You Amaze Me Lord!


You amaze me Lord!

When I think about how Your presence is able to melt the mountains like wax;

yet You chose to climb Golgotha’s hill, where Your own heart melted within You,

and proclaiming to the faithless “Say to this mountain be removed & cast into the sea”

chose to be faithful to Your purpose, casting out Satan and destroying all his works.

 

You amaze me Lord!

Meeting Moses on Sinai’s mountain with stone tablets, each at Your fingers command

at the cross bringing together judgment and mercy, the same hands imprinted with love,

and Your Father Who  hid a ram in a thicket for a man willing to kill his own son

shut His own tear stained eyes the moment You died willingly naked and out in the open

 

Oh Lord You continue to amaze me!

When I read of Your back passing by Your servant Moses, only his eyes permitted to see

the same back many witnessed torn to shreds so all  could be made whole again & healed,

and  pondering how You kicked off Your gold slippers & laid down a Heavenly crown

soon as Adam put on his fig leaves, trading Your King’s apparel for poor man’s sandals.

 

Oh Lord You never cease to amaze me!

When I picture the Creator shuffling man size feet along a dust laden Jerusalem street

so Your  redeemed could  run joyously down the gold paved  New Jerusalem one,

and imagining the  weight of a Roman cross laid on a stumbling Carpenter’s shoulders

the very same ones the government  one day shall rest upon,  light as a feather.

 

Yet Lord what amazes me the most,

Is that through the  compassionate eyes shut closed by the soldier’s continual blows

You  could see me Jesus across two thousand years as sure as You did the penitent thief,

the same amazing, all powerful God Who stretched out the Heavens like  a curtain

chose to stretch out His arms to tear yet another, and would of even if  only for me.

 

Written by Carla Procida

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Down That Mountain Road Once Again


No matter how old I get, I shall never  stop reminiscing about  summer vacations spent with my  family while growing up.    A place in particular, in upstate New York about eight hours from our home on Long Island,  where a cottage owned by good friends of my parents was reserved for us  one week every summer.  Nestled within the bosom of the Adirondack mountain range,  it sat less than a hundred feet from the shores of beautiful Schroon Lake.  To me, the mountains appeared to hold the shining lake in it’s majestic green arms.  Unfortunately my precious, wonderful mother didn’t consider it as her favorite vacation spot since she still had to cook for my father,  my siblings and myself, clean it and make its beds!

I have so many unforgettable memories  of that place which I considered at the time to be Heaven itself or a very close contender.   In fact tonight a particular memory came to mind while I was praying for direction in my life:

It was the last night my brothers and I could spend with a group of young teens who were also leaving to go back home the following day.  Well not all the kids were leaving.  Five of our “vacation” friends lived on the mountain all year round.  I was jealous of them since I never wanted to return home after spending time in paradise!   We had just extinguished a large bonfire that lit up the small beach where we were huddled in a circle only a few minutes before.  Telling stories, sneaking puffs of cigarettes and daydreaming of summer romances that had gone up with the smoke of its dying embers.

Because it was the last night for most of us,  we wanted to stretch it out at least a couple of more hours.  So we all decided to take a short walk up a nearby mountain.  But mind you this was definitely not a stroll in the park!  You couldn’t see, the boys made bear noises and a few carried on a seance which didn’t help matters!  I suddenly craved my lit up block back home.

As you recall I mentioned that I was praying tonight for direction in my life.  I know it was God Who brought that memory to my mind and to also  remember the hand I  grabbed onto as we walked that dark road.  No excuse me, pitch black, can’t see a hand in front of your face dark road!    It surely wasn’t the hand of my brother the “bear” nor the hand of one of my screaming “vacation” girlfriends.  Nor was  even the boy from Valley Stream I had a terrible crush on, vacationing there just like me.  No, it was the hand of one of the boys who lived on the mountain all his life.  He wasn’t the cutest or the most talkative but he knew the mountain like the back of his  big hand.  I didn’t have to know where I was going, he knew.  And when my brother continued to make animal noises, he told him to shut up!  I trusted this  boy to take me back to the cottage which he did,  where my worried mother stood waiting with a dish towel in her hand.  Maybe I should have stayed home to help her do the dishes that night!

You do know the point I am trying to make.  Yet  God doesn’t always lead us in the dark.  After I prayed tonight, I went online to my blog page and saw that my sister read one of them.  Blogs I had stopped writing after only posting a few because I figured they were a waste of time since no one was really reading them.  Yet she shared with me how they were a blessing to her as she drank her cup of coffee in the morning.  I knew where God was leading me.  To write another blog, this one!

And like my dear sister, I have had and will continue to have my share of groping in the blackness of trials and testings while hearing the lions, tigers and bears of fear  loud and clear.  Though at the same time I can picture God telling them to shut up while leading me where He has me to go.  I don’t have to know where I’m going but He knows.  I won’t pull on Him anymore to go here or there for He knows the way so much better.  Better than He knows the back of His nailed scarred hand.  And His light is never extinguished,  for the view of the shores of a shining lake is forever before me.   Rather a river that makes glad the city of God,   Jesus Himself holding out His big hand to me and all who call upon His wonderful name.

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Two Sisters – A Once Upon A Time Story


August 15, 2009

Dear Chrissy,

I thought I saw you yesterday.  She looked as I have imagined you would ten years after that fateful summer day. Long blond curls, green eyes and the sweetest smile this side of heaven.  Chocolate ice cream dripping down her sugar cone made me laugh.  You always loved chocolate ice cream.

Some days I’m tempted to believe it was all a dream though it couldn’t have been.  If it were, you would still be here with us.  Or would you?  And though I miss you terribly I’m happy  knowing where you are, having known for myself the wonderful people you call your family and magical place you now call home.

I’m also glad you don’t remember me.  No sense both of us missing a sister.  But most of all I’m thankful you don’t remember the way I treated you once upon a time.  There are times I  ask myself what I would do different if given the chance to relive those years leading up to that one strange summer day.  Yet life never gives us that option, it’s only a fleeting wish for so many of us humans through the blundering ages.

Though you’ll never read this letter I can still pretend.  Soon it will be just another crumpled piece of stationery to toss away.  But our special story is a different matter altogether and the time to tell it is now.  I cannot explain the sudden urgency, except to say it’s one of those feelings that seem to force  their way out of your heart.  That which is already indelibly written from that same place, my own heart.  A story leading to that  fateful summer day and the way you made it happen in your usual  unselfish way.  Even after all I did to you and didn’t do for you.  You truly deserve what you got.

Love,

Emily

ES:att*

*Two Sisters – Their Once Upon A Time Summer Story

Part 1 – A Reunion of Sorts – Early Evening – August 15, 2009

The old screen door slams shut,  awakening the stray cat who has recently taken residence under our front porch.  Afternoons the furry vagabond has a spot reserved underneath a few broken two by fours.  Oh how I  miss rocking next to mother after supper, spending  precious  moments stolen away from our hectic lives.  Some nights we talk about how our days went, others we simply listen to the symphony of crickets around us.  Although father did fix some of  the rotting boards years ago,  age has simply weakened the old splintering structure.  He’s been so tired lately we have not the heart to nag him about it.  Anyway tonight I want to be alone so it doesn’t matter.   So I’ll   walk carefully across the fragile boards, proceed down the cracked slate walk through the one hinged gate of the peeling, rickety fence  and across a dirt field.

I head in the direction of a small  abandoned church in the distance.  Vacant for over a century,  the ancient landmark has become  my own personal refuge these ten years.  Today  the sun’s strong rays are like the arms of a friend, reaching brightly out to me from around the stony edifice.   A child’s wheelchair seems out of place among the warped mahogany pews.  Yet I choose to sit tonight in the rusty metal chair  as I muse  over all that happened the  summer of 1999, climaxing  on August 15th , ten years ago to the day.

It is a bittersweet anniversary.  A reunion of sorts inviting back not only the wonder but the pain of its memory.  A season squeezed between a rain drenched Spring and the Autumn I was as changed as the leaves blanketing the rocks and weeds in our back yard.  An experience that molded  me into the woman I am today and pray to forever be.

Part 2 – Invasion of The Unfamiliar  – Early morning – August 15, 1999

It began as an all too familiar day for the Stewart family.  The moon had layed  down and the sun rose like the days before.  Dad was out the door by 6:00 a.m. as usual in order to catch the 6:30 train to Penn Station.  And as I did every morning I peered down from our 2nd story bedroom,  my nose pressed against the  window after rubbing the sleep from my eyes .  Dad holding his toolbox in one hand and the last few bites of breakfast in the other.  My eyes would remain transfixed on him until his “train car”, as we called it, puttered and smoked its way down our block and slowly disappeared from sight.  Arriving  in New York City by 8:30,  dad  took the subway downtown to a construction site where a 120 story skyscraper had been erected.  The company dad worked for had won the bid to hook up the steel giant to it’s power source.  It was a two year job nearly completed.

School for us was our kitchen table once cleared of breakfast dishes, first period beginning around  8:00 am.  Mom was a great teacher and had taught at a local private school before my sister and I were born.  Yet  I was too seeped in bitterness by then to notice her educational skills or anything else about the amazing woman for that matter.  It’s not difficult for me to  pinpoint the exact day it’s destructive seed was first planted in the soil of my selfish young  heart.

It was the day mom and dad brought  Chrissy home from the hospital.  Oh not the day she was brought home a swaddled new born but the day she returned as a crippled two  year old.  Three months before, Dad had left for work in such a hurry, forgetting  to put the gate across the top of the landing leading into the basement.  Chrissy fell down the steep wooden steps.  The doctors called it a miracle the fact she didn’t die from such a fall.  I called a two year old who would never walk again the Stewart’s worst nightmare.   I was only seven at the time.

When I was eleven I am ashamed to admit I secretly wished Chrissy had died tumbling onto that hard concrete floor.   My life as a fairly happy seven year had ended that very day.  Because my mom had to take on a part time job to help pay for Chrissy’s exorbitant  medical bills, I was forced to become a caregiver  at a very young age.  Mom of course hated to place such responsibilities on me but there was no other option.  Both my parents were only children so there were no aunts, uncles or cousins to help us.  They seldom attended church, if at all, so forget about church folk lending an extra hand or anonymously leaving groceries at our front door.  And friends for my parents were a luxury their busy, stressful schedules simply could not afford.

It was two years later,  a month after my 13th birthday that I awoke to an oppressively  hot, humid day in August.  August 15, 1999 to be exact.   School was only a few weeks away and I began to reflect on the horrible summer I was having as I lay in bed that morning.  A boy down the block who I had a terrible crush on didn’t want any part me because I had a sister in a wheelchair.  He told my best friend Marcy it made him feel weird and uncomfortable to be around her.   Then I caught Marcy and Bobby kissing behind the block of stores in town a week later.    If that wasn’t bad enough mom had taken on a 2nd part time job until we started  school again in September.   Dad was working his two jobs so once again I spent a summer  as a caregiver, a job I never asked for, for a sister I resented more and more each passing day.

After lunch that particular day, instead of wheeling Chrissy back into the house to massage her leg muscles like I did every day, I decided I would take a swim.  Reasoning with myself that I deserved  the refreshing break  especially since the temperature had soared to a record breaking ninety eight degrees. Chrissy could just wait that’s all!  So I stripped off my shirt and shorts, letting them drop to the dusty ground,  revealing a bathing suit I had donned underneath.    I turned from her and ran in the opposite direction towards the small lake bordering our back yard.  As I plunged into the cool water I heard  Chrissy pathetically crying out  “Oh Emily don’t leave me!  Please don’t leave me!”

This is the where I must interject the most puzzling fact of my story.   You see as I continued to grow more bitter and crueler to my sister with each passing day,  she was treating  me back with more  kindness and patience regardless that my rants and rages had become worse and more frequent.  For some reason she insisted on loving me more  which may have had something to do with the  sudden pang of guilt I felt as I dove into the lake.  Though just as quickly as it came,  the saintly feeling was suppressed by the refreshing waters  enveloping my selfish body.  In fact I was so  lost in the euphoria of the spontaneous plunge,  it took my brain several seconds to register the fact  I was somewhere else altogether when my head came up  from under the water.

I rubbed my eyes several times as my mind desperately tried to reason out the “twilight zone” scene before me.  Lush rolling green hills stretched out before me as far as the eye could see beyond the lake’s mossy borders.  A great mansion, something out of a Victorian novel sat like a king on a manicured throne surrounded by a colorful array of floral subjects bowing adoringly in a gentle breeze.  And the sun appeared to have crowned the royal looking manor with diamonds while the  sky wrapped its azure blue cape about its stony shoulders.   Though stoic in its appearance it was  welcoming nonetheless and drew me in like a magnet despite the confusion bombarding my mind.

Pulling me from the surreal view framed within my widening green eyes, a shrill, grating voice quickly unclogged my water drenched ears.

I turned to face a girl about my own age who demanded “Get out of our lake at  once”.  Obeying more from the reflex of  utter bewilderment, I  stood  before the rather rude teen moments later.

“Who are you and what are you doing swimming in our lake” the pale, pointy nosed girl demanded to know.

“Well speak up!  Don’t just stand there with your mouth open” continuing her interrogation.

I was tongue tied.  So utterly confused and frightened in the most horrifying sense of the word.  Finally after about a minute or two I barely stammered out,  “I’m Emily. I really don’t know what’s going on or where I am!”

“Follow me then”  she replied matter of fact, as if nothing was out of the ordinary.  “We will go to my parents.  They will know what to do”.

As we walked the expansive grounds of  the opulent estate towards the house,  I felt an unaccountable sense of peace and calm despite the fact that I was a character in  some weird science fiction movie I never asked to be a part of.

And I was different.  Excluding all the unexplained, crazy things happening around me, I felt it.  Different than I had felt in years.  And then as if it couldn’t get more bizarre,  when we passed the glass enclosed sun room  I saw my reflection in the spotless panes and let out a loud cry.

“What’s wrong now?”  the annoyed teenager asked,  stopping short,  her arms now crossed in front of her chest.

“I’m ,  I’m so much shorter, younger.  I look like I’m seven or eight.”   I chocked out as my face felt like it was on fire.

“Is that some kind  of a surprise to you?” she asked, bewildered at my revelation

As I tried desperately to process all that was happening I followed the bossy teen across the threshold of a pair of regal  French doors.  Entering  into a grand ballroom, I immediately thought of Maria in The Sound of Music.  You know the scene. Dancing with her invisible partner across a marbled floor much like the one I was now dripping water on from my bathing suit.  I could faintly hear a grand symphony, an orchestra’s music inhaled by the tapestry covered walls over the years and now exhaled in our presence.

From there  I followed her into a spectacular kitchen where several  pleasant chubby women with dimpled smiles were removing pastry lined pans from it’s several stone ovens.  The sweet buttery aroma of scrumptious looking pastries  filled the spacious room.  My mouth watered, wanting to taste one of the tempting deserts but I remained close on the heels of an angry looking daughter in search of  her parents.

We continued  past room after room. down a never ending hallway like the ones you see only in dream. It seemed to stretch out a thousand feet.  I stopped a few moments along the way peeking my head into a library teeming with a thousand classics.  The room seemed as quiet and as sacred as the old church where I am writing this story.  I marveled that though each book appeared to be standing in attention like a literary army yet at the same time at ease in the room’s cherry wood arms.

The last room, at the end of the long hallway, where her parents sat quietly talking, was the living room.  It boasted a brilliant white grand piano, rich oriental carpets sitting atop gleaming wood floors.  The furniture I can only describe as what you would see in a castle though much warmer and  comfortable looking.  And then there was the huge sunken fireplace I imagined made Christmas even more magical as I placed a  seven foot tree and a hundred red ribboned gifts next to it in my mind’s eye .

“Hello little girl, my daughter says she found you swimming in our lake”, a man’s voice said

I  jumped, jolted from my daydream hearing her father  speak, but I  nearly stopped breathing when I turned to face him.

“Speak up honey, no one is going to hurt  you” he continued,  urging me on ever so kindly.

“Dad?”  I barely chocked out

“Who are you?”  the gentle man asked once again though now looking confused as I was

“Just tell us”,  a woman’s voice asked softly and ever so sweetly

As I turned to face her, once more the air in my lungs seemed to sucked out

“Mom?”

The three of them, mother father and daughter just looked at each other puzzled, not knowing what else to say.

Well for the next hour I told them everything there was to know about my life, my parents, my sister, my own home in  New York.  How I ended up in their back yard with no explanation how or why.    And the weirdest part of all,  the fact I was suddenly six years younger!

They promised they would help me find my way home yet I doubted they could.  Though they were genuine in their offer, I was losing hope quickly. I knew they were as helpless as Oz’s wizard or George Bailey’s Clarence. In the meantime their daughter Karen was forced to take care of  me being she was older and I  was unfamiliar with the extensive grounds surrounding their grand house.  I could tell she resented  me but obeyed her parents nonetheless.  And because her friends didn’t want to hang out with a little girl, they stopped coming by the estate until it just her and I.

As I mentioned already I had changed since coming up from out the water, buy not only in age.   I  was kinder and more patient than I’d ever been even after Karen admitted that she wished I never washed up on her family’s private lake.   Yet the  crueler she was to me the kinder I was back to her until finally I began to see changes in her.   At first they were small changes until  over time we evolved into the best of friends.

Then one afternoon about a month after I arrived,  Karen and I  decided to go swimming as the mercury climbed all the way up to the hundred degree mark.   After wading in the cool water a few minutes,  all of a sudden I felt what  could only be described as a hand grasping tightly around my ankle and pulling into the deeper water. .

I cried out to Karen  “Help, I am being dragged under!  Please help me”

Karen tried with all her might to help me but with no success.

“I can’t seem to move Em!  My legs are stuck!!” she yelled frantically back to me.

By the time she screamed for her father to help me  I was already pulled underwater and all had gone black.

Part  3 – Another Place Called Home                -

When I came to moments later I was lying on my stomach near the lake’s edge, choking  up  mouthfuls of water.

“Emily, Emily are you OK?”

“Yes Karen, I think so, thank God!”

“Karen? Why are you calling me Karen?”

My head shot up hearing Chrissy’s voice and my heart began to beat wildly seeing her lying on her side next to her wheelchair covered in dirt, tears rolling down her frightened face.

After I lifted Chrissy and placed her securely back into her chair, I began to shake uncontrollably.  Though not because of the sudden cool breeze blowing across our dirt field but rather the fact I was home again somehow.  In all the magic of the place I had just come from I had almost forgotten how my life had turned into an Outer Limits episode!

Part 4 -Trade Off – No Greater Love Than To Lay Our Lives Down

Hours later as I lay in bed, once again a thirteen yr old girl with a crippled younger sister.  The same girl I was before  in almost every way  except in  what mattered most.

Then I did something I hadn’t done in years.  I slid out of bed, got down on my knees and prayed  hard and long.  I asked God to reveal to me what had happened and what it all meant.  And why the month I had spent in the mansion with Karen was in reality no more than a few minutes.  And before I uttered my  Amen I saw him for the first time.  Jonathon.  My very own guardian angel he later introduced himself as,  floating like a eagle above my bed, the tall cherub translucent as a summer morning’s mist.  But another figure  dark and growling loudly, was also flying above me.  It’s presence quickly turning my ahhhs to shrieks of terror and sending a cold chill through my  body.  Jonathon immediately chased  the evil creature, the two of them suddenly gone from my room.

I sat up waiting for Jonathon to return and prayed the other ghostly figure wouldn’t.  Hours went by as I fought to stay awake until my head I jolted up from my pillow hearing Chrissy from across the dark  room.

“Chrissy are you ok? “ I asked

After a rather long pause she answered  “Emily can I bother you for a glass of water.  I’m so thirsty.  I’m sorry to have to bother you so late!”

“Of course Chrissy its no bother!  I’ll get it for you right away.”  I answered.

You see I WAS changed in the way that mattered most.

I returned with the cold glass of water a few minutes later, shocked that Chrissy wasn’t in her bed and even  more disturbing, her wheel chair was missing.

“Chrissy where are you?” I called out beginning to panic.

I checked the whole house but she was nowhere to be found. Then I went outside calling out her name  through  the blackness of our yard until a bright figure suddenly  appeared who I recognized  as Jonathon.

“Jonathan, where have you been?  Chrissy is missing!  You have to help me find her!” I begged the tall cherub

It was then that Jonathon placed his   translucent hand on my trembling shoulder.             “Sit over here”  he said,  motioning  to an old oak stump nearby.

“No we must find Chrissy first!” I insisted

“Emily” Jonathon began, “Chrissy isn’t here.  Not on this side of the lake any longer.”

“What?” I said in shock “But why?”

“Because of Karen.   All because of Karen.  She was changing, you saw it, I know you did Emily!  The impish creature I chased from your room tonight had orders to see that she was transformed back into the girl you  met when you first arrived on her side of the lake.   The only way it could be accomplished  was to get you out of the way.  The plan was to drag you back through to the other side again but this time making you even younger than seven years old, the age Heaven chose for you to be when you were arrived.  A plan to turn  you into a one year old infant when you washed back up again on her shores tonight.  That is why I was commissioned as your guardian angel.  If was not only to make myself known to you but to help save your life.  Yet  it was your sister Chrissy who saw to that.”  Jonathon said then paused a moment to let Emily absorb it all.

“Chrissy overheard the demon divulge his plans to his devilish entourage who were there to assist him abducting you at midnight.  It was just minutes before  midnight if you recall when Chrissy asked you for a glass of water.  It was a miracle she was able to crawl from her bed into yours within the short time you went downstairs and returned with the water.  Her own plan was for the imps to grab her in the dark,  figuring they would assume it was you sleeping  in your  bed.”  he continued

“Why change me into a one year old?” Emily asked still confused

“So you would drown.  Chrissy knew it and chose to take your place.  She wanted  to protect you and keep you from dying.  She loved you very much.  She was willing to die in your place.”  Jonathon revealed to Emily while looking deep into the  teen’s watery eyes.

Emily cried out in horror and grief.  Jonathon immediately put his hand over her mouth and quickly added,

“Emily, you haven’t heard the whole story.  You see Chrissy had her own angel who remained quite invisible the  whole time.  When he saw the evil spirits grab her, he proceeded to follow closely behind her and  through to the other side of the lake.”

“Why did he wait?  He could of saved her before she even got to the lake!”  Emily countered

“Didn’t she drown before getting to the other side?”  Emily continued through her tears.

“No Emily.  And  I am  quite sure any doctor would have to agree it was a miracle she was still alive!”  Jonathon answered with a knowing smile.

“But who will care for her?  How can I be sure Karen will?  And will her new  parents find Chrissy in time?”  Emily shot out her questions frantically

“Her  new parents already have.  She is  safe and sound  and being well cared for.  Especially by her big sister Karen.”  Jonathon assured her.  “That is why Chrissy had to go through  the waters,  though at the time even I couldn’t see that.  Her own angel did”

“I still don’t fully understand Jonathon why she had to leave us.”  Emily admitted while burying her face in both her hands.

“Emily,  Chrissy is only one year old today!”  Jonathon said and  gave the grief stricken teen a moment to let it sink in.

“So? What does that mean?’  Emily asked lifting her head slightly, enough to look into Jonathon’s  striking blue eyes.

“Think about it Em, one years old!”

“And not crippled!”   Emily whispered ever so slowly  as understanding finally revealed the amazing implications.

“But what about the evil spirits?  Won’t  they try to hurt Chrissy again or Karen or any of us  for that matter?”

“No, in fact the devilish entourage never did made it across the lake with Chrissy”. Jonathon said with a holy smirk.   “Word from headquarters has just confirmed what I already knew.  They all washed up on the shores of a another lake instead.  A rather hot one if I say so myself”.

Suddenly Emily’s parents burst into  her bedroom, having hurried upstairs  hearing her cry  out a few moments before

“Are you OK Em?”  her mom and dad asking in unison

“I am, but mom, dad”  Emily began while looking at them  forlornly “something has happened tonight to Chrissy!”

“Chrissy?  Whose Chrissy?  Not that stray cat that’s been hanging around our front porch?”  her dad asked confused.

Emily turned around.  Shock registered across her face realizing that not only was Jonathon gone from her room but Chrissy’s bed, her stuffed animals and even the glass of water she  brought up to her sister.  All  had disappeared as if never there!

And all Emily could do was to simply bury  her head in her fathers chest, weeping until he finally led her back into  bed, tucking her in like he did when she was a little girl.  Emily’s were tears of happiness but also tears of grief for a sister and  a friend she would never to see again this side of Heaven.  Yet she did smile in spite of it all.  For just before she fell into a deep dreamy sleep she heard her father declare that the next day would be a holiday, the Stewart family’s very own.  A day to fix porches and a stray calico’s brand new home.

Epilogue

I  have resigned to the fact that no one will ever remember Chrissy though I shall never forget her.  How could  I possibly convince anyone that Chrissy was my sister and we once upon a time shared a room since I was minus  her  bed, stuffed animals and the kindest heart I  had ever known.  But neither could anyone explain the  child sized wheelchair that was found among  the  mahogany pews of the old church. Nor the fact that my amazing teacher,  Mrs. Grace Stewart assigned a special project that following September.  My  assignment,  to research the local history of our small town dating back at least a hundred years or more.  After a month of  digging around I came across a few old clippings at our library relating to one of  it’s wealthiest family’s.  A family who happened to  own a large piece of real estate less than a mile from our humble home.

Now check this out!   The owners had two daughters, Karen and you guessed it, Chrissy!.  Karen never married but their beautiful Chrissy wed  a young Pastor.  The announcement of their engagement along with a brief bio of her family was noted in a copy of  the yellowed paper’s faded ink.   In another clipping dated almost a century later, there was mention  of the minister and his wife’s only child, a daughter named, you guessed it, Emily!  A death notice announcing Emily’s sad passing and the abbreviated account of her full life before her death at the ripe old age of ninety.  The most noted of all her philanthropic deeds was the transformation of  her family’s  mansion into a 120 room hospital.

The writer of the article also noted Emily had included  a stipulation in her will.  The old church where her father Pastored until his own death at age 80 was on the same grounds as the hospital.   The church would remain as is,  whether occupied by a congregation or not.  And the most interesting of all,  a Farmer’s Almanac published that same year  alluded to local folklore of a lake not far from the church believed to have mysteriously dried up one hot summer many years before.  I’m nearly speechless….well not quite yet.   Give me a moment though and I shall be!

Follow me as I climb the one story  to  the church’s bell tower. Be careful you don’t fall up, the stairs are quite steep.

Now that we are up here, press your nose with me against one of  the  tiny windows,  go ahead!  And don’t worry about the dust, there is something you have to  see!

I have to smile.  You’ll have to smile too.  We are over a hundred years too late. Our Heavenly Father has already gone to work, already rounded the corner of this part of town, in fact I suspect He’s been working a zillion jobs over the past thousands of years. Now look  with me  in the distance.  Can you see the  mansion,  crowned in diamonds and azure cape wrapped around its stony shoulders?  You may have to put on your glasses, especially to read the  sign in front of the stoic yet welcoming old house turned hospital.  Flanders Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for  Children.  Right there in bold letters! Amazing isn’t it?!

Well you can’t deny what you see with your eyes now can you?  But  I am quite sure you’ll agree with me that most of the precious doctors practicing in that wonderful hospital may  chalk this all up to one huge coincidence.  I say its no less than  a  miracle.   The Stewart family’s very own.    Now I’m speechless, finally.

THE END

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World’s Greatest Dad


Though my father passed away eleven years ago this month, I still celebrate Father’s day.    To my siblings and I,  he deserved more than anyone to don the tee shirt,  drink coffee from the mug and wear the cap that stated the underestimated cliche’ “WORLD’S GREATEST DAD”.   And I could surely list for you in my little blog, accolade after tender accolade of the man we were blessed and privileged to call dad.  But instead I have a short little story of a day in June of 1999 to share.

Craig (my husband) and I had been going through a rather rough patch on the road of life.  Pots holes of painful discouragements were driving us crazy not to mention road blocks and detours  that had us reeling.  We decided one day, spur of the moment,  to phone a motel  out to the Hamptons (on Long Island) and make a reservation to stay for the weekend.  What I failed to realize after I made the reservation was that it was  the weekend of Fathers day.

I called back the motel but they refused to refund our money.  Foolishly I had paid the full amount for the weekend (exorbitant by the way) and was torn between canceling the reservation or not.  Craig, even more than I, desperately needed some time away making the decision that much more difficult.  I reasoned with myself the fact that I was a great daughter never missing a Fathers day with my dad in my life.  We saw each other every other week at least and were extremely close since I was a little girl.

Finally convincing myself it was OK to go away that weekend,  I got up the nerve and called my dad the Thursday before Fathers day to explain the situation.    What he told me only cemented my vote for him as Greatest Dad in The World.

He said  “Sweetheart have a great weekend in the Hamptons.  That will make me more happy knowing you’re getting away and enjoying yourself.  And if you are able and not too exhausted from your weekend away, come see me on the following Monday.  But don’t worry and please enjoy yourself!”

So hesitantly I left on that Friday as we headed to the motel in the Hamptons.  Let me just say one  thing about our little excursion and not belabor the point.  It was a “getaway from hell”.  By Saturday night, without getting into the details, neither one of us wanted to spend another hour there much less another night.   So we left the Hamptons and were home by 10:00 on Saturday night.

On Sunday I realized it was Fathers day!  I felt like Ebenezer Scrooge waking up and finding out it was Christmas day and he didn’t miss it.  We surprised my dad that day who was not expecting us.  Though he had told us to go to the Hamptons and enjoy ourselves I could plainly see he was thrilled we were there celebrating the day with him.

You may be wondering at this point what is so amazing about my story.  Well just a minute,  I haven’t got to the  amazing though bittersweet part yet.  You see the next morning as I was getting ready for work I received a phone call from my mom.

“Your father has been rushed to the hospital.”   she told me through her tears.

My 85 year old father had a heart attack.   Craig and I  immediately drove to the hospital to join my mom and siblings  who waited there as the doctors did what they could do.

My father lay unconscious that morning in his hospital bed surrounded by several doctors.   I prayed with him and told him how much I loved him then asked him if he had heard me.  When he squeezed my hand tightly I knew that he had been praying along with me.  I was sure of it.  Then about an hour or so later he passed away.  Like he predicted the Thursday before, I did see him the following Monday after Father’s day.  But  I still thank God to this day that I got to see him the day before and thank Him also for the “getaway from Hell”.

So before you complain and cry over plans gone awry or if something in your life hasn’t gone as planned, remember it may just be God working things out their best for you (and I).  Despite ourselves.

So dad if you can hear me from Heaven I just want to say “Happy Father’s Day” and tell you I love you more than ever!  Oh!  I know you heard me.  I just felt my heart being squeezed.  Like I always do this time of year.

Carla Procida

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The Unwelcomes


Unwelcomes.  So many un-welcomes in life.  Cold rainy Mondays, bumper to bumper traffic, long lines as well as sickness and even death that creep in unaware.   Unwelcome, yet somehow they squeeze through, placing their big foot in-between peaceful days and our front doors.  Doesn’t matter that we install locks and alarms, they find a way in.

Simple, inexpensive pleasures.  Wish there were as many of them as the unwelcomes.  Dashes of joy sprinkled over otherwise bland days or worse days spread with cups of  pain and pounds of trials.   A cup of coffee with a friend,  watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” when our own  is far from it, or even perusing unhurriedly through a stack of old letters and photos long forgotten.

We can all add a pinch of these simple pleasures to  the unwelcomes,  fold in  a good friend or two and have a recipe rivaling one of Martha Stewart’s.   Though we can’t stop the unwelcomes of life we can choose to share the gift God has given to us and bless those facing their own personal ones.  I know of several precious people myself who are dealing with MAJOR unwelcomes even as I am writing.

I was reminded today of a little boy with a bag lunch consisting of nothing more than a fish sandwich.  He could have eaten it himself and no one would of thought less of him.  But he gave it away.  In fact he gave it to a Man named Jesus.  Because of his unselfish act not only were five thousand men and their families fed with his humble meal, but he still got to have his fish filet and left overs to boot!

I was also reminded that I will one day have a tombstone as will each one of you reading my blog.  My own will have the dates December 11, 1957 – ?  carved in the marble.  The question mark is there now but one day the date will be filled in.  Yet while I am still breathing,  I can choose what I do with the dash in-between.  In relation to  eternity that dash is quite short.  My own “fish sandwich” if you please.   So I have decided I will give mine to Jesus as did that very wise little boy.   And when I come to the end of my days I am sure to  leave leftovers behind for the simple fact I chose to place my “dash” in the Son of God’s hands!

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Appreciate Today


Mondays, poor misunderstood Mondays.  The proverbial black sheep of the seemingly none ending work week.  Yet for a few Mondays scattered in the 365 squared fields of the Calender,  these golden children are chosen  to hook up with the few and far between Saturday and Sundays to form Holiday Weekends.  Destined no longer to bleat out “No One Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen” while at the same time lightening the heavy load of a work week like some Day Planner superhero.

Do you ever feel like the Mondays of life.  Oh not the lucky few but the majority of the 52?  The tired, the monotonous and bland of life?  Well now you know how they feel when they overhear rude comments around the water coolers of the world every first work day of the week!

So today give Monday a break!  In fact try to find something good to say about it.  The fact you are alive and breathing may be a start but I suspect if on your lunch break you dial your son or daughter’s phone number who live a distance away and hear them tell you they  love you or listen a minute as your baby coos right before you rush off to the job, you may see not only Monday but everyday in a much better light!

Until  tomorrow,

Carla

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A “Carlypop” view of life


Some well meaning folks seem to have the “gift” of making a short story long.  Stretching it out like a Walt-Mart tee after the third wash.  They insist dressing up a simple bare bone account, accessorizing with everything including the kitchen sink until they drain you of patience and valuable time.  Though let me reiterate, they are well meaning folks.

Thus my introduction for a daily morning blog I have entitled “Long Story Short”.    Beginning tomorrow and who knows how long, between a bite of toast and a few sips of steaming java you can if you choose,  read a pearl of wisdom, a clever quip or a host of other very short “sweets” as I call them, kinda like a desert with breakfast.   Or you can simply read your morning paper or recent face book postings.  I will never intrude, I know better if any of you are like me early in the morning!

Yet I do hope we can spend just a minute together a day here and a day there in our hurried and so often stressful lives.

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