grieved. I prayed. And, of course, I wondered if I'd spoken out of turn. What if my words had been for harm?
And then last year about this time, Stacey texted me a photo of an ultrasound. There she was--Miss Rinnah Nalon--growing in her brave birth mother's belly, awaiting the arms of a woman who would love her more than life.
Saturday was the celebration of Rinnah's official adoption.
And as if that wasn't good enough...
We arrived at the start of things. On the way inside, I noticed it was just us and one other family. I looked at the mask in my hand, then up at Brandon. "Mind if I try to go without it?"
He agreed after I promised to put it on the moment I felt myself getting sick.
That moment never came.
I don't understand. There were candles burning. The scent of perfume wafted to my nose now and again. Two weeks ago, candles and perfume still bothered me. Even when the place began to fill up, I was fine.
Before we left, I stole Stacey away into a corner where she and I marveled over God's incredible faithfulness. Brandon captured the moment for me.
How's that for an extra bowl of ice cream?
On the way home from the celebration, I asked Brandon, "Can I try church tomorrow?"
His hand went straight for his heart.
The next day, I enjoyed an entire church service MASK-FREE. Nearly three years have passed since the last time that happened. I alternated between tears of joy and ecstatic squeals in Brandon's ear--"I'm doing greeeaat!"
At the end of the service, we took a selfie to commemorate the extra extra bowl of ice cream:
You are so brave and awesome to put up with my experiments after the horrors you've lived. Thank you, thank you for believing with me. Most men would've left long ago, but you've stayed. Enjoy God's reward, my love, as He restores to us the years the locusts have eaten.
Brandon and I agree. I won't experiment with triggers that have caused shock reactions. That means no pesticides, no peanuts, and no latex. If I'm accidentally exposed to one of these triggers and I'm fine, PRAISE THE LORD, but I won't go looking for trouble.
I'm not completely mask-free yet. I dropped off Sara at dance yesterday without my mask and regretted it. Something (Lysol maybe?) had been recently sprayed in the area. Not fun, but I didn't react as I once would have. Also, freshly mowed grass and gasoline are apparently still problematic.
But dude! I can go to church without wearing a mask!!!! And I'm going to try Christmas gatherings this year!
"Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness." (Psalm 37:3)
I hope you'll feast with me this Christmas. There's plenty of "ice cream" to go around, even in the darkness of this world. Turn off the news for half a second. Leave the fate of humanity in the hands of our able and almighty God.
Now that I've crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line, I thought I'd
give you all a long overdue update. A lot has happened in the past few
But first, let's talk about NaNo.
I finished the morning of the 25th. That's 50k words in 25 days (aka my fastest writing pace ever). I managed a few hundred words on Thanksgiving, but between the holiday, recovering from the holiday, and the gloomy weather, I just haven't had it in me to write any more. I'm all...
Even though it's totally not. I need to complete the draft before Christmas if I want to release 2-3 books next year. And call me crazy, but I do.
NaNo isn't my only news. God has been on a prayer answering roll.
1) Ministry Opportunities:
One of the things I've missed during this illness is ministry. God has given me plenty of one on one ministry opportunities over the years, and I've relished those, but I longed for something...more.
Back in January, I researched human trafficking and sexual slavery for my novel, Eleora.
Here's the thing--all information comes with a burden. When you learn something, you have to do something with what you learn, whether you act on it, discard it, or choose to ignore it. Once I knew what was happening in the world--what was happening in my home town--I couldn't do nothing.
I met with Lindsey Nadler of Project 41 in October to go over her beta reader notes for Eleora. Prior to the meeting, I had prayed God would provide a way for me to become involved with the ministry. I told Lindsey of my interest and how I was waiting for God to heal me, to which she said, "If you're serious about wanting to get involved, I need someone to organize a prayer team. We need people who will take prayer seriously."
Why am I always surprised when God answers my prayers? I mean, we have a pretty good rapport going, and yet I was so stunned I barely got the words out--"I'm your girl."
Our team meets via conference call at 5am on Wednesday mornings. I'm no morning person, but I love denying myself that bit of sleep to meet with others to pray. I can't think of a better way to start my day.
Lindsey also invited me to teach a writing and journaling class as soon as I'm well enough to do so.
Back in the summer, the Lord began speaking to me about pursuing community again. He brought the subject to me through Scripture, prayer, blog posts, conversations, an expert consult on the book of Job. The message was everywhere: Pursue Community.
I was confused. Again and again, I asked, "What do you mean, God?"
Well, things have become clearer.
For months, I've prayed for writer friends. Women in particular. (Not that I'm not super thankful for Len Woods and Leo Honeycutt.)
After taking a couple of Kristen Lamb's writing classes and surviving her Death Star editing treatment, I joined WANATribe, a social network for writers. Most of the members are women! Kristen and I are now pals, an unexpected gift. A handful of us meet in the chat room for "writing sprints," in which we write as many words as we can in 30 minutes and compare counts. (It's writing as a competitive sport. It's awesome.) And I met kindred spirit Talena Winters on Thanksgiving Day.
In addition to a writing community, God has given me the gift of...
"God places the lonely in families..." Psalm 68:6
When I think of the community the Lord brought my lonely little soul into, I think of the word "family."
The connection was instant.
When I walked into the Siegmund's home on Friday night, October 16, the love of the Lord was so thick in that place I smelled it on the air. I tasted it. I waded through it on the way to my seat. I breathed it in, and basked in it all evening long.
I remember looking around the room that night. No one knew because I wore my mask, but I was grinning for most of worship and Bible study, thinking to the Lord, Thank you. Thank you. I've found my people!
Guys, this weirdo has found a home. Even as I write that, I tear up.
The story of how God led me to this group and what I've experienced since deserves its own post, but honestly...it's a gift so personal and precious I'm not sure I want to share it. Not here. I tremble at the thought. I don't think you could understand if I did. For now, I'll just hold it in my heart and savor the kindness of God. But if you ever want to hear the story, don't hesitate to ask. I'll do my best to describe the indescribable.
And consider this--when God prompts you to do something that confuses you or seems a little crazy at the time, trust Him. Act. He not only provides the means to obey, but the reward is breathtaking.
And sometimes miraculous.
3) Physical Healing:
Yes, you read that right. I'm experiencing legitimate physical healing.
It's been going on for a while, but it can take time to notice. You can't miss a new symptom when it shows up, but when symptoms begin to disappear? It's hard to keep track. You go about your life as it is and then one day you look for the old symptom, and it's not there.
Either late this summer or early this autumn, I noticed my fevers were gone. I used to spike a temp with every reaction and every time my monthly visitor came to call. Not anymore.
October 12 was my last bad bout of histamine-induced insomnia. Since then, I've fallen asleep with (relative) ease, and I (usually) sleep through the night. And get this--more often than not, I wake up feeling rested. If you have an autoimmune disease, you know what a miracle that is.
At my most recent check up with Dr. Yakaboski, my adrenal health tested nearly perfect. My last episode of anaphylaxsis was in the spring. Since June, I've enjoyed regular church attendance. And not once have I left community/prayer group sick. Not once!
While all of this is a very big deal, I'm pretty excited about my latest healed symptom, which followed the heels of a very special experience.
My community group has recently trained in a program called Christian Healing Ministries. CHM is an intercessory ministry for people in need of spiritual, emotional, and physical healing.
I was the first client to apply.
The week before my session, which was the Sunday night before Thanksgiving, I prayed. A lot. I knew God was going to heal a few specific spiritual battles and emotional issues, but I also sensed I would experience physical healing that night.
So I shared my thoughts with Brandon, Mom, Nona, the kids, and a few of my friends, and asked them to pray.
All week I prayed, "Lord, I come to you with open hands, ready to receive anything you want to give me."
The night before and throughout the day of the session, Sara would burst into spontaneous prayer--"Dear Jesus, please help Mama be able to handle da cold so we can teach her how to play in da snow."
I know she's four, but it felt prophetic, y'all.
I approached the session with a little bit of fear and lots of expectation. It was very different from anything I've ever experienced, but extremely powerful, personal, and healing on all fronts.
Once again, the experience was far too precious and personal to share in detail, but I would like to share this one very special thing:
(Note: Yes, I know the word is "welts."
No clue why I mispronounced it a bajillion times,
but Micah refused to record another take for me.)
To give you a point of reference, I took this photo one night a while back after peeling refrigerated sweet potatoes with nitrile gloves on. The photo quality doesn't do it justice, but you get the idea.
What I love about this:
1) The Lord healed something my kids could see. They'd been praying for me to be healed. God answered with something visible, boosting that childlike faith. I don't have a ton of visible symptoms, so that's kind of special.
2) God's thoughtfulness and kindness. For over a year, I've accepted discomfort as part of the cooking process. It is what it is and all that. And then, God heals this symptom the week of Thanksgiving before the biggest cooking day and season of the year. Amazing.
3) It's funny. Better yet, it's witty.Look at the specific prayers again. I prayed, "Lord, I come to you with open hands." Sara said again and again, "...please help Mama be able to handle da cold."
I love a good pun. So when the Lord showed me the connection, I laughed and laughed and laughed. And then I cried.
God speaks my language. He shares my sense of humor. I love it.
The winds are changing.
Do you feel it? I do. This season brings healing, growth, and adventure. And before the end of it, maybe even that party Jenny and I talked about throwing.
Mercy, I miss that girl. How many times have I wanted to call her this week? When I close my eyes, I see her smile. I hear her laughter and hallelujahs. I suppose it's comforting to know she knows and she's celebrating in heaven.
Damn cancer to hell.
God isn't finished.
I believe healing continues from here. The next time the temperature dips below 40 degrees, I fully expect to walk outside without a coat, breathe deeply, feel a bit chilled, and be fine.
Lindsey, if you're reading this, my answer is, "Yes. I'd love to teach that writing class." Somehow, God will work out the details.
My new family is stretching me, challenging me. I'm looking harder at my Bible, realizing that maybe I only believe half the paradox--that another half exists--and that I just haven't seen it because I tend to limit God to my experience and what I've been told rather than what the Bible says at face value. Grappling--it's good exercise.
And mixing with people again...wow. That's growth in itself.
With ministry opportunities, new friends, new thoughts, and book releases on the horizon, I'd say there's plenty of adventure ahead.
Before reading the following post, I recommend you read this post if you have not already.
I would love to tell you that I'm brave. I would love to be able to truthfully state that I courageously campaign for just and righteous causes without a thought for myself. I would love to identify with the likes of Martin Luther King, Junior and Susan B. Anthony, inspirational people who fought for a worthy cause without much hope of seeing change occur in their lifetimes. However, my only confession is that while I sometimes like to imagine myself to be crusader of all that is good and noble, I am, at my core, a rabbit heart with only a useless dash of lion. I say it's useless because it's rarely enough to thrust me into action, but just enough to cause me to feel a restlessness within.
Since my first court date in July, I've been hyper-aware of the days ticking away one by one, approaching the dreaded date of September 10th. I've been practicing my speech and my defense for two months, but have felt it was inadequate, fearing that I would be stuck with court fees, traffic fines and two moving violations on my driving record regardless of my efforts. I have been afraid. The truth is that I would be a-okay if I never have to see that police officer again. The truth is that the judge sitting in his high seat in his black robe with his judgy demeanor intimidates me. The mere idea of reliving a terrifying experience in front of people that I must count as my enemies intimidates me, as well. I am, at my core, a rabbit heart.
Until recently, my hope has been in the town prosecutor. I have so wanted her to talk the ticket down, and remove the moving violations. It may be disappointing for some of you to read this, but I would have happily paid one of the tickets in order to avoid court. After speaking with the prosecutor last month, I had my doubts about my version of a happy ending, and began bracing myself for what was sure to be a traumatic experience. As August slipped away, I began to feel a little more desperate to find an escape route. That feeling of desperation is what propelled my hope in the correct direction. I began praying that the Lord would either intervene on my behalf, surrendering my hope of justice to Him in order to avoid court, or that He would grant me a spirit of boldness, courage and wisdom as I faced my enemies--that in either circumstance, He would be with me. I know that as long as Jesus stands with me, I can do anything, but without Him, I am only a rabbit heart.
My anxiety came to a climax this weekend. I kept trying to beat it down with prayer. It worked, but I kept slipping back into a pool of dread. Finally, I sent out an email to the strongest prayer warriors I know, asking them to join me in prayer over the issue. I felt compelled to wait until yesterday to call the prosecutor. And I would have forgotten except that two of my dearest friends came to my home for a visit yesterday, and asked about the ticket. I begged their excuse for a moment, and I dialed the prosecutor. She answered.
"Hello," I said, "my name is Melissa Keaster. You asked me to call you a couple of days before court about my traffic ticket issued in May . . . "
She told me that it was her intention to drop the careless operation charge because somehow she had gotten a copy of the blog I posted about the encounter. I don't know who gave it to her. Maybe the lawyer I met with in May? Maybe a friend? I don't know. But she knew the story. She asked me if I had been driving in the left hand lane.
I told her that I had, but that I had been passing vehicles and that I was approaching a left turn. I also told her that I remembered not being able to get out of the vehicle's way when it came bearing down upon me because there was traffic in the right hand lane. I told her that my instincts as a driver are defensive, and that I would have moved if possible.
She paused for a moment. "Okay. How about we drop both charges, and call it even?"
It was my turn to pause . . . incredulously. "Meaning that I don't have to go to court or pay anything?"
"Yes, and thank you for your patience," she finished.
"Thank you," I said.
I hung up in disbelief and utter, blessed relief. I don't have a court date tomorrow. I won't pay anything. I don't have to see the officer again. And I have learned my lesson to never drive through Sterlington alone.
I am absolutely convinced that this was a gift from God. I say that knowing that some of you will disapprove of me for not filing a complaint against the officer, for not writing a letter to the editor and for not contacting KNOE news to do an investigative story on the long time injustices of the Sterlington police. I believe that God acted on my behalf, and that this is His will. I believe that I would have gone to court, and represented myself well had that been His will, but it wasn't. It isn't. My plan of action now is to thank the Lord for this blessing, to pray for the officer when I think of him, and to warn individuals about the danger to women and children driving alone in Sterlington, Louisiana.
I refuse to boast in my own cleverness. I will not boast in the town prosecutor's generosity. I will not thank destiny or fate or the universe. "God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."--Galatians 6:14
Jesus is my deliverer in every plight of body and soul, and He is the only One worthy of worship and gratitude! I hope you know that Jesus, Reader. For truly, He is the only cause worth living and dying for. For and with Him alone, I am a lion heart.
Recommended listening. Forgive the weird photos of the lead singer of the band that pop in:
It's difficult to describe the parts of the world that hold a little more magic than the other parts. The magic is in the air. Of course, you can't see the magic. Air doesn't have a color of it's own, although it is perfectly capable of borrowing color from other sources, as you will later see. Some of you already think I'm talking crazy, but if you have been to one of these more magical places of the world, one of those places where you are certain God must have taken a little more time dreaming it up, then you know what I'm talking about. You also know what I'm talking about if you have read The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis, but magic is another blog topic altogether.
I'm trying to describe the place I vacationed last weekend. Little Gasparilla Island is a tiny barrier island off the west coast of Florida (Tampa side). Here is an aerial photo:
Little Gasparilla is about a 15 minute boat ride from the mainland. It's long and skinny, and situated very closely to Gasparilla Island, its big sister. I can't speak for that big sister, but the little sister is enchanting.
We arrived on a hot, miserable Friday afternoon. Our Little Red cried the entire boat ride across the bay because he didn't care for the heat, the life jacket or the delayed nap. As soon as we docked, the crying stopped. (I say it was the magic.) We were greeted by a flock of fiddler crabs at the end of the pier, waving their hellos to my sleepy son. We loaded the golf cart with our luggage, and took the short walk to the beach house where we'd be staying. Even in the heat, I was already falling in love.
We took it slow that afternoon. Micah napped. The boys rested. I rested and explored a little. I discovered that you can hear the waves pounding the sand from the front porch of the little house.
I discovered that the front yard was home to a fair sized gopher turtle.
I discovered that the walk to the beach takes less than one minute, and that I had more fingers than beachmates on this island . . .
and that's including the birds.
The only sensible thing to do about meals on the island is to bring them to the island. My uber smart and experienced friends began meal planning back in June. They knew they'd be planning around a daddy with Crohn's Disease, a mommy with a ridiculous list of allergens, and a baby who can be a little tricky to nourish at times. Danielle and Ryan did a great job with planning as you can see . . .
Danielle's dad graciously took my husband and Ryan out into the bay to catch the dinner you see in the second picture. Brandon loved the fishing, and there is something fulfilling in bringing home the bacon, frying it up and feasting upon it, even if it's fish instead of bacon. That dinner was shared by us, Danielle and Ryan (our sweet friends who brought us out there), Danielle's family, their friends and their college Sunday school class. Sharing good food with old friends and new acquaintances you will be spending eternity with . . . well, that's fulfilling, too. Other magical moments include:
Feasting upon mangoes grown on the island. Spending a rainy day out on the screened in porch, alternately reading and napping, listening to the ocean and the pitter patter of raindrops hitting the roof and sand in the background of our dreams . . . taking in the briny scent of the island air . . . the cool breeze caressing our skin.
Watching a storm approach, yell, "Sike!" and then dance around us . . .
Shell hunting in between storm cells . . .
Observing Micah as he makes peace the with the sand that threatens his balance, and as he makes friends with it later . . .Staying up late to talk with friends, and rising to a lazy morning and a big breakfast . . . .
Kurt Pendergrass's amazing vanilla lattes made out of Puerto Rican coffee and goat milk (just for me!) . . .
Micah's long and peaceful naps . . .
The outdoor showers . . .
And finally, the most magical moments of all . . . gathering for the sunsets . . . and the sunsets themselves . . .
I wrote a poem about those sunsets, but it doesn't do them justice. I'll share it with you, anyway--
There is a certain sense of serenity
at sunset on the beach.
Splendor in abundance
from sputtering sea foam to eternal sky;
blues and greys, gold in rays
spin purple, rose, scarlet, fire in the heavens.
Fire in the heavens should not be,
but clouds and sea sing it it back to me.
Lovely echoes, the final throes of day
giving way to new music.
And with a sigh,
that fiery sphere sinks like a stone
into its bed of sputtering sea foam,
conceding into afterglow.
-Melissa Keaster 8/13/10
When you finally leave a place this magical, you carry a little of that magic back home with you. As I sit here writing this, reflecting upon last weekend, my heart beats in rhythm with the waves, and my eyes pool with sea water. And if I close my eyes, the salty drops drip down my face, but I can see that final sunset, smell the island air, hear the ocean lulling me with its steady, "hush, hush, hush," and feel the warmth of knowing that heaven will somehow be better than this.
1. I don't really have much of a case against the officer discussed in this post.
2. To file a lawsuit against an officer, I must either be physically assaulted or witness some kind of criminal behavior.
3. My case is a case of ethics and morals, not law.
4. Sterlington is more corrupt than I thought. There are many dirty cops on the squad and they do questionable, amoral and unethical things all the time. There is no accountability for their behavior.
5. The officer would have had every right under law to haul me off to jail if I had in fact had been carelessly operating the vehicle. Tickets are apparently niceties. Any officer can put any driver who commits a moving traffic violation in jail. The ticket is a favor. Most officers don't view tickets in this manner, but the Sterlington police know what they are allowed to do by law, and have no qualms with unethical behavior. I was lucky. And frankly, I think he is, too. Many people would have been very upset had I been put in jail for a violation I did not commit.
6. My lawyer is awesome. He is honest, honorable, blunt, well-connected, well-educated, motivated, smart and has an IPhone that he knows how to operate. What more could I ask of him?
7. Time and money saved are not reason enough for me to drive through Sterlington anymore.
8. The first course of action is to get my ticket toned down or to disappear. The second course of action is to seek to put this incidence on the officer's already long list of bad reports.
9. My attorney (and/or I) will go through the following channels in the following order: town prosecutor, presiding judge (a fair man who does not live in Sterlington, but drives there from Grant parish), D.A., Attorney General. I hope the prosecutor takes care of it. (My lawyer is asking her to reduce the ticket to a seat belt violation.) If not, I will go as far as the D.A., and probably stop there. I don't want to pay my ticket three times over in legal fees.
10. This world is truly an awful, corrupt place. It is ruled by sin, and my outlook would be very bleak indeed if I did not trust that my God is a righteous God, the Judge of all and the Defender of the weak. As I reflected on the rather disappointing news I received this morning, I thought about what a great opportunity this is for some character modification. I am required to be patient. I am required to believe that justice will be served whether I see it served or not. I am required to trust that God is everything He says He is. I am required to follow this thing through even though I may not get the outcome for which I hope. I am required to love this man in spite of what he did to me. To pray for him. To hope for him. Honestly, my pride is a little wounded when I see my condition in the harsh light of the truth. I have no power to help or defend myself. But there is a greater Power that will supply me with the strength I need for all that is required of me. So, I'm a little heartsick (Proverbs 13:12), but never has my pride received a blow from which I have not benefited. Number ten is really this--No matter what happens, I'm going to be okay. I rest in the palm of a Mighty God.