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Jett Superior laid this on you on || July 21, 2004 || 1:29 am

Of Celts and Coincidence

I saw this photo over at Clayton’s just before I settled in to write all this down. It made me say, “Oh.”

I just sat and stared at it for a little bit.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Once, when I was twenty-one, I had three dollars in my pocket. Just three dollars, and I was going to the store for a specific item; I can’t recall just now exactly what it was.

What I can recall is that I was still married to Biff and we were new parents. We were a young military couple, struggling to get our lives fixed between the boundaries that a one-income household set up. Sam was maybe two months old and we had not yet adjusted financially, my job pre-mommyhood having been a fairly lucrative one, especially for one so young.

What I also recall is that I was in a state of disquiet, as we were in need of the supplemental formula that Sam required, we were in need of diapers, we were about a week from payday. It never crossed our minds to ask for assistance from anyone; we had both heard stories about the military families that required food stamps just to get by and it made both Biff and me wince. The military is a proud occupation; proud people do not take handouts.

But in a practical world, people cannot eat honor for dinner. People who refuse to dine on their pride nibble on worry, and that is what I did.

I pulled into the commissary parking lot, Biff having opted to stay at home with our sleeping infant. There, as I killed the car engine, I sat still and quiet for a moment. I began to talk to God in my head.

“Just twenty dollars. That’s all we need: Twenty dollars and we can absolutely make it to payday. The baby needs a little formula, a pack of diapers by this time tomorrow.”

I sighed, opening the car door, and put my left boot down on the ice. As Alaskans are wont to do, I glanced down to be sure of my footing before shifting my weight and rising. There on the ice, so precisely parallel to my rubber sole that it looked painstakingly placed, was a crisp twenty-dollar bill. I smiled to myself, a tucked-in mouthcorners kinda smile, and retrieved the bill.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I’ve lost twenty dollars before. More than once, if memory serves correct. What is remarkable about this is not that I lost the cash for whatever reason, but that in all those times, I never remember losing twenty dollars that I really, really needed. Funny that.

But –and I’d make bank on this one, baby– I’m betting that on more than one occasion the person that found it couldn’t say the same thing. Yessir, I’m betting that my lost twenties found their way into hands that had a need.

Same as that twenty that lay there alongside my boot.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Scout is one of the bravest people I know. And the girl is adventurous. Bold, as well, but not stand-on-the-hilltop-and-shout kinda bold. She is the kind of bold that sees a need somewhere and says, “I will fix that.”

It doesn’t take someone bold to utter platitudes and good intentions. It takes someone bold to utter them and then, realizing her own limits, stepping in on the other person’s behalf and asking. She is unafraid. Or maybe, she is indeed afraid and says, “Fuck you,” to fear in spite of herself. Even though I am her mother, I am unsure, but I think it may well be the latter.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Last year, Scouty took scuba diving lessons with her father. It was something he wanted to do with and for the kids, but Sam waffled and finally said, “No way, man.” He is fearful, my Sam, or maybe he just hasn’t found the impetus for his courage yet.

Even though her dad proposed it for fun, Scout immediately tied it in to her future career plans; she thought it might aid her in her quest to become a Navy pilot (the wings are seen as a vehicle with which to get her in to space faster, as her ultimate goal is to be an astronaut).

So Scout got scuba certified. She did it unblinkingly, and was the only female in her class of eighteen. She was the only person there under twenty years of age. Despite the fact that she gets seasick, she completed the deep sea dive and scored one-hundred percent both on paper and in performance.

Maxim and I fully acknowledge that she is the most even person in our household. Perhaps the most driven, as well. Last year, we caught her waking at three-thirty ay emm and showering, because, “It gives me more time to study, to read, to prepare for school.”

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

We are a family big on ‘treats’: Little surprises that make a person’s day a bit more pleasant. The kids knew early on if they came to me and said something along the lines of, “Kevin’s been getting a hard time from some of the guys in class and he feels really bad, can we make up a treat bag for him?” that it would be so. I keep a couple shelves in the storage closet piled with neat things that I find impossibly cheap (I am blessed with a Bargain Fairy, what can I say?) for last-minute birthdays, rewards, pick-em-ups.

Sam utilized this most often, as not much in the way of the human spirit escapes his attention. He, above all else, wants everyone around him happy and relaxed. He loves to smile, to laugh, and believes others’ faces are best draped with pleasure as well.

Scout came home one day during her first grade year to tell me, “Noen is my buddy, mom.” She spoke incessantly of Noen in the next couple of weeks, telling me that she had sung songs to and made up silly rhymes for him. She liked the boy so much that she would walk to his classroom to retrieve him and another girl named Laura every day for the first-grade lunch period. Eventually, she asked if she might take Noen a treat bag, just because he did not have many friends and therefore was probably not the recipient of many gifts. She very carefully selected five or six things from those available and went off to school with them tucked in a bag. It had an extra-large flower with a ridiculously-smiling face emblazoned on it.

One afternoon, I was picking up the kids from extended day. As I signed them out, the teacher on duty asked who I was there for. I called out Sam’s name and his homeroom first; the teacher called for him via radio. There was a boy in a wheelchair four times bigger than him sitting to the left of the teacher’s table. He was still and quiet, and from his appearance I surmised that he had the most severe case of Cerebral Palsy I’d ever seen. He was drawn up, dystonic, and his head pulled far to the left.

I gave the teacher Scout’s first and last name, and the boy in the wheelchair began to move, restless at first but then seeming more purposeful. He smiled, his head swung, bobbing with effort. As Scout came up the hall, he began to hoot gleefully. She came at a light jog, her blue dress bouncing and matching Doc Martens thudding. Such a big noise for such a measured, birdlike person.

“Hey mommy!” and she turned away from me, toward the boy in the chair.

“Hey, Noen! Did you meet my mom?”

My heart nearly fell out of my chest.

I met Laura about a week later at one of the kids’ football games. She was three years older than Scout and had Down Syndrome.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Faith is not something I’ve ever had trouble with. That in and of itself is a gift, I know. I’ve never had trouble believing that if I put my best heart and effort into an endeavor, that everything will come to rights no matter how backward and upside-down it is (or appears to be). I’ve always just known in my heart of hearts that there is a God and that He has his finger on me.

Even in those times when I was mired in the ugliness that life offers up (and many times, admittedly, I voluntarily stepped up and held its hand) I was aware of His presence. Frankly, by this point I should be dead many times over.

I’m not, and that says much.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

“I envy you your faith,” Melly said to me a couple days ago.

“It seems that some of the most important people in my life have a strong sense of God, even though they’ve been hurt in His name.”

“I don’t think that’s a coincidence, Mel,” was what I replied with.

She was told –just as I was– at a young age that the Almighty has a great and grand bone to pick with all carbon-based bipeds sporting opposable thumbs. She bought it, just as I did (I have since had a cocktail of epiphany spiked with divine intervention).

“I always thought that he was The Great Punisher.”

“He ain’t my punisher, Melliloulou, He’s my redeemer. He loves me, and He loves you, too.”

“Oh, I love you for saying that out loud, Bethy.”*

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

There are times that I am moved to do or say things that make absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. I have learned to do them. I have learned to say them. I have learned that there are greater things than me working at any given moment and if I do not follow these seemingly silly impulses, people miss out. They miss out on something they desperately needed, and I miss out on the blessing of being able to facilitate something for someone.

It’s been trial-and-error, this quiet obedience to the Something That Prods Me. Which, truth be blatantly told, is a dumbed-down way of saying God.

There, I’ve said it, mockable as it may be to some. I get a little push from God to do or say something to someone –many times complete strangers– and I just do it and it turns out to be exactly what they needed at any given moment.

This is how I justify such silliness (and that’s technically the wrong word, just so you know) to myself: What if, in times of my own desperate physical/emotional/spiritual need, someone had not heeded their own urgings? I’ve had more times in my life than I can count where miraculous things occurred. Things that went beyond mere happenstance. Things that were seemingly impossible without precise orchestration. Things that quite literally saved my beans, my goat, my life. Spared on many counts, that’s me.

In short, you don’t have to be a Christian for God to use you. Hell, you don’t even really have to be consciously aware of Him. But He is certainly aware of you.

So, yeah, where were we? Obedience. I’ve learned to be obedient to that call. Ridiculous, pride-sucking things like getting out at midnight (in my jammies, no less) to take somebody a pair of shoes because they need them and it simply can’t wait till the morning. Ludicrous things like turning to a complete stranger that I no more know than Adam’s housecat and saying something like, “I feel like I’m supposed to tell you that in spite of your despair, your joy is being restored in increments, even now as we speak. You can let go.” There are many others. There are returns on most all of them, and those are (maybe, maybe not) stories for another time.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

If I were to sit down and list all the places that I’d love to travel, Scotland prolly wouldn’t even make the top ten. It’d fall maybe at twelve or thereabouts. Italy, oh Italy is tops on my list, followed by Spain and Australia and Portugal and Greece.

Yep, despite the fact that I am told that Scotland would feel like home to me given my propensity for sealing certain matters with a hearty cry of “FUCK!” and a Glasgow Kiss, my spirited nature, the battle call that looms just beneath my breastbone, my outspoken tendencies….well, it’s never been a prime source of interest for me (my swoony love of the Scots’ accent, well-documented here, notwithstanding).

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Some six months ago my pastor and another man from our church went on a mission trip to Scotland. Their purpose there was to aid in the renovations of a castle that the local county had leased to a ministry for one dollar a month over the next hundred years.

This ministry, when fully up and running, will provide community outreach –primarily to youth and children– in an area where unemployment is better than fifty percent, where the average age of sexual activity startup is eleven (ELEVEN! and I want to choke), where the average age for teen pregnancy is thirteen, where mothers are set up in an apartment by the government only to have their beaus move in with them and make more babies and perpetuate the cycle.

The area has been drowned in a spirit of religion (i.e., the aforementioned, “God is maaaaad at you, and boy are you gonna get it!”) for ages now, and most people are apathetic toward the notion of God.

Lead with love, that’s what the missionaries stationed at this castle believe. That, and a good pint every now and again ain’t gonna send you straight to the mouth of the abyss, all the more convenient for when God flicks you in.

Coincidentally, that happens to be my philosophy as well.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I have this friend that I call every Friday, or damn near. She’s okay if I miss one every now and again, because she too has kids and business and is a Chaos Magnettm. She understands.

Usually when I call her, she is halfway into her workday and swearing at people and machinery with great aplomb. Coffee is her sustenance, ire is her desert. Some of us are more effective that way.

So, on Fridays, I call her and yell, “HAPPY FRIDAY!” into the phone. Sometimes this is ironic, sometimes it is sarcastic, sometimes it is gleeful….but it’s always heartfelt.

She unburdens herself to me, this friend, and I’ve just about broken her of apologizing every time she does so. Everyone needs a sounding board, and you’d be a mighty shitty friend to someone if all you ever expected from them was sunshine and roses and perky nonsense like that. I seek remuneration for my counseling services in two ways: Sometimes I make fun of her yankee accent (this always confuses her, which makes me laugh even harder) and sometimes I call on her to help me brainstorm. She is a creative-type kinda gal, and has been known to think outside the box a time or two in the past.

About a month ago I approached her for a different sort of way to raise some funds. I told her what for, and she said, “I liiiiike that! Lemme think. I’ll call you back later today.” Something that was mentioned was somehow bringing it to my audience here; I told her that I didn’t really know about that, I’d have to think on it (“Ohhhhhm,” teehee).

Sometimes your friends drag you into the spotlight, squinting.

Sometimes you have friends that heed the voice, too.

This is in spite of the fact that you yourself are maybe straining so hard to hear that you tire yourself out before you can hone in on the transmission.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

After our pastor got back from Scotland, he took an entire service to tell about the experience; he outlined the work they’d done, the people they’d met, the work yet left to do. At the end of the service, while we were in prayer, he said to the smallish congregation, “Those of you that think you might be called to Scotland, please stand.”

It was clear and it was immediate.

You go, I was told, You go and leave all the boys at home. Take Scout.

I stood, head bowed, steady questions in my heart:

How will we pull the money together? Two-thousand dollars might as well be two million! The money will be there.

Scout? How will this be received? She is earnest and hardworking, sure; but SHE IS eleven. She’s supposed to go.

You sure? Ayuh.

School! I’ll be in the middle of a semester! Two weeks away from my math-based courses will KILL the mathtard [ed. note: I am indeed said mathtard]. The earth spins like clockwork on its axis without your conscious thought….who you think does that? I got this one, too.

There are bills. I know that; didn’t I say the money will be there? Listen.

You know I’m gonna go. You know I can’t NOT go. *chuckle* Now you’re getting it.

And I spent a week praying on just this one thing, this trip, the machinations of it, the improbability of all the factors, the hows and wherefores. The why’s a given, pretty much. My two three big concerns:

1) Is Scout really supposed to go?

2) Where on earth will I get two-kay?

3) Is this just me wanting to go to Scotland, or am I truly being called?

The last one, by careful and reasoned thought, was stricken down with a no pretty quickly. There are two-handsful of places I’d go first. Besides, we’d be there working; it wasn’t to be a sightseeing trip replete with ribald pleasure: No ‘personal’ motivation except for the kind that really counts.

The first two were answered cleanly, coincidentally enough, the following Sunday. Scout, having gone to church with her father that morning, called me excitedly that afternoon. Seems she had told her grandmother about the trip, what we were to do while we were there, and asked her if she could help Scout think of some clever ways to fundraise. Scout’s grandma then anecdotally told one of the other ladies in the women’s class and by the time Scout left church that afternoon she had what turned out to be enough money to cover our passports in her hot little fist. Only five people had donated; they had been moved by my Scouty’s earnestness and eagerness to do whatever she had to do to bankroll this mission trip.

They answered their calls and provided confirmation in one fell swoop.

We were locked in to going the minute someone handed over one thin dime.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Although I’m not big on humanity as a whole, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the kids. Always worked with them in one form or another as far back as I can remember. Children are fabulous creatures. A little rough around the edges these days due to a prevalence of faulty, slipshod parenting, but still pretty amazing and wonderful.

I hope I never lose this heart-connection with the four-foot-and-under set; it’s one of the most fulfilling and human aspects of me.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

So I don’t know where the money is coming from, only that it is coming in here and there and has been over the past few weeks. We are still woefully underfunded, and while I am concerned about it and have done a myriad of things to pull together the dough (yard sales, house painting, personal errands), I’m just trusting. That, and bouncing ideas off of a few close friends and family members.

Asking prayerfully, at every turn, “Is this how I’m supposed to be doing it?”

And, in one instance thus far, not knowing if it’s right until it’s already underway. There you go. I have ‘Damn-the-torpedos’, proactive friends.

If you pray, lift me and my kid up with regard to this situation.

If you just like to get behind someone who is trying to do something that seems very right and good to them, then wish Scout and me well in your hearts. We are on a mission. My daughter is a person of strength, compassion and will. I expect that it was not she who was called to be my companion, but the other way around. And like a good steward, I will serve in whatever fashion I can.

*she is the only person in my life I’ve ever allowed to call me this; the whole lot of you take note!

8 worked it out »

  1. Joelle 7.21.2004

    Allow me to delurk and say that this post really impressed me. I mean, not to say other posts haven’t, but you speak so candidly and from your heart and with such a true voice that it’s inspiring. Your children astound me, too.

    I’m cheesing out over here, but I don’t care. :) Thanks.

  2. Jettomatika 7.21.2004

    Dear Joelle,

    Welcome to Muffinassery.

    Love, Jett


  3. Dean 7.21.2004

    Damn woman, you fucking rock.

  4. wheezy joe 7.21.2004

    hoo-dad diddly. takes so long to read, but i wouldn’t miss a sillybull of it.

  5. melly 7.21.2004

    I love talking to you on the phone, but I think I like reading you even more. I can hear you say every word as I go along, and my own little distractions and objections don’t go at a rapid fire pace. I sense it every time we get into a deep discussion that I should be HEARING more and thinking/talking less. It’s always an experience speaking with you.

    From tumble weeds on a leash to finding God’s love, I think we have pretty much covered everything.

  6. Mac66 7.21.2004

    Dang girl your posts are as long as mine these days..!. First off the bird…not the finger, but the bird…Cool…

    As for all the other stuff, too much to respond to here, but your thoughts as usual make my head…ache…

  7. red clay 7.21.2004

    yankee girl i know always says ‘with all the awful heartwrenching pain and disasters you have been through…how can you still believe in a God?”


    how can i not, when he takes such a personal interest in me?

  8. ntexas99 7.24.2004

    I know you’ll listen to the voice that needs to be heard, just like you’ve done those many times in the past. Sometimes, even when we can make reasonable arguments against it, we have to let go and just follow with our hearts.


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