Afterglow

I decided to change things up a little and publish some flash fiction. I hope you enjoy it.

The conference room, usually a dull and boring place, was now home to a magnificent Christmas tree. Festive wreaths and garland were artfully placed in the room to celebrate the upcoming Christmas season. Despite some disturbing rumors, people smiled at the bright decorations and chatted with their coworkers as they entered the room for their monthly staff meeting.  Pleasantries were exchanged and the boss called the meeting to order. Marie Hudson, the secretary for the meetings, presented the notes from last month and prepared to record the proceedings for today. 

“As you know’, Marie heard her boss say, “Smaller businesses have not been doing as well as they used to because of larger companies acquiring an increasing share of buyers’ attention.”

Residual whispering ceased and the room fell silent. This was not the start to the meeting anyone had expected. Were the rumors true?

“Simply Elegant Jewelry has not been doing well, but we were hoping that this shopping season would put us back in the black. We have been seeing a shift in consumer buying habits from small, privately owned stores like this to larger companies, who can buy their products in bulk at a better price, thereby allowing them to offer consumers lower prices as well. We have been fighting hard to compete with them for customers but have been unable to keep up with discount jewelers and department stores. We all know the quality of our products is unsurpassed, but luxury items are often the first to go when budgets get tight, and this is what many people are dealing with.”

By this time, people in the room were developing pits in their stomachs and lumps in their throats. The handwriting on the wall was beginning to appear. 

“We did the best we could, but we are unable to keep the business going”, he said, and a collective gasp was painfully audible in the room.  

“As of January 1st, our doors will be closed. You will all receive generous severance checks and good references for other potential employers. I want to thank you all for being the hard-working, loyal employees that you are, and I wish you all the best. We are so sorry, especially to have to do this at this time of year. If there is anything we can do to help, we will certainly try”.

With that, the meeting was adjourned, and stunned co-workers returned to their stations to quietly finish out their shifts. Frustrated, tired, and dejected, Marie shuffled out of the office when the day was finished. Her head felt like a stovepipe. She thought that if any more soot got stuffed inside it would surely explode. This sudden downward twist in her life left her feeling helpless. She felt it seemed the more she tried, at work, home, or anywhere else, the worse things got. Ever since her husband, Mark, succumbed to the clutches of an aggressive and devastating cancer two years ago, she has felt like a piece of soft taffy being pulled in multiple directions by so many people: her children, her employer, her church, and her aging parents, among others.

 “Everyone wants a piece of me”, she thought, “and they all pull so hard I feel like I will just rip apart, no one will get enough to be satisfied, and I will be torn beyond recognition.”

Marie did not have enough time in a day for anybody, including her children, whom she loved more than life itself. She worked as many hours as she could just to stay above water. After she paid the bills, the mortgage, and the babysitter, put food on the table, clothes on their backs, and gas in the car, there was little left. And now this. This was her reward for so many years of hard work and dedication. Rumors of a poor corporate financial situation had recently been spreading unchecked, and suspicions that positions would be eliminated to save the company were felt but left unsaid by employees. Tension had permeated the office like a thick fog as people moved about, appearing as busy as they could to substantiate their existence in the company. Watching all of this transpire over time, she thought she would be prepared for anything, but she was wrong. Layoffs were one thing because there was always a hope of being called back, but closing permanently? Panic alternating with disbelief consumed her as she struggled to process the devastating news. It hadn’t been the job of her dreams, but it had been steady, and it kept food on the table and a shelter over their heads.

What was she to do? She didn’t want to go home and tell her children, who, amidst the pain of losing their father, somehow managed to support each other through their mutual grief and challenges of life. They did not need any more pain or disappointment. They didn’t deserve that. Marie numbly made her way through town, absentmindedly glancing in the store windows. The displays she had looked at a thousand times looked different to her tonight. Faces of the mannequins that proudly boasted chic clothing seemed to sneer at her. Sparkling jewelry looked tarnished. Antiques just looked old instead of like the treasures she knew they were. The bright and beautiful displays began to blur from the tears filling her eyes.       

All too soon the shopping district ended and there were no more stores in which to feign interest. Nothing to delay the inevitability of going home and sharing the bad news with her children. Taking a deep breath, as if trying to draw the strength she needed to complete her journey, Marie paused at the last one, a gift shop, and as she glanced inside, a twinkle caught her eye. She could see inside clearly from her vantage point and became mesmerized by beautiful cut crystals hanging above the counter, playing tag with strategically placed lighting. Brilliant colors escaped from the crystals whenever they caught a light beam. Like mischievous little fairies, colors danced around, filling the room with rainbows.

 As Marie was allowing herself this brief respite from life, her solitude was suddenly pierced by the sense of another presence nearby. It made her feel uncomfortable, and she knew she should have left, but suddenly and inexplicably, she wasn’t frightened and felt compelled to stay.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?” she heard a soft-spoken voice say.

Marie politely nodded, mildly annoyed at the intrusion on her solitude.

“They weren’t always so pretty”, a man said.

She turned her head to see the aging, but soft, face of an old man. Compassionate blue eyes that seemed to pierce her soul looked back at her. The wrinkles on his face suggested a long, and probably rough, life, but, at the same time, outlined a gentle smile that instantly put her at ease.

The old man continued. “In the beginning, those crystals were nothing but pieces of quartz or glass, lovely in their own rights in their innocent, unaltered states. They were mined, made smooth and then sent to a stone carver, who made cuts in the smooth glass to make beautiful jewelry and ornaments. Every cut marred the smooth surface, but with each one, a new beauty emerged. The more cuts that were made, the more brilliant were the prisms of color bursting from the stones when light was allowed through.”

The sincere, caring look on the old man’s face and his soft voice brought unexpected warmth to Marie’s heart as she turned her attention once again to the crystals, pondering his words.

“You know, life is much like these crystals.” The strange man continued. “It starts out smooth and unscathed, sorrows comforted and erased by the loving cocoons spun for us by our parents. But along the way we make mistakes, bad and unexpected things happen, people hurt us, and cuts are made on our hearts.”

Marie once again turned to look at the man, gazing intently at his face as she listened silently to his words.

“If we will only allow the light to shine, those cuts will create a magnificent rainbow of understanding, patience, wisdom and strength that will infuse our lives with peace. That light is God. He is all we need to make a rainbow out of life’s wounds. He will give us peace and His love will never let us down.”

She turned away again so the man would not see the tears that were welling up in her eyes once more. How did he know she was hurting? How did he know that she had lost touch with God? Memories of her husband’s death flooded her thoughts as she recalled the indescribable pain and hopelessness she and the children had felt. She never thought they would recover from that but with God’s help, they managed to get through it. The pain never entirely resolved, and none of them will ever be quite the same, but they made it. They wanted his death to mean something, so they set up a fund in his name that has helped countless families dealing with cancer. Mark used to call things like this “seeing rainbows through the rain.” 

At that moment, as she watched the crystals’ colors dancing around in the store, Marie knew that she and her children would be OK. God had brought them through crises before and she knew that He would do it again. She knew that she needs only to listen to His voice, trust and obey Him, and there will be a rainbow after this rain.

As Marie composed herself, she turned to thank the old man, but only the bright streetlights met her eyes. She looked around, and as she looked up, her eyes were drawn to one light that was surrounded by a rainbow of color. She allowed her eyes to linger on the light for a little while, and as they focused, she was sure she saw it smile a gentle smile.

I decided to change it up a little today and write some flash fiction. I hope you enjoy it.

he conference room, usually a dull and boring place, was now decorated with a lighted Christmas tree and festive wreaths and garland to celebrate the upcoming Christmas season. Despite some disturbing rumors, people smiled at the bright decorations and chatted with the coworkers as they entered the room for their monthly staff meeting.  Pleasantries were exchanged and the boss called the meeting to order. Marie Hudson, the secretary for the meetings, presented the notes from last month and prepared to record the proceedings for today. 

“As you know’, Marie heard her boss say, “Smaller businesses have not been doing as well as they used to because of larger companies acquiring an increasing share of buyers’ attention.”

Residual whispering ceased and the room fell silent. This was not the start to the meeting anyone had expected. Were the rumors true?

“Simply Elegant Jewelry has not been doing well, but we were hoping that this shopping season would put us back in the black. We have been seeing a shift in consumer buying habits from small, privately owned stores like this to larger companies, who can buy their products in bulk at a better price, thereby allowing them to offer consumers lower prices as well. We have been fighting hard to compete with them for customers but have been unable to keep up with discount jewelers and department stores. We all know the quality of our products is unsurpassed, but luxury items are usually the first to go when budgets get tight, and this is what many people are dealing with.”

By this time, people in the room were developing pits in their stomachs and lumps in their throats. The handwriting on the wall was beginning to appear. 

“We did the best we could, but we are unable to keep the business going”, he said, and a collective gasp was painfully audible in the room.  

“As of January 1st, our doors will be closed. You will all receive generous severance checks and good references for other potential employers. I want to thank you all for being the hard-working, loyal employees that you are, and I wish you all the best. We are so sorry, especially to have to do this at this time of year. If there is anything we can do to help, please see me in my office.”

With that, the meeting was adjourned, and stunned co-workers returned to their stations to quietly finish out their shifts. Frustrated, tired, and dejected, Marie shuffled out of the office when the day was finished. Her head felt like a stovepipe. She thought that if any more soot got stuffed inside it would surely explode. This sudden, new downward twist in her life left her feeling helpless. It seemed the more she tried, at work, home, or anywhere else, the worse things got. Ever since her husband, Mark, succumbed to the clutches of cancer two years ago, she has felt like a piece of soft taffy being pulled in multiple directions by so many people: her children, her employer, her church, and her aging parents, among others.

 “Everyone wants a piece of me”, she thought, “and they all pull so hard I feel like I will just rip apart, no one will get enough to be satisfied, and I will be torn beyond recognition.”

Marie did not have enough time in a day for anybody, including her children, who she loved more than life itself. She worked as many hours as she could just to stay above water. After she paid the bills, the mortgage, and the babysitter, put food on the table, clothes on their backs, and gas in the car, there was little left. And now this. This was her reward for so many years of hard work and dedication. Rumors of a poor corporate financial situation had recently been spreading unchecked and suspicions that positions would be eliminated to save the company were felt but left unsaid by employees. Tension had permeated the office like a thick fog as people moved about, appearing as busy as they could to substantiate their existence in the company. Watching all of this transpire over time, she thought she would be prepared for anything, but she was wrong. Layoffs were one thing because there was always a hope of being called back, but closing permanently? Panic alternating with disbelief consumed her as she struggled to process the devastating news. It hadn’t been the job of her dreams, but it had been steady, and it kept food on the table and a shelter over their heads.

What was she to do? She didn’t want to go home and tell her children, who, amidst the pain of losing their father, somehow managed to support each other through their mutual grief and challenges of life. They did not need any more pain or disappointment. They didn’t deserve that. Marie numbly made her way through town, absentmindedly glancing in the store windows. The displays she had looked at a thousand times looked different to her tonight. Faces of the mannequins that proudly boasted chic clothing seemed to sneer at her. Sparkling jewelry looked tarnished. Antiques just looked old instead of like the treasures she knew they were. The bright and beautiful displays began to blur from the tears filling her eyes.       

All too soon the shopping district ended and there were no more stores in which to feign interest. Nothing to delay the inevitability of going home and sharing the bad news with her children. Taking a deep breath, as if trying to draw the strength she needed to complete her journey, Marie paused at the last one, a gift shop, and as she glanced inside, a twinkle caught her eye. She could see inside clearly from her vantage point and became mesmerized by beautiful cut crystals hanging above the counter, playing tag with strategically placed lighting. Brilliant colors escaped from the crystals whenever they caught a light beam. Like mischievous little fairies, colors danced around, filling the room with rainbows.

 As Marie was allowing herself this brief respite from life, her solitude was suddenly pierced by the sense of another presence nearby. It made her feel uncomfortable, and she knew she should have left, but inexplicably, she wasn’t frightened and felt compelled to stay.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?” she heard a soft-spoken voice say.

Marie politely nodded, mildly annoyed at the intrusion on her solitude.

“They weren’t always so pretty”, a man said.

She turned her head to see the aging, but soft, face of an old man. Compassionate blue eyes that seemed to pierce her soul looked back at her. The wrinkles on his face suggested a long, and probably tough, life, but, at the same time, outlined a gentle smile that instantly put her at ease.

The old man continued. “In the beginning, those crystals were nothing but pieces of quartz or glass, lovely in their own rights in their innocent, unaltered states. They were mined, made smooth and then sent to a stone carver, who made cuts in the smooth glass to make beautiful jewelry and ornaments. Every cut marred the smooth surface, but with each one, a new beauty emerged. The more cuts that were made, the more brilliant were the prisms of color bursting from the stones when light was allowed to pass through.”

The sincere, caring look on the old man’s face and his soft voice brought unexpected warmth to Marie’s heart as she turned her attention once again to the crystals, pondering his words.

“You know, life is much like these crystals.” The strange man continued. “It starts out smooth and unscathed, sorrows comforted and erased by the loving cocoons spun for us by our parents. But along the way we make mistakes, bad and unexpected things happen, people hurt us, and cuts are made on our hearts.”

Marie once again turned to look at the man, gazing intently at his face as she listened silently to his words.

“If we will only allow the light to shine, those cuts will create a magnificent rainbow of understanding, patience, wisdom and strength that will infuse our lives with peace. That light is God. He is all we need to make a rainbow out of life’s wounds. He will give us peace and His love will never let us down.”

She turned away again so the man would not see the tears that were welling up in her eyes once more. How did he know she was hurting? How did he know that she had lost touch with God? Memories of her husband’s death flooded her thoughts as she recalled the indescribable pain and hopelessness she and the children had felt. She never thought they would recover from that but with God’s help, they managed to get through it. The pain never entirely resolved, and none of them will ever be quite the same, but they made it. They wanted his death to mean something, so they set up a fund in his name that has helped countless families dealing with cancer. Mark used to call things like this “seeing rainbows through the rain.” 

At that moment, as she watched the crystals’ colors dancing around in the store, Marie knew that she and her children would be OK. God had brought them through crises before and she knew that He would do it again. She knew that she needs only to listen to His voice, trust and obey Him, and there will be a rainbow after this rain.

As Marie composed herself, she turned to thank the old man, but only the bright streetlights met her eyes. She looked around, and, feeling compelled to look up, she caught her eyes being drawn to one light that was surrounded by a rainbow of color. She allowed her eyes to linger on the light for a little while, and as they focused, she was sure she saw it smile a gentle smile.

You Are The Branches

John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

With everything going on here these days, I have not done any ‘Bloomin Thought for the Day posts. Here’s my first of the Spring-Summer Season but far from the first flowers that bloomed this year.

We all know that people who do not have the Lord in their hearts actually can do many things; it doesn’t mean they are bad people. But do they have “the peace of the Lord that surpasses all understanding?” (Phillipians 4:7) in their lives here on earth, and are they prepared to earn a seat at His table when they meet Him, spirit to Spirit, in Heaven? See how my honeysuckle vines wind up and over the trellis on their way to meeting the branches coming up the other side? In my plant, I look at God as the trellis, supporting each new bit of growth climbing up toward the top. When the storms come, He supports them. As they grow, some wander away from the trellis and grow wild, with nothing to cling to. That is when I have to lead them back and feed them through the wrought iron decorative framework until they find a place to hang on and continue growing towards their goal.

Each honeysuckle plant was carefully placed in the ground, one on either side, and they grow towards each other. Regardless of where they were planted, the trellis will support them and guide them until they meet each other halfway. Isn’t that what God wants to do? He doesn’t want fighting and bickering among His children, but a meeting of the branches that have grown in Him. He is the Vine. We are the branches.We must spread ourselves out with open arms to meet the other side. “God’s will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” (The Lord’s Prayer.)

Pssst…Do you want to know a secret?

I have a secret, but you must promise to tell everyone you know before I share it with you. You will? Great! Shhh… Churches are open after Christmas! What?! For real? Yes, they are. After yesterday, though, I was kind of afraid some people didn’t know that. You see, a week ago we had five Christmas Eve services with specialized parking plans, a parking lot traffic director, and chairs overflowing out the back of the Sanctuary and the Christian Life Center. Beautiful, stately red poinsettias graced the church and CLC, memorializing or honoring loved ones. An advent wreath accepted the lighting of its candles, each with a different message that was read by families of the church. Beautiful Christmas music filled the rooms, culminating in the traditional singing of the peaceful “Silent Night” as light was shared, one to another, each individual candle illuminating that of a neighbor.  It was wonderful.

Yesterday, the poinsettias remained, and we still sang Christmas songs, but to a scattered congregation, even less than usual for our church, most likely due to holiday exhaustion. To be fair, this is not an admonishment for not attending church outside of Christmas and Easter. Anyone who is acquainted with me knows that I detest mornings. As such, I may have missed a service. Or two. Or three.  (Etc.) Forgive me, Lord, but if I didn’t have to be there to sing, I may have been among the exhausted absentees. More accurately, this is an acknowledgment of the waxing and waning of our spiritual lives that we all experience.

There is a common belief that one does not need a brick and mortar building to have a relationship with God. While I know this to be true, I posit that there is more to the story. God is omnipresent. We can find, worship, and praise Him anywhere we are, that’s indisputable; but there is something to be said for the spiritual food gleaned from clergy, the fellowship of other worshippers, and the satisfaction of serving God, that only a church can provide. We can liken it to the “use it or lose it” theory. If we don’t hone our life skills regularly, we can lose the edge we have on them. The same is true of our relationships with God. The more we practice strengthening them, the more adept we become at being able to hear His guiding voice in our lives when He speaks to us.

Pretty soon, if not already, any signs of Christmas will be carefully packed away until next year, but Jesus never packs us away; He is always with us. Soon the anxiety over decorating, sending cards, shopping, cooking, baking, and wrapping will be nothing more than a blurry memory. Any spiritual highs we felt after attending uplifting Christmas services may now be on the endangered list, but it doesn’t have to be that way. At least once every week the spiritual food kitchens known as churches are open for us to consume as much or as little as we want. Just as we need a regular schedule of healthy food intake to nourish our bodies, so do we need a regular schedule of worship to keep us spiritually satiated. Biblical knowledge, fellowship with other Christians, and service to others are excellent ways to find peace and joy in our lives.

I can unequivocally say that you will find something to feed your soul at church20181230_205326.jpg, if not at any one church, try another one. There is no one size fits all when it comes to churches. You need to find your comfort zone.  Think back a week ago to that light you received from your neighbor before passing it on to the person on the other side of you. Those candles have all since been extinguished, but don’t allow your own light to fade. Go back for more spiritual fuel and share your light with the world. Keep the spirit of Christmas alive all year round. And now you know the rest of the story.