My Dad, the Robot?
by Karen Harper DeLoach
When I was six years old, my dad was stationed in Madison, Wisconsin, for a one-year tour of duty. We left the big city life in Oklahoma and moved into a big two-story farmhouse in the beautiful countryside on the outskirts of Madison. It had a huge green lawn and lots of trees made for climbing, some loaded with apples waiting to be picked. A farmer leased the outlying land and the old-fashioned red barn with its smelly pigsty, but we kids were allowed to visit the chickens and ducks and pigs. My sister Linda and I attended a one-room school ala Little House on the Prairie. I loved the country life!
So many memories pop into my mind about that short period in my life. When visiting a nearby playmate, we wandered through her daddy's fields, the smell of fresh-turned dirt and dew-covered plants filling our nostrils. When we got hungry, our snack was at our fingertips. We picked peas, zipped open the pods, and let the fresh green goodies roll down into our wide-open mouths. What a treat! Then we ran into her daddy's modern barn with its cows hooked up to silver milking machines and climbed the ladder to the top of the corn crib. We slid down the mountain of corn cobs on our makeshift piece-of-cardboard sleds. Unfortunately, that thrill ride ended for me the day I saw a big rat in the corn crib. Alas! I wasnt a full-fledged country girl after all!
Harvest time brought natures decorations of fat orange pumpkins, colorful gourds, red and gold leaves, plus man-made funny-looking scarecrows. We attended fall festivals and enjoyed games, hot homemade soup, and hot apple cider. Trick-or-treating was a whole new ball game. No walking door-to-door here. We kids jumped into the car and were driven from farm to farm.
At one dark, isolated farmhouse, a wrinkled bent-over woman who was not much taller than Linda came to the door. She must be a hundred, I thought. She smiled and waved us into the house. But every time we said, "Trick or treat" and held out our bags, she just nodded, looked into our sacks, and smiled again. After a few minutes of this, I started thinking about the old witch in Hansel and Gretel. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up! Linda must have been thinking the same thing because she put herself protectively between us and the old lady and slowly backed us out of the room. When we reached the door, we made a break for it! We ran to the car, huffing and puffing, chattering excitedly about the old witch in the haunted farmhouse.
Winter was a magical time! Our cold-natured mom shivered her way through the winter, but we kids loved it. Snow! Lots of snow! Enough snow for snowmen and snowball fights. So much snow was plowed up from our l-o-n-g winding driveway that we had a small mountain behind our house, perfect for playing king of the hill. Nobody came to my seventh birthday party because we were snowed-in, but Mom had a cake and presents for me, so it was a small price to pay for having SNOW!
One of my favorite Wisconsin memories happened on a wintry Sunday evening. Linda went to church with Mom, the little ones were tucked snugly into bed, and I was sitting on Daddy's lap watching television. We were watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It was an eerie tale about robots that were so life-like the only way you could tell they werent human was by listening to their chests. Instead of a heartbeat, there was a hum-m-m.
I watched in disbelief as a character in the story discovered that his wife had been replaced with a robot look-alike. Suddenly, a horrible thought! What if daddy had been replaced by a robot? I could be in terrible danger! I looked at his face. It looks like daddy, I thought. But I knew there was only one way to tell for sure.
I had to be careful. If he were a robot, I couldn't let him know that I'd made the discovery. I curled up in his lap pretending to sleep and gradually slid my head down his chest until my ear was even with where his heart should be. I held my breath and listened closely . . .
Ka-thump, ka-thump, ka-thump. What relief! He didn't hum!
Such fun memories! Playing Red Rover outside our one-room school on crisp afternoons. Borrowing a carrot from the refrigerator so our snowman would have a proper nose. Learning to ride a two-wheeler down the path that led to the red barn.
But the best memory of all - my feeling of blissful security when reassured that my dad wasn't a robot!
- Karen Harper DeLoach copyright 2002
|l to r - Patti, Mike, Linda, Karen, neighbor girl
THE SILK NOSEGAY
by Karen Harper DeLoach
"Silk flowers or fresh?" my sister asked, as we pulled into the parking lot of her favorite florist.
"Fresh flowers for my bridal bouquet!" M-m-m-m, I almost purred as the fragrance of roses and gardenias swept over me. I love flowers!
I had just arrived in my hometown the day before, and I had to place my order that morning. The ceremony was the next afternoon! But I savored this moment too much to rush it. I leafed through the pages of a bridal book that featured everything from a single white lily tied with glossy ribbon to a massive bundle of multi-colored spring blossoms the size of a small flower girl. I walked through the shop, stopping to breathe in the fragrance of a single long-stemmed red rose in a crystal bud vase. A lovely aroma, but the red rose could never again be my favorite flower.
Then I spied it! A dainty nosegay of pink and white silk roses trailing satin streamers tipped with tiny pearls. I loved it! It will make a romantic keepsake, I thought, remembering my first bridal bouquet which was now a brown, shriveled-up lump moldering in a box tucked inside my steamer trunk.
That was the old life, I reminded myself firmly. This is the new!
In an instant, my mind was flooded with dark memories. Was it only a year ago that my life had crumbled? Last June. Our twentieth wedding anniversary. Bill had sent me a dozen long-stemmed red roses. Was it a portent of things to come that they arrived drooping and wilted?
Bill and I started dating when I was fifteen, married when I graduated from high school. We built a life together, had three sons together, started a business together. It seemed like we had always been together and would be until "death do you part."
Then a week after the florist replaced my sad anniversary roses, life turned into a soap opera. Not even a dramatic, over-the-edge, once-in-a-lifetime, can-you-believe-this! type soap opera. It was just a run-of-the-mill, you-hear-it-everyday, husband-of-twenty-years-leaves-his-wife-for-a-younger-woman type soap opera, although it did have the can-you-believe-this feeling about it. Those who knew us were totally shocked. I was totally shocked. We were one of those couples who would be together for life, or so everyone had thought. So I had thought.
And thus began the nightmare - a period of long, sleepless nights, aching loneliness, self-condemnation, a heart that wouldn't mend. With my youngest son entering kindergarten, my oldest starting his senior year in high school, and my middle son in fifth grade, I struggled to begin a new life back in my home state of Oklahoma. I needed to be near my family. But that meant leaving our home in Georgia, leaving all our friends, our church, my job, the life I had built over the many years.
Like a small child clinging to daddy's strong hand while crossing a road over-run with treacherous traffic, I clung to God. He covered me with grace each day. He enabled me to cope with the pain of loss, the challenges of starting a new life. More than that, He represented hope. I knew He was the only one who could restore my marriage. I prayed for that every day!
Standing in the florist's shop, I shook off the hurtful memories. Again I reminded myself, That was the old life. Concentrate on the new! I bought the silk bouquet.
The next morning delivered a brilliant spring day to touch the soul. Crisp, blue sky, golden sunshine, a soft breeze that smelled of honeysuckle. A perfect day to signify new beginnings.
I inspected my three sons. They were dressed in their Sunday best, every dark, shiny strand of hair combed in place. I gave them orders to stay perfect. I donned my new dress with its soft, flowing lines and touch of baby lace and fastened a string of pearls around my neck. I was ready.
At the church, my nephew played softly on the grand piano. The ceremony began with my sister singing a beautiful song about lasting love. I stood in front of the minister decked out in my new dress, holding my pink and white nosegay, and looked up at the man standing next to me. With a full heart, I heard the most precious words. "I, Bill, take you, Karen, to cherish and love as we continue our journey through this life together."
Standing in the sanctuary of the church in which we had been married over two decades earlier, with our three sons and my family as happy witnesses, Bill and I renewed our marriage vows. God had answered my prayer!
I thought of a promise in His Word that I had clutched to my heart and claimed as my own during the night season. "Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing . . ." (Isaiah 43:18, 19).
And He had!
Against seemingly impossible odds, He had taken an in-and-out, up-and-down, most-often-unhappy relationship that had teetered on the edge of that rugged chasm called divorce and molded it into a loving marriage of two souls with their lives planted solidly in Him.
He didn't accomplish that by zapping Bill with right thinking and a heart full of love for me. In fact, the metamorphosis began when God impressed me to stop praying for change in Bill and to start letting Him change me! I didn't really understand it. I was a Christian. I hadn't betrayed my marriage vows. But I believed God enough to trust that He knew what He was up to. So I said, "O.K., God. Change me."
As I continued to pray and read His Word, He did just that. Rather than praying for Bill to be the husband I wanted him to be, I prayed that God would enable me to be the wife that Bill desired. The more I yielded to His molding, the more I loved Bill with unselfish love, the type described in 1 Corinthians 13. As Bill and I talked on the phone, he began to respond to the change in me. When he came to Oklahoma for our son's sixth birthday, he asked me to come home.
Several more rough spots had to be smoothed over by the Lord and another month passed, then we were finally together again. The amazing thing is that the more I allowed God to change me, the more change I saw in Bill, too. God truly did a new thing in our lives.
I still have my first bridal bouquet, paper thin and brown, encased in a plastic box. I'll keep it always. It signifies our old life.
But I'm so glad I chose the silk bouquet for that golden June afternoon when we renewed our vows. It is displayed on a bookcase shelf next to the fireplace in our living room. Like our new life together, the nosegay has never moldered or faded. I've looked at it every day for the last twelve years. And every time I see it, I thank God for the new thing He has done in our lives.
~ copyright 2002 Karen Harper DeLoach
|Patti and her girls
|From back: Patti, Rylee, Kelli, Alicia, Raygan
B L O W N A W A Y
by Patti Harper Ford
"But not a hair of your head shall be lost." - Luke 21:18
How often have you heard someone refer to an event as being so special, so exciting, that they were blown away by it? Like, "Wow, it just blew me away when I saw that" or "It was so awesome that I was absolutely blown away!" This term is used when something out of the ordinary happens that makes us stop and realize we have experienced something truly great.
There was a day in my life that definitely blew me away, both in the most literal sense of the word and in a very special spiritual sense.
That day was no different than any other spring day in Oklahoma. Springtime around here tends to be a bit unreliable. In fact, we have a saying here in Oklahoma: If you don't like the weather, hang around. It will change any minute. Such was the case on that particular day in May, 1999.
After leaving work, I picked up my little granddaughter, Rylee. My three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter and I have shared a special bond since the day she was born. It was not unusual for me to pick her up to spend time with me several nights a week. My daughter Alicia, halfway through her pregnancy with my second grandchild, could use a little time to herself, as well. As we drove home, I saw that we were probably in for some weather. But, as I said, such is life in Oklahoma in the springtime.
Rylee and I prepared for our evening together. I put dinner in the oven; we dragged toys out of their hiding places; and the ever important VCR was plugged in and ready to go. Rylee wanted to see her favorite movie, Cinderella.
I had vaguely listened to the weather report on the evening news about the tornado that had touched down some sixty miles southwest of us, but I didn't really think that much about it. We had the sofa bed out and were bouncing around on it, playing all kinds of fun games, and we definitely had better things to do than worry about a little weather!
I had just bought a VCR, and we were going to try it out. So, we settled down and watched Cinderella. All of a sudden, the brand new VCR didn't want to work. I was annoyed. It was new, after all, and for the life of me (not being particularly electronically-gifted), I couldn't figure out what could be the problem. Later, I realized it was simply divine intervention.
The VCR stopped, and I couldn't get it to start again. The TV switched back to the news, and let me tell you, there was a lot of commotion going on! By then, I could hear the wind really kicking up, and rain was pouring down outside. But it was the urgency in the weatherman's voice that finally caught my attention.
I thought to myself, Maybe I'd better stop being Pollyanna here and get Rylee in a safe place.
At the exact moment that I told Rylee, "We need to find a shelter (as if she understood what I meant!)," the weather man said very distinctly, "IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY LEFT YOUR HOME FOR SHELTER, IT IS TOO LATE! PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE YOUR HOME NOW! FIND SHELTER IN YOUR OWN HOME!"
One thing about living in Oklahoma (tornado alley), we are taught what to do in case of a tornado. One of the safest places to be is in an inside bathroom - meaning no outside walls or windows and I just happened to have one. I gathered up toys to put in the bathtub to entertain Rylee and grabbed pillows and cushions from the sofa for safety measures. Still, I didn't panic. One thing the Lord has blessed me with is the ability to face a crisis in a calm manner.
Very soon, the absolute panic in the voices on the TV and the sirens going off all around my community drove me into the bathtub with Rylee. I closed the door, and, because there were no windows, I lit a couple of candles for light.
The phone rang. It was my sister Linda calling from South Carolina where she was away on business. She had gotten wind (excuse the pun) that something was really going on here at home, and she called to see what was up. There I was in the bathtub with Rylee, cushions all around us, talking long distance on the phone.
Then I heard it. The rumbling, the freight train, all the sounds that we have always been told signified a tornado was coming. I was still talking to Linda, and all I could say was, "My God, Sis...it really is coming! The tornado really is coming!" With that the line went dead but not before I heard her say the name of Jesus, and I knew she was praying for us.
The sound was far away at first like a train in the distance. But it kept getting louder and louder. It was as if I heard a monster coming my way with such diligence that he would let nothing stand in his path that would keep him from reaching his destination.
Seconds later, I heard banging and clanging all around the house. I didn't realize at the time that it was debris that had already been caught up in the wind and was being thrown around and around. It sounded like someone was beating the sides and the roof of the house with a gigantic hammer. I could hear the deafening sound like a freight train, the breaking of glass, the nails literally being ripped from the very beams and braces of my house with great force.
I was beginning to panic. I held Rylee close, trying not to let her see how frightened I was, so that she would remain calm. The sound got so loud and deafening! At that moment, I realized we were literally facing death. I felt the pressure in my lungs, like I was going to explode from the inside out. I knew Rylee must be feeling the same thing.
All I could do was cry out at the top of my lungs, "IN THE NAME OF JESUS, GO! IN THE NAME OF JESUS, GO! I COMMAND YOU, IN THE NAME OF JESUS, TO LEAVE US!"
I knew that I was a child of the King, and the Word of God says, "Behold, I have given you authority and power to trample upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power that the enemy possesses; and nothing shall in any way harm you" (Luke 10:19). As far as I was concerned, it was time to use that authority against this demon that was coming against us!
Almost as soon as it started, it stopped. Suddenly, there was complete silence that was almost as deafening as the demon itself. It was eerie.
I peaked out from the shower curtain. Nothing had moved in the bathroom. Even the candles were still lit! The towels on the towel rack were hanging straight. Not even the pictures on the wall were crooked. I leaped out of the bathtub and began to do a little Holy Ghost Victory Dance! Let me tell you, we were not only alive, but, praise God, we didn't have a scratch on us!
Rylee looked up from the bathtub and said, "Nanny, why were you telling Jesus to go?"
I died laughing! I grabbed her up and hugged her with all my might. I tried to explain that I wasn't telling Jesus to leave; I was using Jesus name to make the storm leave! Something I know she will understand when she gets a little older.
I was so thrilled to be alive . . . it didn't even dawn on me what to expect when I opened the bathroom door. We started out the door very slowly, almost as if we were afraid the demon would come back again, and we needed to be very cautious just in case! The first thing I saw was the blue sky. This was not a good sign considering I was looking up from the living room! It only took a few seconds to realize that for the most part my house was destroyed. But I didn't even think to be worried about that I was so thankful to my heavenly Father that we were alive and well! Nothing else mattered!
But just saving my life wasn't enough for Him. There were many more blessings in store for me, in spite of the loss I had just suffered.
As I made my way to the kitchen, I saw my purse right in the middle of the breakfast bar. Sitting straight up, just as I had left it. Now mind you, my entire roof and half of my house was gone, but my purse was still there. Later, I would realize just what a blessing that was. So many people couldn't find their personal belongings like drivers licenses, credit cards, bank cards and such. They had to get them all reproduced, which sometimes meant waiting a while just to be able to get money for clothes, lodging, etc. But not me. Those things all remained in their place. The Lord looks out for us at times even in simple ways we don't at first realize.
As Rylee and I made our way over the rubble and tried to get to the front yard, I looked out across the neighborhood in which I had lived for twenty years and saw complete devastation. People were emerging from their own piles of rubble, most of them from absolutely flattened homes. All my neighbors were milling around. Many were hurt, all of us in shock. Rylee and I were among the few people on my street that were not hurt in any way!
We heard others speak of their horrors. The elderly lady right next to me had been wounded when a piece of her ceiling fell in on her while she crouched in her bathtub.
One of the young women down the street told of how the wind was sucking her child right out of her arms, but she held on with such strength that it pulled them both right down the hall and out the door. They were bruised and battered, but, thank God, they were alive. (After I heard her story, I realized another miracle of God. In my ignorance, I was just barely holding onto Rylee. If the wind had managed to come through our bathroom, she too could have been snatched out of my arms. BUT God's hand was on us, and He had another plan!)
One of my other neighbors was walking around with a huge piece of wood sticking out of his back and didn't even know it. Another neighbor lost his life.
Rylee and I were, by the grace of God, completely unscathed. I began to realize that my Lord didn't just spare us from death; He spared us from so many other things as well!
As it turned out, the May 3, 1999, tornado is the largest recorded in history. The F5 tornado is the granddaddy of them all and normally has winds up to 250 miles per hour. This F5 was clocked at 318 miles per hour. If there were an F6 category, this would be one. Forty-four people lost their lives that day, and over 2,500 homes and businesses were destroyed.
And although everywhere you looked there was devastation, what I found that day was a Heavenly Father who cared enough about me to look down and spare my life and the life of my precious granddaughter. He gave me the ability to rebuild my life far above what I ever dreamed it could be.
For these things, I am ever mindful of the mightiness of my God, who can calm even the granddaddy of all storms. "What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him?" (Matthew 8:27). I'm so thankful for His love and protection. And for all the little miracles that happened along the way. What might have happened if the VCR had not jammed and forced the TV to come back on so I could understand the severity of the situation? By the way, that VCR survived the tornado. I've never had another problem with it, and there was never any explanation for why it stopped . . . or was there??
Now, THAT BLOWS ME AWAY!
~ copyright Patti Harper Ford 2002