Monday, July 7, 2014

Simeon's Secrets will Pave the Way...

There comes a time when all cards must be laid upon the table, face up upon the table. I am not a poker player at all, but when the time comes and the call goes and all final bids are made it becomes the time to show up or fold.

I've watched both happen in the two decades I have been in and around ministry. I watched people show up and when all is laid flat out they choose to shine and I have watched those that only bluffed high tail it out of the arena with the proverbial tail between their legs.

For weeks now, I have paused... I have paused and waited and thought. (A dear friend, who knows me well, expresses that my thoughts are loud and will often text and ask if I am ok.) I am ok! But even while I am ok, I find myself within a paradigm shift of a lifetime.

Saved at 19 and brought in the Charismatic circles almost immediately. I have never ventured out that far...

Except in this season I have had my horizons expand. But in this expansion, I realized I was missing the mark. Not sin per se... but not gravitating to the right questions.

That is until Simeon wouldn't leave me alone. The question, what did Simeon know, haunted me. The journey still continues as does the shifting. Simeon and Anna..... Interesting people, but before we get to them.. may I place them in the context of the religious activity of their day.

The air was full with buzz and religious activity was everywhere. Yet out of all those coming and going, out of all the “religious” activity taking place, we read of only two who noticed the Christ child. ALL that religious activity and God as an infant before them all and only two beheld Him! But what is even more grievous and should bring each of us to a stand still and times of reflection, is that just as many would miss the Man 30 years later.

Religious paradigms... Religious activity... Selfish ambition and the agenda's of men keep one from always seeing and hearing and knowing the ways of the Lord, whether in the form of an infant or of a man!

And so the question I have been sitting with.. The question I have been allowing to purge my very being and stir up more questions then I would even have answers... IS … What secrets did Simeon know? And well, within the second chapter of Luke we read the description and that is all I leave you with.. None of my commentary. Not yet.... But I leave you with my questions.. What secrets did Simeon know? And I leave you with Scripture:

And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man wasrighteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,
Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A Light of revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”


 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What are we so afraid of getting wrong that we don't get it right?

I usually ignore them. I usually pay them no heed and keep on my merry way. So I was caught off guard by what arose in me and then even knowing my own propensity for not backing down from a comment, I was somewhat shocked that I went ahead with it.............

But I think enough of my buttons got pushed.

Not just with the ridiculous Facebook post, because I earnestly do believe that there really are somethings that the majority of all Christians can see for being beyond marginalized. Like calling the monster drinks the drink of the 666 or whatever it did. We can see the fringe groups, like the Westboro Baptist people for what they are and not be confused about whether or not they really represent the heart of the Lord as it was lived in Christ.

But what about the subtle or not so subtle issues that arise.... It is easy for the majority of us to see the extremist ways of the Westboro Baptist church but what about the current day issues that would parallel the woman caught in adultery or the issue of when Jesus was asked about whether to pay taxes to Caesar or not. What about those current day issues, that break apart the body of Christ and render us useless, fractured and impotent? Who today would the religious regard the Samaritan to be? Who do we stay away from as to not become “unclean” by reason of association?

Except it is lunacy.... Can we not/ can I not see the Pharisaical bones in my body that bleach out the would be compassion of the Lord?

I can tell I've been slipping again. When the statements liken to, “but of course that would happen,” or “totally not surprised,” arise in my heart in regards to a leader, a church, my own behavior or attitudes or the horrific, ambitious propensity of some to reach for the proverbial ring of power and lead and dominant and grasp for position.. cause bitterness, cynicism, anger and hatred to arise in my own heart... Then that is the problem.. I become the problem.... I negate the power of love and service and allow my heart to touch hardness and death.

It has been a long day. It has actually been a string of very long days and compassion and easy going aren't my strong suits. People are mostly surprised by the first of those confessions. I can come across as very compassionate. Except there is this place in me where compassion for the process people are in becomes thin.

Seeing and knowing isn't all it is cracked up to be and to see and to know and still have the heart of the Lord, now that is the journey. That is the journey. To see and know and to see and know as He sees and knows... to see and know in hope and love and kindness and compassion... For He knows how we are but made.... To love our would be enemy and/or the fool who lives churchianity and plays the part but dies a daily death of performance and servitude to the enemy of the faith instead of the Lord. Only the religious repulsed our Lord and even them He called from the cross expressing towards the Father that they be forgiven for they know not what they do.

I wanted to rant as I came to this blog post.. I wanted to call out the ridiculous nature on both sides of the fence of the paradigm of Christian thought... Today I got a clearer vision then ever of what Jesus walking among the lamp stands of today would say to the churches... The aspects He would applaud and herald and then the places where He would say, “I have this against you.”

Upon these days I attempt to walk.... I ask Him for those types of evaluations of my own self. What would you say are the areas I reflect you? What are the areas where I lack, sin, fall utterly short? I must lay myself before Him. I must examine the many planks that exist within my own eyes. I must stand before Him and recognize the propensity for saying, “thank you God that I am not liken unto that person,”(realizing I am that person.) as I must stand before Him and with trembling and awe express my recognition of myself as in need of His majestic grace.

What does it look like to walk in His divine nature? What does it look like to have love and wisdom and peace and understanding and power? What would it mean to understand that the Spirit of the Lord is upon us to preach good news and hold out hope to the blind, the dying, the destitute?

What are we so afraid of getting wrong that we don't get it right? Where are we holding stones instead of promise? Where are we being shown up by the goodness of the proverbial Samaritan because we are too busy to stop? Too busy with our religious activity to actually serve the Lord of that religious activity?

I can't live a mediocre Christian life. I can't just live a moral and upright Christian walk. I can't live a flesh filled charismatic expression. I can't tell myself or anyone what I want it to look like.. I know far more of what I don't want it to look like any longer than I have any clear vision of what I do want it to look like.. Except that isn't fully true. I am tired of the ways of man in regards to the expressions of what is thought about God... I want God. I know that when Jesus spoke that Spirit of the Lord was upon Him that it wasn't in word only...

I will wait upon Him before I will touch the horses and chariots of the pharaohs of this age... It is hard and uncertain. But there is way too much lack of understanding and plain stupidity done in the name of the Lord that causes people to perish, that has caused me to perish and I am on a different journey now... One I know is called to be full of peace and joy and the expression of the reality of the Kingdom of God... Where it will lead me I do not know.. But I hope it will lead me away from false expressions into the glorious light and power of the Kingdom....


I want to have ears that can hear and eyes that can see and a heart that can comprehend.... Love will be the greatest adventure of them all... And I know the answer to “Lord who is our neighbor?” Now I just must live it forward.....   

Sunday, June 15, 2014

God is not mocked.... A seer laments...........




Maybe it is that I have been in the most wrong of places that stumbling upon a speaker who has no gile within their hearts so startled me....  But it was beautiful to behold.. A very brief moment that has filled out my heart with hope despite other happenings of a day.......  It was simple in its origin but liken unto a most refreshing drink of the coolest of waters upon a very hot and dry day... So sad that such a thing is so very rare....

Sometimes I wonder what it would be to just see a person and not see a person...  To hear what a person says as if it is the only words being spoken and not hear the words coming forth from their hearts... In my retreat today, I sought out the Lord and wept.  Not for change of giftings nor to be other then that which I am.... But to be more like Him.  And to find sanctuary within His immense shadow and glorious heart...

I turned to one of my most favorite fictional characters and just read and reread his words... Emeth is his name and what CS Lewis writes of him is brilliant within the work of The Last Battle....

So I went over much grass and many flowers and among all kinds of wholesome and delectable trees till lo! in a narrow place between two rocks there came to meet me a great Lion. The speed of him was like the ostrich, and his size as an elephant’s; his hair was like pure gold and the brightness of his eyes like gold that is liquid in the furnace. He was more terrible than the Flaming Mountain of Lagour, and in beauty he surpassed all that is in the world even as the rose in bloom surpasses the dust of the desert.Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, though knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless they desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what the truly seek.
Then he breathed upon me and took away the trembling from my limbs and caused me to stand upon my feet. And after that, he said not much, but that we should meet again, and I must go further up and further in. Then he turned him about in a storm and flurry of gold and was gone suddenly.
And since then, O Kings and Ladies, I have been wandering to find him and my happiness is so great that it even weakens me like a wound. And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog-”   


The comfort that came to me today as I pondered the games we all play.. is the reality that God is not mocked and He who fashioned and formed us SOOO utterly knows our hearts....  He so utterly knows our motivations, our heart hungers, our manipulations, the plays in our play books.. He stands within all of that knowledge and understanding that we are but dust and extracts forth the precious from within us and shows up the stupidity of our games and their trite and horrific ways......

In resting in Him today I found grace... In leaning upon Him I found wisdom... In closing my eyes and drinking of His waters I was refreshed and made anew....

Oh how silly we truly are.. we think so much of ourselves and our efforts and our accomplishments... and He who names the stars hungers for us to discover that we are but children playing in the mud... When what we are called towards is a most fantastic and beautiful love that shows all things up ...

May I cease with all striving and all game playing

Sadly I wonder how much of our works that we do in the name of "Aslan," would be more credited to "Tash.."

All I can do is trust that he will breath upon me and remove the dross and achieve within me His image, His likeness, His purposes... That I would love Him and love those He calls to cross my path...

Today for moments I wanted to not see and today for moments I wanted to not hear... Yet in those moments and in the seeing and in hearing, a choice is birthed and instead of seeing and acknowledging that which is seen and hearing and knowing that which was heard, I lay it all open to Him who transforms us all....  So He asks us to see and He asks us to hear, AND NO it is not glamorous.. it is sorrowful and hard but beautiful and transforming as well....

For we all are but dust and but Him that is all we would ever be...  It is He that has elevated us to our stature and but seeing and hearing how can we fully call ourselves and others forward to reflect more of Him and so very much less of us....

Oh God... Your goodness rivets my soul, Your patience startles my flesh... Your kindness is my undoing... transform me into Your image that I may walk more as You would have me... My eyes and my ears are Yours....  Make my heart more Yours as well......

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

An Imaginative Narration..............................

There is a definition of fictional writing... It goes something like this:  "the class of literature comprising works of imaginative narration."  Imaginative narration.....  I like that.  The beginning of the piece below is inspired by an off handed comment of a friend....  It is somewhat liken unto an "imaginative narration..."  

 One warning... If you at all think that your emotions could be triggered by reading about spiritual darkness please take caution in reading the beginning of a story below....


There is a force, that creeps and searches for power, it carries with it horrific and twisted understanding and ability to pervert the cosmos for one's own benefit.

The problem is it comes at a cost...

The greater problem is that some are willing to pay it....

Creative destruction at the hands of death shaded, unseen creatures; who whisper their nightmarish instructions into the hearts of men. They don't care that the men take the credit for the deeds for they get the credit for the deception. They come up with structures of torture and cruel lists of deeds that are done upon the innocent, as to try and rob the energy of that very being...

Confinement coupled with darkness, coupled with deprivation, coupled with cruelty bring the young to their knees before they could ever truly learn how to walk...

But once upon a time there was one; who in the dankest of air and darkest of places would dream of light and rose colored places, where the atmosphere had particles that danced and sparkled. In moments where she would detach from her mind and her body, her soul would reach up and with the edges of her essence she would touch them and within that contact be sustained..

The thing about what costs humanity is willing to pay for advancement, the thing about levels of determination and power is that in the multiplicity of levels the real question that must be asked is who is the most determined and what is the highest price.

There are boundaries that have been established. The cosmos knows it order. It knows to whom it bows. While men might fanatically attempt to pervert it, they live forever frustrated at the inability to fully harness the powers of leviathan. Sadly they are ultimately thwarted in their attempts. For those living in the lands of death shade are forever guaranteed willingly or not that they will see a greater light. To those men, to those who have felt the power of their frustrations, it is to the light that they all must go... It is that power that none can ever fully deny.

The quest for power and knowledge have left in their wake many a broken heart... But this is not such a story. Not a story of a broken heart but a story of heart that would not be broken...................................

…............................................................................

He stood in the doorway looking over her frame, it appeared frail but put her in the structures and she lost everything that seemed weak. Confinement upon confinement intrigued Julian. The rites of passage that would cause others to cower before him only served to embolden her. Once recovered she would stand ridiculously defiant attempting to burn into him with her glaring eyes, not pleading but demanding he acknowledge that which he was doing. Forget succumbing this creature would not be bent. He thought through the list. Shook his head and walked away.

The air was dank, clammy, wet... wet with darkness. It slipped off of Julian like a comical routine of one falling over a banana peel but there was nothing comical about Julian.

He had some understanding of what was happening within her and so he watched and watched. He wasn't like them. Not the elders. Not the older ones. Sure he had been around them enough, had heard enough of their encoded like conversations, that he was picking up on things here or there except depth of understanding was not Julian's strong suit, cruelty was.


So he continued putting her through the routines but learning from her as well. Watching her. Waiting. Late at night he would walk down the caverns alone, leaving all the others behind and he would sit in a chair that he had placed right outside her crate.


His eyes adjusted to the lack of light easily but he would bring a flash light as to shine it upon her at will. Disturbing her sleep and disrupting any left over senses of security or safety even in the crate and he would sit, stand, pace...


He ruled over her with a grip that was tightening and tightening and tightening and yet to no affect. Except upon him. His fury was growing. He would take it out on her and think he had her and stare at her and think she was right on the edge only for her to emerge as if out of no where stubborn as ever.


Not unbreakable. No one was unbreakable. Not at his hands. Others had been killed at less what was persevering this child was beyond him. Again Julian's mind would race across the list, across the structures, across the day in and day out routines and rituals that he knew how to ever so skillfully exact upon those most unfortunate creatures put into his hands.


The day had already been long. The list of structures and confinement and structures had left even him wanting to get some rest yet he knew they would be coming soon and the expectation was he would be further along with her.


The older ones had seen in her something he didn't and that gnawed at him and twisted his insides. If all in the confines cowered before Julian, Julian cowered before the older ones. Even while he fought away the shadows of fear, the knowledge of what they understood about the darkest of arts terrified him.


He hated the idea that he was their puppet, that anyone could so maneuver their way into his psyche bothered him, disgusted him and he tried to steel his thoughts and his mind as one of the older ones had once tried to show him.


Enraged by his own arising fear he stormed down the corridor only to find her awake! Awake! He wanted to scream. Fury was gaining control and that was another thing he had been taught to maneuver through, he was trying to master and not be mastered by the emotion. But he was exhausted and this thing.. this child.. this horrific imp like scrawny shit was awake as if she knew he was coming and was waiting on him.


Her look penetrated places deep within him that unnerved him almost as much as the older ones unnerved him yet there was something different in that gaze and he longed for the day when he could erase it. He had created specific events and moments to try to accomplish his purposes of erasure and yet still that gaze held strong.


Looking up at him, and with a voice that sounded as if it should be on a playground laughing and taking in life not pushed into a crate that was lodged within man made dungeons she spoke, “what's wrong Julian? You know they are coming. I can feel them. He isn't going to be happy with you. I will walk right up to him and stand before him and not cower and that is something even you can't do Julian, is it? Are you afraid, Julian? Are you? Are you afraid?”


Her voice grew quiet and sweet and she looked like the little girl she was, and he was even more unnerved and rage burned in his gut and he wanted to pick up that crate and throw it against the concrete walls and rip her apart limb from limb, “Julian, I might die... I understand.. But guess what Julian? Guess what? You'll die before me Julian, you know it .. somewhere deep inside you, you know it. Guess what? Guess what Julian? I know it too.”

That was it! That was it!

He couldn't break her but she had broken him.

He would be dammed, if he was going to die then she would be dead too. What did it matter. His fear over the older ones coming and what was going to happen to him was loosened upon him and he picked up her crate throwing it against the wall, curses unleashed from his mouth , he went to get the keys. He was going to rip her limb from limb and she was going to be a pile of flesh and blood and bones and even if he did join her when they got there he would have had the fulfillment of destroying this horrific nightmare of a child.


The keys in his hands his steps became all the more full of purpose as he lunged at the crate, blood was dripping from her head already. Was she unconscious? Again fear grabbed a hold of his stomach was he really going to do this? Had he done it already? Was she gone? Ecstatic glee coursed through his being at the thought but even he knew that that was just covering up the horror that reality would bring upon him if she was dead.


Broken.. utterly broken and ready for them were the orders. Not dead. On any account absolutely not dead. She hadn't changed one bit since they had left at least not that he could see and now if she was dead, he knew he would be next except (and he vomited at the thought) he knew that nothing could prepare him for the horror that he would experience at the hands of the older ones.

Again he screamed and kicked the crate with all his might. Fear. Fear was getting the best of him. Oh what or who was he kidding. Fear had gotten the best of him and now he was just trying to contain some semblance of self order.


He steadied his shaking hand as he righted the crate and heard her groan, deep relief penetrated him. Alive. She was alive. Even if barely she was alive. That was what was asked, right? Alive. Broken. Alive and broken. Maybe this last moment had finally taught her the lesson he had been cramming into her for the last month. Maybe all was going to be better than he thought. This would certainly give him some credit in the older one's eyes.


Again he steadied his hand and now that the crate was right side up he unlocked and opened the door. He pulled her out and held her up to her feet. Her limbs began to move on their own and he let her lean on him for a moment as she tried to shake off the evenings extra events.


Before he could think through what he was going to do next blaring light was pouring in upon them both and she shrunk back at the unexpected display of brightness. She pulled her head to the side and tried to shield her eyes from the altered state of the room that daylight had brought. It had been what seemed like a month since she had last seen the light of day and now that did hurt.


Trying to regain composure especially around Julian she tried to shake her head except the affects of being tossed as though she was a bean bag had indeed landed hard upon her body and all seemed to be swinging and spinning. The outside door that even Julian didn't have the key for was opened which meant only one thing, they had arrived. It had been a month and the season if she remembered right was the timing of the equinox.


The outlines of others now filled the doorway, providing a human barrier standing against the light, their shadows streamed out before them across the concrete floor. She pushed Julian aside. Her arm that he could snap like a twig pushed him aside. Before he could manage control of the situation she was out of his reach. She was supposed to be crated not walking about and the familiar stabbings of fear raged into his heart.


Barefoot and barely dressed, stringy dirty hair clinging to her face and her body as lanky as they come she stepped pace after pace doing what even Julian dared not to.. walking straight up to the older ones she looked up searching faces... looking for something. Having found what she was looking for she spoke up, “Hello Father.”


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Picture Perfect: Guest Posting from Michelle Brown

Picture Perfect


I have started a prayer journey also known as a retreat. It’s 34 weeks and each week focuses on specific themes as one journeys towards the inner voice of love and the unique way God has made me and speaks to me.

This week is week 4. I have been on it for much longer than seven days.
It’s focus is about the discord or rather disorder within my life.

Out of place instruments.

It’s a call to stand with the Spirit of Truth and Comfort and brave the ragged and war torn areas of my heart.

The areas that aren’t very pretty.

In fact, if I’m honest, if I’m open and transparent, these places are very much POW camps. 

A valley of dry bones.

Only this valley has been kept very tightly shut from most eyes.

This ravaged earth within has many painted perfect signs and posts along the path that warn any intruding eyes to KEEP OUT!

All the blinds have been shut, the doors locked and lights turned off.

These areas are within my frame.

My frame is not hidden from Your eyes.

My frame fashioned from outside of 
time.

My frame pulled from glory and light eternal.

These places within have been like a death grip around my throat.
I can see the enemy’s boney hand with snarled nails wrapped around the heart of this valley.

This place.

This space within.

If you were to ask me if I was free and fully alive, I would most emphatically say yes.

But…

I have this valley of dry bones.

This valley of broken promises, judgments from those who were positioned to walk with me and guide me, not point the finger.

This valley was meant to be a garden.

This space of my own judgments and opinions on what my family should look like, act like and become.

Vines and thistles and briers that have choked out fragrances meant to attract those perishing with a scent only found in heaven. 

A scent only found in the original garden of time.

This week is a week of being honest with myself.

Why is it OK to lock life out from this place meant to breed and generate new life?

This place has only remained as long as I have allowed.

This place of disorder. 

This place He wants to come into and set the record straight.

I will never be like her.

I will never forsake or abandon those I have birthed.

I will never bring embarrassment to the ones I am meant to teach love and honor. 

This place is created with the very intent of a Gardener’s hand to tend.

This place will play music again, a symphony that draws the wandered, the broken, those who know that they haven’t seen the end of their stories.

A place where eyes are welcomed to gaze at the beauty of the Gardener’s work.

This place was created so that the image of the only begotten Son would be seen picture perfect.

Not by might,
Not by power,

By His Spirit.
By my yielding.

By my surrender and the crushing of lies.

By the planting and tending of truth.

By allowing the community around to walk upon its paths and meet with Him through this dusty frame.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Instead of Ragged... Ravished!!! When the likes of Kierkegaard and Chardin are ringing in your ears

Tick Tock.. Tick Tock.. The passing .. the passing.. the passing of the clock...

Tick.. tick.. tickticktickticktickticktick............. over and over and over again...

Running ragged...

I fell prey to the timing and pace of the world...
My eyes beheld pretty idols of large crowds and popularity and in so doing my heart lost substance...
Quickly build this house or that building..  Short cuts because time and growth is of the essence... oh please hear the large sigh in that exhale....




But then..........................................................................................


But then.....

Tears
Repentance
Remembrance

My kingdom is not of this earth nor is my citizenship, I originate from another place!  A place of joy and timelessness... A place of freedom and delight!  My ambassadorship upon the earth flows forth from His rivers of delight as they stream from Heaven to earth...  The pace of Heaven.. The grand Selah...  Instead of ragged ravished!!!!

To will the ONE thing....  To embrace the slow work of God!!!

How counter cultural.. But revolution usually is.....................................





Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Beginning of a Project: The Girl Next Door




I began this project over a year ago.... In December 2012, a dear friend would encourage me to begin to write down a story of my life... She suggested that if I stepped into Fiction it would be easier to do so... 

In February 2013 I spent a month writing and writing and writing... In a month I had 435 pages... But I needed space from it and many months would pass before I would even touch it or look at it again...  Slowly I would feel the prompting of the Lord to come back and touch it up and add this or take away that....  

I decided I didn't want just a pure Fictional story based on real events but that I wanted a voice in it as well....

Still in raw and unedited form.. This morning I felt the Lord ask me to start posting portions of that which I had written....

This is that..... I entitled it The Girl Next Door... Because I was that girl next door for almost two decades... Keeping silent, playing a part... and this morning I felt the urging of the Spirit to begin to share again... To share from whence I came and to where He has taken me... This is just a portion of the first part and like I said there has been no fine tooth comb taken through this... But I trust His heart... and I desire to share my life where it can be a blessing to others... Light always emerges from the darkness.. I know of what I speak




Houses and streets and doors and windows and mirrors.

Days past and present and those yet to come. 

I have thought about where it has been that my feet have walked and where they are walking now.

The words Awoken and Seen haunt me whether I am awake or sleeping.  This journey upon  life, to open my mouth, say the things that would rather remain silent and yet...  It is the yet that gets me every time.

The days  I did remain silent, harm and darkness had their victories ...  There are days when I wonder about remaining silent now.  Except when I meet you, or men and women like you, like me.. I think about how I must awaken every day and stay awake, I think about how I must see and be seen moment by moment.


I have traveled  many streets.  And I have lived in many houses.  It is the first six of them that begin this story.  Six streets.  Six homes. The first one I have no memories of and  yet it still is there, on some road off near Boston. The next one would be in Connecticut. Memories exist in that location. Then it would be off to New Jersey back to Massachusetts and back to New Jersey.  No, not military.  The world of business and climbing corporate ladders was my father's world.

Upon each street there is a house that was called our home.  Upon each street we had neighbors; other families, other people...

It was suburbia after all and the picture perfect grand neighborhoods of people escaping city living for the American dream. 

Neighborhoods.. neighbors;

I think upon those houses at times. 

I think about the rooms. 

I think about the walls.

I think upon the hallways and the staircases. 

Do they remember? 

Do the people who live in those places ever think they hear lingering whispers, shouts or cries?  Do you ever think about the doors you open and close?  Do you look into the mirrors and wonder what faces they have beheld? 

What tears they saw.. what other things did they contain?  Did they see happiness?  Did they know  joy? Did they see horror? Did they tremble as did their inhabitants? Were doors slammed?

I think about those things from time to time.  As I remember, as I think back. 

I think about conversations. The ones that were had. The ones that were never had.  The ones that I wish were never had.  The times that the words just sort of hung there in the air. 

Some of my favorite conversations happen after I have told the stories of this life that I have lived.  I've heard a variation of them throughout time.  Many times. Most times I think that they are right, it is pretty amazing that I am alive.

Sometimes I find it laughable how the listener tries to take back that which they have spoken.  As if they said something insulting, true... BUT insulting.  I don't think I have ever been insulted per se.  Left feeling vulnerable but not insulted.

It is after all my life.  More accurately it was after all my life.  So when the words in some form or another come out that the listener is amazed that I am coherent; alive and coherent, alive and coherent and not sitting somewhere heavily medicated off in a corner somewhere drooling, I guess I just sit with them in amazement rather than be insulted or offended.

I think it is pretty amazing.

I think it is pretty amazing that for so many years so much went left so unseen.  I lived out in the open, but might have as well dwelt in the shadows. 

I walked to bus stops, ventured down hallways, spoke to people for years but no eyes ever saw, no ears ever heard, no one ever stopped to try to really make a difference. But then I never looked up, I never spoke up, I kept drifting further and further through life.  I got lost further and further into myself until I had more in common with a vapor of smoke than any other human. 

Life, ballet dancers, the Amish and a psych hospital would change all that... deans of colleges, a husband, 6 children would eventually change all that... but before it was changed it was... before I was anything else all I was was the girl next door.









In ways of an Introduction..


The words sat there upon the page. 


You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7


I traced the words on the page and stared at them long and hard. Hiding places and preservation from trouble, songs of deliverance... what can that all mean? What does that all mean?

Images from days in the past ran through my heart and again I looked at the words and traced them with my fingers.  Thoughts and emotions eclipsed and  transversed across the decades in a split second and then I was back, in the present.

What did that look like back then?


What I want to unfold here, more than anything, is the passing on of hope.  I wish I could invite you to come have coffee, come and let's spend time together.  Come and let's share the story and the  hope  that has been granted together.  The hope that can be granted.

I ask myself time and time again the question why am I writing, what is the contribution that I am hoping to make.  Why is this story worth telling?

Safe places.

Songs of deliverance.

Hhhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

I've written much of this with my laptop on my lap, sitting on my bed, surrounded by my favorite blue and green comforters. I have sat surrounded by color and softness and life.

Within these pages, within this journey, I was grateful to have color and warmth surrounding me.  It has been a process of walking away from lonely and scary and cold places.  Step by step I have found my confidence, I have found my voice, and I have awoken more and more into life and living.

In a day and age where there is such a need for a safe hiding place, a refuge from times of trouble and sweet songs of deliverance, I didn't want to create something that is trite.  In the decades that I have tried to write my story I hit road block after road block.  I would be able to write one part well and then stumble and stagnate over significant portions I wanted to tell, and then shelf the whole thing out of frustration.

But safe places and songs of deliverance are so very much needed and so in this season I pulled my laptop back onto my lap, grabbed my lime green comforter and curled up upon my bed. 


To be surrounded by songs of deliverance. What does that sound like? What does that feel like?  What are they?  How does one learn to dance upon the notes of hope and joy when all that has been heard are the dark chords of abuse and neglect?  What could it mean for a mind that has only known fear to be saturated by a sweet sweet melody that brings its refrain forward into reality?  And what does it mean for a life when the clash between the sounds makes it war against each other within the same heart?

I think of many different types of scenarios, where the reality of songs of deliverance is what is needed.  I found within the expression of words  the desire for the melody of love and peace, sanctuary and security. 

That is what I want to pass on. 

I believe my story and the reality of where my life has landed now breaks forth with the reality that one can find sanctuary and peace amidst whatever troubled waters are experienced and walked upon.

When what you have needed was a hiding place, a refuge, preservation from trouble or songs of deliverance, when what your heart hungered to know was security and safety away from fear, and none of that was around … What did you fall back upon?  What are you to believe when hiding places and preservation from trouble seemed far far away from the realities you have known?  What then?
I think it has been thoughts like those that have caused me to come back time after time to try and figure out how to write  my story down.  How to write a story that includes the fact that the majority of individuals who crossed paths with me believed that there were  no songs of deliverance for me to be had... that there was no hope. That maybe I should just be written off as lost or gone.  A song silenced before it could ever  really be sung.

Discordance permeated all facets of  the surrounding atmosphere of my days.. of my life...

But you see, even if very faint at first,   songs of deliverance play across the landscapes of humanity with a fierce tenacity that cannot be matched. EVER!


The reality of the fragility of one's mental state and the fear that at any moment the horrors of the past and realities of the present are going to steal away from you all that is hoped for in regards to the future can haunt.  They can tear at one’s soul and leave one wanting.  Except they can also be overcome. 


A most famous book begins, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” 

What if life was only the worst of times, for the longest of times, without hope that anything would ever change.  What if the reality of the state of mind you found yourself in was full of hopelessness and horror?  What if you watched others pass you by and wondered what does being human really feel like? What does “normal” feel like? What if the agony of living with the reality that filled out the days of ones life altered the capacity to think or feel?  What if all one became capable of was living in alternate realities? False hiding places forged within ones own self?  Does one lose oneself?  What are songs of deliverance for someone in that place?  What does that melody sound like?



Songs of deliverance... Those three words aren't glib nor are they trite.  They have been life to me...  Beyond this page you find a story... A friend had come to me back in December 2012 and had shared her thoughts, that if I stepped into fiction I would be able to write the story of my life.  She was right. Some of it I had to step into fiction in order to write. In acquiring some space for my heart, my fingers flew upon the keyboard. 

 I would hit some places where the reality of the events and what it felt like to live them needed that personal touch.  When I began to understand that truly I wanted to give hope both to the person who suffered and those that loved them. 

In a culture where the “in” words of the day are; transparency, vulnerability, and authenticity, I found within myself the need to go beyond their cultural relevance. I journeyed  deep into a place that could offer real hope and strength and courage. 

I didn't want my story to just be about  disassociation, abuse and neglect.  I wanted to write something that showed the power of what can happen when someone awakens and speaks and sees.  How many of us, in some form or facet, are “The Girl(boy) Next Door?”

I didn't want to just write a story where physiological, emotional, physical or sexual abuse was the predominant theme. I didn't want to share a story of a girl who learned very early to keep quiet, a girl who kept her mouth closed and her eyes staring off into the distance.  A story of a girl, who might as well have been a shadow upon the wall.  A girl who lived a life imprisoned by fear.  I wanted to share a story of how we all can awaken, see and be seen, hear and be heard.  I wanted to share a story that would open up those prison gates.  I wanted to share a story that would create an atmosphere and an environment where eyes would open and awaken and mouths would open and be heard.



These pages are full of a life that could actually  be being lived by a person who lives right next door to you.

Seriously, as far reaching as some of the stories within are, I was a person... living right next door to other people. There are those people you pass in the highways and byways of life...  what is it that has filled out their life, what really happens to the person who lives next door?   As I say at one point.. this is their story, this is our story.. How we learn to see each other contributes into the songs of deliverance that we will personally sing over our lives and over the lives of those that surround us...

Consider this story part of that overarching song of deliverance.  My portion in the cantata of freedom for others.  What can happen within one generation within a family, what can happen within one lifetime of a person.. well, if one believes and listens .. that which can happen is the beauty of deliverance, restoration and hope and peace.

Songs of Deliverance.


 A song... a melody full of sweet and sorrow.. full of fear and full of overcoming... the notes at one point melodious and at other times so very difficult to listen to...








Sitting in the present before looking back
…..................................................................................


I sit upon my bed.  The bright blue and green bedspread laying underneath my body.  I kept the lights dim.   My eyes and heart felt far off, gazing into the distance of a past lived long ago.


Next door to my bedroom  the most precious sound of a little one, humming away  as she plays with and handles her toys.  I listen intently to the stories she is playing out.  Her Dora the Explorer Playhouse being infiltrated by all sorts of characters, from littlest pet shop  to the players that came with the home.


It has been a while since I have come to the computer to touch this piece and I allow all of my surroundings to play their part.  Having just moved into a new home there are boxes and stacks of mislaid stuff all over the place.

A picture perfect reality for the interior terrains of my life....  “boxes and stacks of mislaid stuff all over the place.”
A sword rests against my husband's dresser.  Oddly enough it is something that catches my attention.  I remember the night of our oldest son's 16th birthday when father gave son something he had wanted for a very long time.  I remember  seeing the picture that my husband would end up taking that evening.  Our oldest fell asleep holding the sword.  Where once he had fallen asleep cuddling a stuff animal now it was a five plus foot sword that he had truly desired. 


It was an amazing moment.  A rite of passage.  Even the grandfather who had arrived, at one point in the evening,  contributed to the awesomeness of the event.

Three generations of men from this family stood side by side as a picture was taken with a boy and his sword.  Yes, we are in the twenty-first century.  But in writing that last sentence it made me smile to myself and I let out a small laugh.


I sit propped up upon my pillows and just allow my head and eyes to fall where they may.  I touch the top of card board boxes, see a misplaced heating pad, my husband's tool box, a jacket we had been looking for for months and then my eyes fall upon the box that I have yet to touch. 


I have yet to touch it because I know all to well what is inside.  I know that this evening will not be the moment that the tape gets peeled off and the box flaps get opened.  Not tonight, not yet... 


My eyes move away from the box and my heart commands a pause.  So I look towards the bathroom and spot the little girl's “make up” bag, and at the exact same moment her voice emerges into the air again.  She has gone from humming to singing and making up a little ditty as she plays. 


Her joy fills the air out completely  and a smile crosses my face.


I remember the words.  I remember the words that were spoken so many years ago.  As I am surrounded by the reality of over twenty years of living life as a family, I call to mind the moments that came right before parenthood was ever touched.

I remember fear.  I remember not wanting to become a mother.  I remember not wanting to ever bring a child into this world.  I remember thinking how there was nothing I could ever do for a child that would be beneficial.  More than anything I just remember being afraid.


Then the voice... A sweet, strong, firm and loving voice spoke forth a promise, a promise that would find it's fulfillment eighteen years afterwards but that which had probably found it's fulfillment many times before and would find it many times again. 


A promise upon a new generation. A promise from heaven of what could be done within one generation.  A promise for a bloodline.  A promise to be granted if trust would be given.


It wasn't courage that caused me to relent... It was him.  I trusted him.  We had been through much already and I had no idea of all that we would be through together.  But he was the one speaking those words.  How could I not but believe?  How could I not answer?

Trust and faith had been easier to come by those days.  The last twenty hadn't been lived quite yet.  In seeing the sword, in hearing my daughter's sweet voice.. In laying upon my bed allowing my heart to move back and forth from present to past and back again, all I could really do was remember the promise.


In one generation, he had spoken,  in one generation the destiny of a family could come to pass.. Things could be different... If I hadn't seen it so thoroughly with my own eyes I probably wouldn't believe it.  If I hadn't lived the first nineteen years.. If I hadn't lived the last twenty-two maybe I wouldn't believe it. 

But standing at 41.. I believe!


My heart and my eyes darted back and forth throughout my new bedroom.  But then the remembrance of another time and another bedroom, another place played “tag” with my heart.. And the old saying, “you're it!” Filled the air.  A time I laid upon another bed.  A time when the blankets didn't bring back beautiful images of faithful friends who had given a going away present, but a time when blankets and sheets brought back anything but beautiful images. 










Stepping Back
….........................................................................

 Mims

To look back upon days that had been lived took discipline.  It took time.  It took a belief that telling a story would be better than not telling a story.  There truly isn't much about these days that I remember.  If you would picture a 1000 piece puzzle, picture it  with more than half the pieces missing. 

Glimpses here and then glimpses there but nothing completed and the pieces to complete the picture were often hiding underneath the sofa or the bed.

So here we go... stepping in together...

I introduce you to Jennifer Galliant.


….........................................................

Exhaustion saturated every fabric of her being she couldn't grasp a hold  of anything, not  one thing.  She had gotten into the crisp, cool, orange, paisley sheets and slid down into them feeling herself slip away.


These feelings were all too common, not that she understood them, but they lent themselves to her, filling her as if they were concrete, leaving her suffocated. 


The window reverberated with the sounds of the falling rain splashing back up against the glass,  it echoed back with the wind blaring its path through the branches of the tree planted right alongside the outside frame. 


The  darkness of the evening's storm was swirling around the household.   All, that gives off light during the passage of the night hours, was covered by black ominous clouds.


The small bedroom with wooden floors, and her white furniture... It was her world.  Her things filled drawers, closets, as well as a built in shelving unit that ran along side the wall opposite from the doorway.  Her clothes neatly folded and perfectly put away, every sock having a pair, every thing having a place where it belonged. 


The dolls from every nation her aunt and uncle had traveled to lined her shelves.  The mime dolls her father had brought her home from Paris  and the other places he had been, joined them. 


The posters of mime's along with Escher prints covered her walls. 

Only the ones that couldn't be seen from the hallway though. 


Nothing was on the walls that could be seen from the hallways. 


The walls that could be seen from outside her room were perfect.


Perfectly painted.


Perfectly displayed.


Perfect.


Perfect like the tightest hospital corners that always were fitted at the end of her bed, where the sheets and the mattress met.


She would allow her eyes to linger upon Escher's staircases. 


They were the closest visualization of her life. 


Stairs that led to nowhere.


Staircases up.

 Staircases down.


Staircases ending midair with no clear path. 

There wasn't any other picture in the whole world more perfect than that.


She felt her breathing raise her chest and lower it, raise her chest and lower it, raise her chest and lower it...


As the pattern of breathing continued a trance like state enveloped her, she felt herself lost in some sort of  far away dazed condition.


Wondering beyond anything what would happen if she just gave into this sensation.  Would she drift further and further away until she was gone.  Where would she be then?  Where would she go?  What would happen to her? 


Where would she be if she drifted further and further away until she was gone?


Until she was untouchable. (She was sadly never untouchable.)


Until she was maybe so comatose that there would be nothing really left to her.


It was beautiful in the most absurd way. 


It was as if she was floating yet as leadened down as deep wet concrete.


It was like her head was empty yet full of concentrated thoughtlessness. 


No movement.


No full breath.

Everything shallow.


Hallow.


Jennifer wondered if she laid there long enough would she disappear.


Even if her body remained physically could she disappear so that she could never get back.  The heaviness upon her chest remained; in school or out of school. She walked hallways and corridors blank, vacant, as a vapor... nothingness filled her.


She listened to the rain hitting the glass with such force, she listened to the howling of the winds,  she listened and  she drifted into the veiled darkness of the night.


Unyielding  pain filled every pore unless she lingered into that  nothingness.  So to the nothingness she gravitated towards all the time.


She was letting go...


She could feel darkness surrounding her,


enveloping her..


welcoming her. 


As if the darkest of wardens stood beckoning for  her to grab a hold of his boney  skeleton like hand, to travel with him far far away from the realities of life, her life, all life.  He stood commanding the storm that raged outside her window,  he stood commanding the storm that raged within her,  he stood beckoning, commanding, imprisoning. 


She was letting go of the fight to stay present, to stay conscious; except time and time again right as she began to feel the empowering place of mummification something wooed her away from departing fully.  


Nothing tangible.  Nothing that felt as present as the dark warden but something, something real even if she couldn't put her finger on it.


No one actually ever walked in and sat upon her bed and gently touched her flesh, no one ever called her name with joyous affection in their tones, as they called out to her, no one was ever present, no one was ever near, no one was ever around and yet...


And yet, something wooed her back.


Something stood in the way of her leaving.


It was like a huge flat sheet of steel interrupted her spiral towards oblivion, her journey  towards grasping the hand of  the warden of darkness and death-shade.   Something broke off the pull.  Something broke off the pull and she bounded back towards the current moment. 


Shaken and exhausted.


Jennifer just laid in between the sheets.

They were cool.


They were inviting. 

They were clean.


They were always clean.


While she was now back to being aware of her surroundings she wasn't fully back.


Desperate.


Alone and desperate.


Jennifer turned her head into the pillow and just wept and wept and sobbed. 


So utterly alone. 


Sure there was a mother, father, cousin and grandmother... but she might as well have lived on the streets. 


Maybe she would even have been better off. 


She thought of how five people could live in a house for so long and yet basically just orbit around one another never fully connecting. She thought about the perfect white walls and the unspotted white carpet that laid throughout most of the house, this house, that to call home would give it too much of a name. 


It  had exacted more from her than she could truly give, certainly more than she was ever able to say.....    ever willing to say.


Jennifer just laid upon her bed breathing ever so shallow.
Haunted by the moments of terror and not even knowing what they all were.

She got up and headed to the bathroom to splash some cold water upon her face trying to shake away from the pits of despair.  Weights and chains bound her legs and feet and each step felt heavy and painful to take.  


Jennifer's feet hit the small lime green carpet that laid right by her bedside,  her hands pushed her up off of the mattress,  her legs walked her out of her room and into the bathroom. 

The darkness was cleared away by the turning on of the switch. If only that exchange could happen as easily in real life.  Turning on the faucet, Jennifer placed her hands under the cold water that  started pouring forth. 


Jennifer's eyes lifted to the mirror, to her reflection.  What was she looking for?  What was she looking at?  The light on, the water running, her hands feeling the sensations of the cold liquid passing through her fingers, her eyes beholding herself, her eyes going void as all the sensations filled her senses to overload.


Instead of going back to her bedroom she wandered into her grandmother's where there was an extra television. 


Jennifer sat on her grandmother's bed.  The bed spread was thin, she hated the way the back side of it felt against the flesh of her foot, or her body.  She abhorred it.  Something about the material just thoroughly kept her bothered.  The afghan that Faye had knitted was laying perfectly folded at the end of the bed.  Jennifer had never not known the realities of this room.


The old wood furniture, the bed frames, the pictures of a wedding that hung over the bed, the mirrors... the two mirrors. Jennifer must have spent hours looking into those mirrors.  Jennifer spent hours looking at all the pictures. There were pictures of relatives she had never met, most were dead  but some had just been lucky enough to put space between themselves and Faye. 

Her grandmother's television was on and the show, Our House, was running in the background as Jennifer watched herself again within a  mirror.


“What is so wrong with me?” 


That question lingered in the air, in Jennifer's heart, in Jennifer's mind, within Jennifer's whole person all the time.


All the time.


Jennifer looked at her face, her hair, her eyes, her mouth....  Her dark, pitch, black hair, her plain brown eyes, her pale complexion, her freckles; what attribute pushed her over the line that made her so completely unacceptable?


She wasn't beautiful but was she really that ugly?


Her heart began to fail her as she pushed her body off of the bed, heading towards the television to shut it off, the thoughts that wouldn't release Jennifer's head and heart filled them  again and again, over and over with the question of what was so wrong with her.


She couldn't keep things together.


She couldn't function fully.


She just went back  and sat again in her bedroom, on her bed and cried and cried and cried.
….................................................

The bus jolted Jennifer back to reality.  The noise of chitter chatter filled the air, the noise of the vehicle itself filled her ears,  the cushioned gray back of the seat in front of her caught her body as the  jolt threw her up against it. 

She had gotten lost in thought as they passed the section of road that had the woods off to the right.  Jennifer leaned her head onto the cold glass pane, her head bumping along with the rhythmic shaking of the vehicle that was bringing her to school. 


Her eyes looked at the woods off to the right. 


Her thoughts drifted to Grizzly Adam's simplistic rural living.  Her mind's natural process kicking into playacting scenarios in her head.  This story line or that story line all infringing their weight and better reality upon her person. 


Anything... anything would have to be better than the continual droning on of her life. 


Head lost in the clouds or somewhere without earthly destinations or geography, Jennifer rode in silence, lost in her thoughts.. hidden from the world and realities all seemed to know but her.  The bus finally pulled into the school's driveway and around the loop with the flag pole that blazed forth the American way.  Red, White and Blue... all shining forth the dreams of better lives. 


As if mechanically flowing with the day after day routine all got up, gathered their stuff, exited the yellow transport and headed in all various directions. 


Jennifer lost in her head knew where her feet would take her, not really even dreading each step that would bring her further into her day, just not connecting with them either. 


More of a puppet or life by proxy. 


Step here. 


Breathe. 


Linger there. 


Entering into the school.   Jennifer looked up at the tiled mosaic that covered the ceiling and ran down both sides of the entrance way.  A mural of happy children amidst a bright blue cloudless sky entering a place of learning just like what she was currently doing.


All their faces looked so happy, all their clothes so perfect, all wearing back packs and carrying lunch sacks, some of the boys had baseball caps on their heads, some of the girls had their hair pulled back in a pony tail or pig tails, but all of them... all of them  looked happy. 

Jennifer noticed the one tile off to the middle of the right side wall that had cracked.  She noticed how the girl who had been painted at that spot had half of her face missing so that you couldn't see her, not fully. 

Jennifer's eyes would always find that one spot. 


That one tile amidst thousands of tiles that had a crack in it, that lacked paint and wasn't a full picture in one corner amidst an other wise perfect mural.  That spot, Jennifer thought, that spot was her, a crack in an otherwise perfect picture.


Jennifer stood there just staring at the tile.  


She started walking again. 


Being passed by and passing by bodies pressing in here and there as all were making their way through doors towards hallways towards classrooms towards chairs and desks, towards the day.


This day would be broken up by an assembly. 


Again the routine. 

So well trained. 

Pavlov's dogs in mass quantities. 

Line up at the door. 


Stand in line.


Be quiet. 


Hands to sides. 


Mouths were quiet and shut. 


Hands were glued flat.


Legs walked bodies down the hallway into the gymnasium. 


Class after class filtered in.


Child after child was told to sit down.


Legs crossed. 

Mouths shut. 

Hands to oneself. 

Eyes forward. 


Jennifer sat alongside classmates. 


Names, faces.. nothing more... spending most of her day with these people year after year never making any real or true connection. 


It felt so surreal to Jennifer as she played the role of obedient complacent child. 


Somewhere deep within she mocked this charade.  These people.  She mocked yet hungered to enter into their reality all the same.  Jennifer's mind drifted back to when  attendance was being taken, names were being called out, voices declaring that they indeed were present,  Jennifer wondered what would happen if she actually spoke up and said, “Heck no.  Not present.”


Parents would be called, possibly.  But  would saying anything different change anything even if her parents were called?


Realizing the answer was most definitely not, Jennifer answered, “present,” in response to her name being called.  Maybe she was indeed invisible and if she didn't say she was present her teacher wouldn't see her, again would it matter.  Would it matter at all?

Something nagged at her as outcast. 

Something tore at her insides screaming she didn't belong. 

She knew that all too well. 

Even so her eyes searched the place for somewhere to land.  Something to attach to that would make sense.  Coming up to the surface of life instead of just peering through eye sockets, Jennifer was hungry for connection to whatever degree could touch that which was resident within her.

There were the typical announcements as always again being told what to do, how to be the good boys and girls and represent the school, their teachers, themselves well. 

The principal went on about the production they were about to watch, as the lights darkened Jennifer crunched her little body over her crissed crossed applesauce legs watching as ballet dancers took the stage.

Some might have noticed the lighting.  Some might have noticed the most graceful of movements as women jumped and were lifted up into the air.  Some might have noticed the beauty of costumes and faces made up ever so perfectly.

Jennifer noticed the lead dancer's penis. 

In the tightest of pants, Jennifer's eyes had landed on the bulging part between the legs of the man now leaping and twirling around and around the stage.  Jennifer's mouth would form the words to her peer sitting next to her making mention of the unmentionable parts.  

Her little friend, Kimberly, was wearing this new princess line dress which was   blue and green and drew in very narrow to her waist.  Jennifer's eyes had looked upon the beautiful wider skirt at the bottom and the ruffles that dressed up the neckline, the laces that tied around her throat that were a bright yellow as standing in contrast to the rest of the dress.

Jennifer looked at her friend upon whose ears had heard what she said but her eyes didn't register the same picture.  Kimberly had been enraptured by princesses being thrown into the air and caught and the amazing flashing rainbow colored lights. 

Kimberly had gotten lost into little girl dreams of princesses and princes and all that happily ever after endings proclaim.  Kimberly hadn't even noticed that which had caught Jennifer's attention, nor did Kimberly fully understand.

But the teacher behind them understood and understood perfectly, she too had heard Jennifer's proclamation.  Horrified her whole face contorted, as she bore her hand down into Jennifer's shoulder.

Jennifer wished she could vanish into the varnish of the shiny gymnasium flooring which she was sitting criss crossed upon.

Chastisement and shame barreled down upon the child who had dared point out that the male dancer had bulging parts between his legs.  Jennifer hadn't followed the mandated set of approved of behavior.  Threats were made and horrified astonishment was shown that such language would come out of the mouth of a 4th grader.

Jennifer didn't think it back then, but as she would grow older and remember back; upon the ludicrous scene, she would think to herself, that she sadly knew more about those bulging parts, between men's legs, then that fourth grade teacher whose ignorance and horror had kept her blind to a child in need. 

All that scenario taught Jennifer was that her lips sealed was the best possible posture.  That liken unto  crazy glue, an adhesive was being placed upon Jennifer's mouth that would ride out into the next decade, silence would dictate to her heart to lay low.. lay very very low.  Much to the credit of the adversaries of Jennifer's small existence the child was learning silence in the most horrific and horrifying of ways.

That was what school really taught and reinforced into Jennifer's world.  Day after day being swallowed by the abyss at home, by the abyss at school.. out in the hallways, the highways, the byways...

Jennifer was learning all too well the land of self preservation. 

It was forming her insides, it was laying construction to mighty and strong foundations within a life, whose cracks and lack of substance would be made evident to all at the embarrassment of its prey, the life that would try to rest upon it.

Memories  haunted Jennifer following her as if a cruel prank being played out year after year. There was  the teacher in 5th grade who had come up with a nickname for everyone, everyone in the class had a cool private nickname between them and the teacher.  Everyone except Jennifer. 

He would just look at her and draw a blank. 

Each time.

Each and every time.

There were names for everyone but her. 

There was Amar the star.  That one lingered and haunted.  That one exalted another continually over her, the depth that Jennifer would plummet to over the exclusion from these ceremonious absurdities would rack her very being to the core.

There was the time she had cussed.  She was just pissed.  Something had transpired in the neighborhood and she had told the person to fuck off.  Well on the bus the following morning threats were being made that parents would be told and that Jennifer was going to be exposed for having used such fowl language. She wanted to tell the girl she could fuck off again, but now she was afraid.

Jennifer had run into the tiled entrance, she had run through hallways, down a few stairs to the corridor where the payphone was, she put a few coins in the slot but still had to  place the collect call to home.  Her mother had answered the phone and lie upon lie poured out of a panic stricken heart. 

“Mom,  Elise is mad at me and wants to get me into trouble.  She is going to tell you I said bad words.  But I didn't mom. I really didn't.”

Panic and dread and horror filled Jennifer's heart as she stammered on and on, trying to catch her breath as well as  answer questions her mother was fielding back towards her, such as why would Elise do that, and what had really happened.

Jennifer's mind racing a million miles a minute struggling to come up with anything that sounded reasonable but nothing really did and she would probably be shown up for lying. 

But what did she care. 

What did she really care?

Jennifer's head felt so heavy.  Jennifer felt exhausted as she raced to her third grade classroom before the bell rang. 

Bells ringing.

Schedules dictating.

Year after year  spent being herded like cattle into and out of classrooms, hallways, stair wells...  faces changing or not changing but nothing really changing.  The droning on and on and on through mandated corridors of human existence never once stopping to access whether the next foot step should even be taken.

Eyes ceased to plead for help as Jennifer's heart learned very quickly that it didn't know how to function like the other children's,  eyes ceased to plead to be really seen but a will to survive was being forged. 
….................................................



Feet carried the child forward. She  had emerged from her front door and was eying the climbing tree that was right in front of her,  the day was utterly perfect and Jennifer was looking forward to being outside all afternoon. 

The activity and drama of the weekend had left Jennifer tired in regards to all the adults that were in her life, she just wanted a break. 

Jennifer jumped down the five concrete steps that went from her stoop to the slate walkway, she climbed them again and jumped them again and repeated that activity in a brainless fashion at least half a dozen times.  

Feeling triumphant over the fear of the what ifs. 


The what ifs she missed and fell. 


When she had been younger she would stand on the second to bottom step and jump and feel brave, then she would add a step and do the same thing over and over again until all five steps had been conquered.  Oh they had been conquered, all right, and Jennifer was jumping and jumping away.

Then from out of nowhere  she heard.

“Hey can you come over?”


Looking up and seeing from where the words were spoken Jennifer replied, “I don't know I can ask.”  Jennifer screamed back over the rode to her across the street neighbor, Elise. 


“We can just stay outside.”


“OK.”  Jennifer  walked across her own yard heading towards the street.


Jennifer felt bad for Elise. 


Everyone knew there were problems in the Tullote family household.

 
Jennifer's mom and nana had been talking about everything for days and even if Jennifer didn't want to overhear it it was all they talked about, it was if they were the neighborhood  piranha devouring that poor family.


Jennifer would watch Patricia and Faye's faces echoing in a horrific delight at the plight of Elise's older brother.  As if glued to the chair but lost somewhere in outer space Jennifer would hear the words as if through a dazed fog.  Every now and then Jennifer's nana, Faye, would drop a word or a whole phrase in Yiddish knowing that Jennifer didn't know one iota of the language that mixed cultures. 


Faye liked isolating anyone as long as it wasn't herself, whether she liked being mean or not she was mean to the core of her being.  A proper slim older woman Faye brought propriety and cruelty to new heights.  Tearing into someone was her specialty, belittling them and pulling them apart her expertise.


“Poor Mandy.  Can you imagine?”


“No. They were just lucky we didn't call the police.”  Patricia responded off of Faye concerning the other night when the door bell had been rung so very late in the evening. 


Mitchell had actually been home and yet even with the  hour had supposed that maybe it was someone from work. 


At least that was Patricia's assumption due to the fact that the chime of the door bell at Eleven O'clock at night caused him to have a far different reaction than what Patricia thought was warranted. 


But what did she know.  


Instead of a co-worker Mitchell would open the door to find a brown paper bag on fire.  Mitchell had run back into the house to grab a tong from the fireplace.  As he positioned the tongs upon the bag to remove it from his stoop, some mud looking like substance fell out of the bag. 


Except it wasn't mud at all it was a huge amount of dog shit that someone had collected and put into the bag hoping that the one who found it would try and stomp out the fire only to get dog crap all over their house shoes, foot, or whatever the poor victim would have had on. 


Everyone in the neighborhood knew exactly who it was that had done this to the Galliants. 


Mitchell had gone over to talk to Elise's dad the following morning. 


All Jennifer knew was that not too much later a horrible commotion was being played out on the Tullote's driveway.  Mr. Tullote had taken Elise's brother's Nintendo along with his ax out to their driveway and the two were meeting over and over again as Elise's brother let off every swear word Jennifer had ever heard.
Then the neighborhood on Hill Crest Drive fell silent to an eerie horrible silence.


Mitchell had spent the Sunday morning using the boiling water Faye had given him to clean off the stoop.

All was perfect and clean and quiet again.  The neighborhood could all now go about the rest of their Sunday activities as if nothing had even happened. 


Jennifer had seen Elise playing alone outside in her front yard.


Jennifer had given a slight and awkward wave that Elise had immediately picked up upon.  And the offer to play had come forth.  Elise had been nervous for Jennifer to go ask her parents if they could play, assured that the answer would have been a resounding no. 


Elise  was relieved that Jennifer had probably ascertained that as well. So now all  were coming up with the compromise that since it was just across the street and they were going to stay outside it would be definitely alright to not ask.



It was kind of that way anyway. 


Between the four houses there were the Galliants, Elise's family, Dedra's family, and Meghan's and all the kids played somewhat interchangeably despite ages and girl slash boyhood. 



Whether it was a neighborhood game of freeze tag, or ball... the street and lawns would erupt with kids running and chasing and playing with each other.  The air would fill with the sounds of moms calling kids for dinner and the promises of being right back in ten minutes. 


Kids would rush in, devour food, and run back out waiting for all the rest to join them and the games would ensue.  Especially in the Summer time when the play and running around could take these neighborhood children into the late late hours of the evening.


Jennifer always hated the fact that she and Sebastian were always the first to be called in.  The others, all the others, would still be outside playing while Jennifer watched from her bedroom window dressed in pajamas.


She would watch hour after hour as the fun continued.  She would sit there in her nightgown, feeling the fresh cool breezes of the evening floating into her room, landing upon her flesh.  Smelling the scents of Summer upon herself and the outside air, Jennifer would wish that she was still outside playing with her friends.


She would watch through the glass. 


She would sit there hour after hour watching.


She would sometimes wake up having fallen asleep at her desk which was by the window panes, then it was really dark and the street had fallen completely silent.


She would move from the desk to her bed and the perfectly tucked in hospital corners that made the sheets so delicious to crawl into. 


Most of the time she would fall immediately back off to sleep.


Other times she would just lay there in a daze looking up or off to the side. 


Her father had put a full length mirror on the outside of her closet door and so at night if Jennifer couldn't sleep she would raise her arm out of the covers and watch it's reflection in the mirror, she would do the same with her leg, or her other arm.


Just checking that they were real. 


Just making sure that they worked.


Just playing around. 


Her mind would wander sometimes and scenarios of which Jennifer was the real one and which was the one trapped in the world of the mirror would ensue. Then at some point through the night, through the scenarios Jennifer would fall back off asleep. 


“Come on already.”


Elise was calling Jennifer to hurry up and get over. 


Anxious to play.


Anxious to have time where her life wasn't about her brother or her father or the anger that saturated her household these days.


Having arrived from across the street Jennifer and Elise ran around the yard chasing each other and playing catch.  Each felt alive and wonderful as they ran and ran and ran. 


Their feet sprinting across luscious green grass, dodging the trees that were sprinkled out here or there across the yard,  sending mulch flying in every direction as they played and ran after one another. 

Everything raced by them into a blurry frenzy of laughter and activity and color.


They would eventually collapse. 


Exhausted.


They would lay with their backs against the grass and with their little girl eyes gazing up at the sky, begin declaring and pointing out what the different clouds looked like.  The two girls just relaxing with each other as if the rest of both of their worlds had completely disappeared.


“Wanna play boxing?”


“What?” Jennifer asked.  Elise wanted to pretend fight as if Jennifer and her were in a boxing ring.


“No.”


“Come on. It will be fun. It won't be like we are really fighting.”


“I really don't want to.”


“Let's just do it.”

 “Well how do we start?” Jennifer's curiosity got the best of her.


Elise got up and offering a hand to Jennifer got her friend up on her feet.

“So we just kind of do this...”  Elise was showing Jennifer how to hold up her hands in fists by her face and keep her legs a tad bit apart.  Then Elise started to kind of dance back and forth and move her hands up and down.  “So this is what we do. Come on.”


Jennifer followed Elise's lead. 


Putting up her hands. 


Keeping her legs apart, bending at the knees, dancing back and forth. 


Elise punched Jennifer's arm.


“Hey, that hurt. I thought we were just pretending.”


“Well we aren't hitting that hard.” Elise said landing another fist to Jennifer's arm.


Jennifer tilted her head  and looked up at her friend. “I really don't like this.”


“Come on.”


“Ok.”  Jennifer conceded. And attempted a similar punch which landed upon her friend.  The actuality of the  contact seemed to unleash something in Jennifer and before she knew it she had Elise down on the ground, landing punch after punch on Elise's face. 


Elise screamed.


Patricia had seen the girls from the window and was now standing at the stoop screaming over to the girls to stop.  Running across the lawn and street Patricia grabbed up her daughter. 


Looking at both of the girls in disgust Patricia let out a litany of commands.  “Stop this immediately.” Pushing her daughter back across the yard and the street and the other yard and into the house, Patricia looked behind her to see who had been watching.


That was all she needed was to be the next bit of food for the gossip mill of the street.

…...............................................