Archive for family

The Indian Tire World

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven…and…a time to laugh.”- The Teacher (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4 NAS)

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”- Victor Borge

The spine of the Rocky Mountains lies between our home on Colorado’s western slope and our son’s apartment in Denver. Thanks to a decided absence of people in this part of the state, Kevin and I can zoom the 175 miles in three hours or less. Though we pass a lot of ski resorts, only one particular exit commands my attention- The Silverthorne Outlet Shops, an oasis of commerce in the wilderness.

My husband is usually amenable to detours, but stopping to spend money on anything but food waves a red flag in the face of his Dutch DNA. Living out here in the land of limited shopping is fine with him. I, on the other hand, can spend several hours comparing styles, fabrics, and fits just to find two new pair of jeans. As we flew past the Silverthorne exit on our last trip to Denver, I casually observed, “On our way back, I’d like to stop here and do some shopping. They have my favorite store in the entire world.”

Keeping his eyes on the road, he cocked his head in my direction, pointing his ear at me for clarification. “The Indian Tire World? What’s that?”

I stared at him in befuddlement before we both cracked up. We just couldn’t stop laughing. After almost twenty-eight years of marriage, one of us is going slightly deaf. One of us is going gray. As for me, I categorically deny any loss of my faculties; as for my hair, only my colorist (coincidentally my husband) knows for sure. We are changing in ways we never thought we would live long enough to see. But our connection in laughter is stronger than ever. The ability to laugh together in this season of our lives is the fruit we enjoy after the painful pruning of our selfish souls.

We will celebrate our anniversary next week. The aspen-gold of the changing leaves is beginning to look as it did the day of our wedding. The sky is deepening to that dazzling blue of autumn, and a familiar chill is settling over the night. While scores of seasons have risen and fallen with comforting familiarity, the metamorphosis of our hearts has been anything but a natural progression. On the contrary, the Lord’s wedding gift to us was not each other. It was the gift of Himself. To this day, neither of us has been able to bestow on the other the blessings we have sought for ourselves until we learned how to receive them from God and pass them along.

We’ve been through a lot in twenty-eight years. The Teacher of Ecclesiastes writes of the times that come to us all. Everyone experiences life’s ups and downs, but married couples must weather (or celebrate) them with the other’s best interest at heart. The wedding vows were barely out of our mouths before real life kicked in and the self-centered desires of our hearts met in battle. We were, and are, fallen human beings. Only by the grace of God have we been able to grow in faith and love for one another. But in all honesty, it was Kevin who knew God better. It was he who held on tighter, and showed me how to love a little less selfishly, one day at a time.

We have seen each other at our best and at our worst. We’ve been broke and flush and devastated and jubilant and selfish and selfless and hungry and thirsty and cold and satisfied and drunk and sober and home and abroad and employed and jobless and elated and dejected and sick and healthy and broken and mended. We’ve snorkeled and skied and hiked and been tossed out of the Vatican’s restroom. (I can explain.) We’ve sobbed and celebrated and worried and trusted and betrayed and renewed and broken and healed. We’ve been young, and now not so young. But oh! the places we’ve been, the things we have done, the lessons we’ve learned, the joy we have found! It’s been well worth the trip. We are still together because we never gave up on each other and never stopped praying. And Jesus never gave up on us.

Today, we’re the Mom and Pop in our own small business, literally back-to-back in an 8′ x 10′ office most of seven days a week. Whether this week’s ink is black or red, we are still learning to pray hard, trust God, give faithfully, and forgive freely. We look forward to Heaven because our daughter waits for us beside Jesus, but we also enjoy watching our son make his way in the world. Together, we treasure the time we left. Yes, we still crank at one another upon occasion, but thankfully we don’t hear everything anymore, so most of the time we can pretend we missed it.

Kevin, you are the Spock to my Kirk and the Chakotay to my Janeway. You are my calm in the storm and the logic to my lunacy. Thanks for getting off the highway at Silverthorne so I can spend all morning buying two pair of jeans. I promise to keep laughing at your jokes. Thanks for loving me, forgiving me, and never leaving me behind. I love you, Dear. Happy Anniversary!

“After God created the world, He made man and woman. Then, to keep the whole thing from collapsing, He invented humor.”– Guillermo Mordillo

Copyright Rachel Ophoff, 2010, Coconut Mountain Communications LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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The Bridge to Sally’s House

“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven…and a time to build up.”– The Teacher (Ecclesiastes 3:1,3 NAS)

“The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within- strength, courage, dignity.”– Ruby Dee.

If I weren’t so OCD, I could find my way to Sally’s house without checking the map. My house to Denver, then Denver to Orlando. After I get my rental car it’s less than an hour to the coast, bop over a couple of bridges, and before you know it, I’m home away from home.

I know better than to argue with her over where I’m going to sleep. “The kids have to get up early for school. You take my room so they don’t disturb you.” These aren’t kids anymore- they are working their way through college and living with Mom. I may catch a glimpse of them coming or going, but I don’t see much of them. Neither does she, but they are the reason she gets up every morning and goes to work.

Not this morning, though; she’s spending the day with me. She puts on a pot of coffee, lights her first cigarette, and with characteristic directness observes, “I suppose you want to go to the beach.” I just left Colorado in the dead of winter- what do you think? She lives one bridge away from the shoreline at Cocoa, another from the Kennedy Space Center. This perfect January day is warm and sunny, so we join the crowd over by the pier. The sand is hard-packed, perfect for a long walk; but we sit and watch the water. Her right foot is a little crippled from the car accident so long ago, courtesy of a less-than-sober boyfriend. Her mom snuck me into the ICU as family when her life hung in limbo. Passing as sisters was easy; watching her recover was hard. Thirty-five years since the accident and not a day without pain. But she knows I love to walk, and my late-middle-aged brain sometimes forgets how much it hurts her. She never forgets.

To say our friendship was made in Heaven would crack us all up- me, Sally, even Jesus. We were freewheeling teenage girls without a compass, working together at the local supermarket. Our parents evicted us simultaneously so we moved in together. In retrospect, I can scarcely believe we survived. We knew a little about taking care of ourselves, but nothing about boys or alcohol or the meaning of life. I could say the Seventies were a simpler time, but in reality we just acted like simpletons. For reasons known only to Him, God gave us each other so we wouldn’t get lost.

Our twenties and thirties were a jumble of growing up and moving on. Neither of us was a good bet for becoming a  responsible adult, but God had other plans. We each married and had two children. Both of us survived addiction recovery; she survived her husband’s, I survived my own. Both of us weathered the challenges of marriage as well as the crazy demands of parenthood. Sometimes we went years without talking just because the stresses of work and family drained us dry, but eventually the phone would ring and we’d pick up as if we had never left off. To sustain a friendship for almost forty years over two thousand miles seems like a miracle, but the real miracle was that we each found Jesus Christ. Neither of us could have survived our forties without Him.

We rolled into our fifties changed women. Sally was widowed nine years ago when Bob died of cancer; she called me with his diagnosis shortly after Catherine died. Whatever childish ways we held onto vanished in the face of death. I could only keep my sanity by surrendering my all to God; she could only take on the multiple roles of mother, father, and sole provider by praying for wisdom, courage, and provision. Our conversations took on a deeper tone because we lived on a deeper level. Suffering our grievous blows gave us a shared perspective; finding faith in Jesus gave us a common hope. While the folly of our youth still gives us a good laugh, our shared faith binds us as sisters. We have built a solid house of friendship that weathers the storms of life.

These days, I see her growing in beauty even as our bodies betray our age. The vanity of her youth has given way to self-sacrifice on behalf of her kids. She hasn’t bought herself new clothes in too many years, but her kids have a home and an opportunity for education. She spends her Saturdays limping along behind the lawnmower under the blazing Florida sun, working on her house and saving her money. Someday when we’re both flush we’ll take a vacation together, provided we live that long. But whether we do or don’t, I’ll find a way to get back to Sally’s house, my home away from home. It’s just a couple of bops over the bridge, from my house to Denver to Orlando.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”– Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)

The Road to San Miguel

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven..and…a time to kill.”-The Teacher (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3 NIV)

“The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.”– Laurence J. Peter

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”– Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:43-44 NIV)

The island of Cozumel, Mexico lies twelve miles out to sea, almost within eyeshot of the Yucatan Peninsula. The bright lights of Cancun are visible as a glow from just below the horizon on a clear night. I once vacationed close to the southern tip of the island, far from the lone city of San Miguel. To access civilization, we risked our lives on the only road that runs the western length of the island, hacked out of the jungle and dotted with construction zones that demanded our undivided attention.

In the States, our detours are clearly marked by flashing signs, orange cones, and workers in reflective vests. On Cozumel, road closures are denoted by smudge pots: 55 gallon drums of burning refuse that signal a detour by smoke and fire. No second chances, no “merge in one mile.” If you barrel past the barricade, brace yourself for a world of hurt: a broken axle, a flat tire, or a headfirst plunge into a sinkhole. Better to skid to a stop and go slowly around than tackle the smudge pot head-on. As much as I like the beaches in Mexico, I’ll take my Colorado highways any day.

Just a few weeks ago, I was navigating a reasonably smooth road with Jesus when, out of the darkness, a barrel of burning refuse appeared on the bridge between me and my family in Florida. If you read my post on July 24 (One Fell Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest), you know my family basket has more nuts than fruit. In the years since my childhood, since my father died, even since my brother Matt died, I’ve prayed with all my heart for more than an uneasy peace; I’ve hoped for a healthy reunion of the three remaining adults. Now the news of a family betrayal has rendered that hope impossible. I skidded to a stop at the barricade, heartbroken that the other two made a pact that would turn their backs on me forever.

Needless to say, my first impulse was to kick over smudge pot at the base of the bridge, igniting the pylons and illuminating the night sky with my outrage and grief. I wanted to see it go up in flames. I wanted to sever the connection once and for all. Killing any chance at reconciliation would prevent them from ever breaking my heart again. Only one obstacle stood in the way. For years I’ve asked Jesus to walk ahead of me on the span between here and Florida. Now He won’t leave.

“I’m crossing this bridge for you. Just pray and wait. Here’s a list of things to do until you hear from Me. This should keep you busy.”

“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV)

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12 NIV)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

Well isn’t that just like Jesus! My heart is broken, and the bond is severed. Jesus, get off the bridge! The flames are burning on my end and that’s the way I want it. I’ve had enough. Please come over to this side and help me move on with my life. I need You.

“Do you not remember pleading with Me on your family’s behalf? Besides, look where you are standing. Like it or not, they are still your family. You are still on the bridge. I’m not asking you to do anything but pray and wait. Acting in haste and anger will only fuel the flames even as you set your own feet on fire. You prayed that I would work this out for their good and My glory. Do you trust Me enough to let go of them and allow Me to work? Do you love Me enough to surrender your hurt? I know how it feels to be betrayed. I love you and have your best interests at heart. This will probably take a while, but trust Me.”

With that, He turned and walked into the darkness on His way to Florida.

With the sunrise came on onshore breeze, scattering the ashes from last night’s blaze. I’ve decided to wait and pray, one day at a time. After all, I’d hate to set my feet on fire.

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