A Caramel Cream Christmas

[Disclaimer: This was originally written for a devotional within LakeRidge’s 2018 Advent series. The author opened up this time for the past Sunday’s theme, Unexpected Gift. The following reflection was something of a fanciful invention by the author in order to stir up the imagination of the reader so as to contemplate the unexpected nature of the Incarnation.]

Have you ever reached into a pocket to find something you never expected? Was it some money, a note, a ticket, or just a piece of garbage? I remember one day reaching into my coat pocket to find one of the most peculiar things. I reached into my coat and found a caramel cream, tightly wrapped and looking like it had just come from the packing plant. A brief chuckle and bewilderment came from me, and I began to wonder about whoever placed such a wonderful, unassuming gift into my pouch. I didn’t necessarily assume it was of my own doing for I’m not one to leave candy around the linings of coats —I was chided as a boy for the neglect of well-made candy going undigested. Nevertheless, the culprit of this unexpected gift was the only thing my mind’s eye could savor.

I walked; I hummed; I yawned —all along meditating not on the candy, but the culprit. As I judged this candy, my dear mother came by to ask me what ever could be the matter. As I retold my story, she chuckled at her youngest son because I had done what many regularly do. I believed contemplating the giver without ever enjoying the gift would satisfy both the giver and myself. When in reality a reply in joy was what was needed because joy is the simplest form of gratitude. I obsessed over the giver and not the gift; my mother reminded me that participation in the gift took precedence over mere contemplation on the giver.

You see, many unwittingly forget that to receive a gift one must actively open up in the gift’s reception. An unexpected gift can only be given such a title when one opens up for the possibility of something willingly given without warrant or merit. Such is the birth of Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully Human; it is an unexpected gift. It is like a caramel cream hidden unknowingly in a little boy’s coat lining — it is to be receptively enjoyed and actively savored. 

Text to Read:

John 4:10 (NET)

Jesus answered her, “If you had known the gift of God and who it is who said to you, ‘Give me some water to drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

The One With A Poem…

Photo by Ardian Lumi on Unsplash
Note: For the next year, I plan to write a short story every day. Some may be palatable, even enjoyable(?). Others may be horrendous. If you like them, like them or share them. If you don’t, well it is whatever. I’m doing it as a challenge someone gave me. I’m calling these my fivers. I try and write them without stopping in five minutes, little to no editing after the time limit. Each story or post will come from a different prompt I am given. These are just exercises for me to be in the process of writing.

The past few weeks, I’ve been given writing prompts that I wasn’t able to really write a story for a blog, probably cause I thought all of them where we too personal. This one, however, with some fear and trepidation I am posting a poem. Oddly enough, when I was a teenager, I wrote poems regularly. Yet, I stopped for some laborious reasons if I were to tell you at length. Watered down: I didn’t want to get made fun of because I was the love/beauty poetry guy. Anyway, I was asked today to write a poem, so here it is. Let me know what you think.

“A Gleeful Twirl”

That girl, you see

That girl…with the soft curls

My oh my how she moves and twirls

Strong and Courageous, what, oh what do those eyes see.

Ah, what a fool of a mortal I may be!

Dimples that form with every merry go round

I am here, and she is there —leaping with every bound.

What if I try to come nigh

Could she then apply…

But then again, I puff out a sigh.

It might be best to stand idly by.

A gleeful twirl

“Come on,” with hand outstretched.

Now I uncurl and nothing seems so farfetched.

The One About A Squirrel

Photo by Evan McDougall on Unsplash
Note: For the next year, I plan to write a short story every day. Some may be 
palatable, even enjoyable(?). Others may be horrendous. If you like them, like them or share them. If you don’t, well it is whatever. I’m doing it as a challenge someone gave me. I’m calling these my fivers. I try and write them without stopping in five minutes, little to no editing after the time limit. Each story or post will come from a different prompt I am given. These are just exercises for me to be in the process of writing.

 

I grew up in small, rural America. Some people have called my area the rust belt; others have called it the snow belt. I called it home. In the sleepy towns of NW PA, there was a small private Christian school that I attended for most of my life from Kindergarten through 11th grade. The elementary wing of French Creek Valley Christian School had these decently giant windows to allow for natural light, as well as a good distraction for most of my classmates while some teacher went on about time, times tables, writing cursive, or the rudimentary knowledge of grammar. Grammar was the time that I would space out in the day, but I didn’t do it in a way that made the teacher genuinely suspect that I wasn’t listening.

One day, I don’t know for how long, but I blatantly watched two squirrels play with each other in the most jovial and playful manner. I don’t remember what drew me in; it might have been the changing of the weather. It was May! May in Pennsylvania was my favorite time of the year, and I found these two squirrel-mates living in a manner that made me envy them. While I heard this teacher go on about adjectives, nouns, verbs, and adverbs, my mind was analyzing what I was watching. Plato made the statement that a student’s formal, lecturing education should happen later on in life while as a youth they should learn the control of self through body and mind training. Education was to turn the light of our eyes to the goodness within us, thinks Plato. Well, chubby little Phil wanted to be jovial and lounge in the sun while I played. I kept hearing my teacher sound like the parents’ from the cartoon strip Peanuts.

As the squirrels played, they seemed to drift farther and farther from me. I watched them intensely, using anything I could to get a good eye on their bonding time. It was somehow a chance to escape the confines of my education to live a child’s dream — to simply be within the world. The next thing I knew my escape was immediately interrupted by the teacher calling out my name. “Philip! What are you doing?” As I heard the teacher, my mind reinstated the necessity to be a drone. However, I was more than halfway out of my seat, leaning more than half of my body sideways to watch the squirrels. Seeking to catch my balance, I spoke the truth. I wasn’t paying attention teacher. I cared more about the squirrels than this grammar lesson.

As I recentered upon the lesson, my mind couldn’t help but go back to the squirrels. Squirrels are funny creatures! Yet, they are fascinating in a peculiar way. I learned something valuable that day that I more recently realized in my adult life. Jovial and playfulness come to us in the moments of sheer non-expectation. Those squirrels did not happen to plan it; no, instead, they found themselves raptured into it. We become overwhelmed by chance to do something many of dream about: to find joy within the most serious of times.

How dare these squirrels to interrupt teaching of grammar for some nutty fun and comradery. But TRULY, it was the opposite! How dare we intrude into the scared moment of joy, innocence, and profound connectedness with a quibbling triffle about constucted rules to communicate through a medium other than oral language.  A bit of pleasure within the fabric of life isn’t found by the removal of things. Friend, joy is located in the midst of life. Connectedness is found within doing, not planning. Playfulness cannot be prepared or forced; instead, it becomes playful from the busy. There is much to say, but squirrels, small creatures of God’s creation, taught me that at a young age. I’m still learning it.

The One Time Water Nearly Killed Me

Photo by Zen Photographer on Unsplash
Note: For the next year, I plan to write a short story every day. Some may be 
palatable, even enjoyable(?). Others may be horrendous. If you like them, like them or share them. If you don’t, well it is whatever. I’m doing it as a challenge someone gave me. I’m calling these my fivers. I try and write them without stopping in five minutes, little to no editing after the time limit. Each story or post will come from a different prompt I am given. These are just exercises for me to be in the process of writing.

 

My first real experience with water was also the moment I remember having a traumatic experience. The trauma was brought on by myself. It wasn’t like my dad and mom acted like a mother bird trying to get her chicks to fly by pushing them out of the nest. No, I jumped into the water thinking I knew what to do. But, I’m getting ahead of this short story.

My family rarely traveled, but, for some reason, we were at a hotel that had a swimming pool. The whole family was excited, and we got ready to go to the pool as one family. It truly was a unique family moment for the Worrall clan. I remember putting on my swimming trunks being overtly excited like a kid given his first sip of coffee. I felt like I was bouncing off the walls. I wanted to urge my mother and father to get me down to the pool; what if it left. What if we didn’t have enough time! All I believed was that the pool was going somewhere and I had to be in it for wherever it was going to go. I couldn’t have been older than six when this magical moment happened. (Pause, if you know nothing about my family. Let me give you some insider information! I’m the youngest of six children, five boys and one girl.)

Alright, so some of the older siblings were able to go to the pool before myself and my sister Alice, had to be accompanied by mom and dad. My third brother, John, had a key to a hotel room. It was a huge responsibility; sort of, not really, but, in my mind, it was like one of the elven rings of LOTR. So, as I rush in giddy as all can be with a dopey smile from ear to ear. I heard my brother John say quite loudly. “Where is my key!? Can anyone see where the room key is?” Somehow, I internalized that cry for help like the Batman signal was being lit by Commissioner Gordon. I had to act, and there was only one person who could save that key. It could just be me…I am the chosen one. The key is small. I’m small. It makes total sense.

Then, in the midst of my glee and hearing the cry for help, my body without hesitation rushed towards where my brothers were at, wading through the water looking for the mischevious room key. It felt like a slow-motion scene from a feel-good action movie! I could hear the music rumbling. My little chubby body rushing towards the water. I screamed, “I GOT THIS!!!” But, I really didn’t. Then, I jumped into the water. As my little legs left the ground and my body was curling into a ball. It was like my analytical brain turned on for the first time. I heard myself say, “I can’t swim!!!”

I hit the water like a brick. Chubby fat rolls hit the water and burned like I made the gravest mistake of my life. I flailed in the water. My mind whispered, “This is it…this is how you die in front of everyone. No one will save you. Evolution kills the weak.” Besides that last sentence, this is what went running through my mind as my body bobbed up and down like an ocean buoy, except I didn’t know how to word it other than, upon reflection, realizing I was drowning.

Right before everything went black, I felt a giant tug on my hair. At that moment, my father rushed to the side of the pool. With my father’s giant hand and forearm, he palmed my head and grabbed my hair. Like a crane, my dad picked me up by the head pulling my hair, and he lifted me out of the water. I was simultaneously grateful, and I was upset that he pulled me up by my head. My dad quickly looked at me with a higher pitched voice, “What in the world were you thinking son??” “Well, dad…” stammering and coughing up water, “I thought…I thought I could find the key. And, and, and…I realized before I hit the water that you never taught me how to swim. ALL I wanted to do was be a hero and help.”

My dad shook his head, and he took me to a chair to relax. He mentioned that I shouldn’t go in the water till I was ready. I had to have some self-awareness, recognizing that I can’t do everything. I can’t be everything. It bugged me to an nth degree. I sat there shivering because the water reminded me of my frailty. My mom came over to me, and she asked me how I was doing. I remember I cried a bit because for some reason I thought dad was going to be really upset with me and that I was in trouble. My mom chuckled at me, for a few seconds. “That isn’t funny, but that is ridiculous Pip.” She told me to let her know when I was ready to go back in the water to come find her and use the stairs.

I sat there for a few minutes with the sniffles and doing that little kid thing when they aren’t crying but are holding back tears. What is that called? Oh yeah, I was whimpering/ sobbing and kinda had this face like I was permanently going to be stuck in the corner while everyone swam. I got the courage to go back in the water after ten minutes. Nothing could stop me, I knew I had to conquer my fear. But, I still didn’t know how to swim. C’est la vie; I’m still here.

 

The One About a Pooping Horse

Photo: Photo by Mikael Kristenson on Unsplash
Note: For the next year, I plan to write a short story every day. Some may be palatable, even enjoyable(?). Others may be horrendous. If you like them, like them or share them. If you don’t, well it is whatever. I’m doing it as a challenge someone gave me. I’m calling these my fivers. I try and write them without stopping in five minutes, little to no editing after the time limit. Each story or post will come from a different prompt I am given. These are just exercises for me to be in the process of writing.

Philip means “lover of horses.” For some reason as a kid, I always assumed that meant I was supposed to love horses. Well, I naturally did, and I still do. I guess Ecclesiastes is right that a good name is worth more than many things. Anyway, I got a chance to ride horses for a week when my parents left for a trip, which I believe was for their anniversary. I’m not sure many people know this, but I have quite the imagination. For a week, a family friend at the time would let me ride one of her horses while we trailed the surrounding area. However, one time I very vividly remember my mind concocting a great escape with that horse I was riding. This is that vividly imagined escape.

Mrs. Beers would allow me to ride the horse by myself; I had just turned seven at the time. She would hold the horse with an extra rope to guide my traveling buddy with me, yet every once and awhile I could tell that she would loosen her grip. It would be at this moment when we came to a field that I would grab the reins of my life and consequently the horse to blaze forward in a dash of glory. I would channel my inner John Wayne and let my horse run like the wind. I’d become a modern day cowboy in the hills of NW PA. Everyone would know of my fame, yet no one would ever know where I was. It was a fanciful idea, and my mind raced —at the time, I was obsessed with John Wayne and Disney movies.

Then, the time arrived we came to an open field that overlooked the sleepy little town of Saegertown. She told me to look out, but my mind was entirely focused on letting just a tiny bit go of the rope. She pestered me. My hands became sweaty, and I held my breath. I could feel my mouth wanting to scream, “Yeehaw!!” Then my horse cocked its head around to me, and he shook his head. He felt it, and he knew. In a blink of an eye, I could feel myself tightening my hands around the reins. Before I knew it, my faithful steed shook his head once again, and then he pooped. Like that, my hopes were dashed. At the time, I believed that it would be quite inconsiderate for me to ask a horse to poop and run. A botched plan because of a pooping horse. So, I shook my head, chuckled, and took in the view.

I whispered, “One day, steed, we will race toward the sunset.”

The One About The Wall

Note: For the next year, I plan to write a short story every day. Some may be palatable, even enjoyable(?). Others may be horrendous. If you like them, like them or share them. If you don’t, well it is whatever. I’m doing it as a challenge someone gave me. I’m calling these my fivers. I try and write them without stopping in five minutes, little to no editing after the time limit. Each story or post will come from a different prompt I am given. These are just exercises for me to be in the process of writing.

Walls, we all have them; I am one of them. I’m actually a pretty famous wall. Not the Berlin dude, he had a scary existence…RIP. You may have heard people call me Juliet’s Wall. (Check out my IG story to see how I show love to my fans.) Anywho, you might remember that I am the wall that separated two lovers. Walls are always interesting. And you should listen to me, I’m a wall. I remember these two lovers looking through me, which was mighty rude, and speaking the sweetest, kindest things to each other. One day they disappeared, but I remember everything they talked about.

I’m not here to rehearse their story. Instead, I want to tell you my story. Walls are usually meant for a good thing. You’ve heard the adage, “Good fences make good neighbors.” And they can be dastardly things. But, I’m not talking about physical walls like the lovers had; I’m speaking at the more emotional and metaphorical level. Walls become huge creations that make people feel so very small, or they can be little, tiny wall that still makes people feel insecure and second guess. Imagine it with these lovers, their physical barrier, i.e., me, was also a personification of their real barrier between families.

Their barrier ruined my grout! I’m sure it chipped a good portion of my life away. On the one hand, the lovers could see each other, hear one another, yet they always let something stop them from indeed being together. While, on the other hand, their special desire, longing, and time for the other played out in such a manner that they were together. In that way, the wall was only a small leap, and it was a gigantic hurdle. It is crazy how I heard these two back and forth proclaim their affection and desire. They made the conscious effort to be the other’s person all along enabling the wall to impede themselves to a point. “Just climb over,” I thought, “I’ll support your love and weight.” Every night I sighed with every sigh, and I was glad they used me to support those massive, full hearts. But oh, how their love could have blossomed if they but traversed me together. It would have been enough.

I heard someone say they removed their wall, but I didn’t understand it. I was still here, and I was their wall. Walls can sometimes all be about perception, even physical ones. A lover’s heart can leap, and it should be sagacious to know how to scale such a wall like me. For this is not the first time that I have seen lovers dwindle. And it is not the first time that I have heard of the lover’s quarrel. But, I have yet to see lovers ask a wall how to be free together. Maybe then, lovers could learn from me on how to climb…well, someone like me.