Lifting the Fallen

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The flow of thick Saturday morning traffic halts. Red lights flash, heartbeats pulse with loud thumps.

A fallen motorcycle lays in the far right lane of the six-lane highway, a gleaming pile of suddenly immobile metal and rubber.

The small SUV in front of my larger SUV slows, stops, emergency lights flashing a warning. Two woman leap out, rush to the scene in front of their car.

A downed motorcycle. People on the road.

The sight of the motorcycle on its side halts my breath. I slam my foot on the brake and glance in the rear view mirror. My finger jams the red triangle button on the dash. The car behind me pulls closer, but sees the lights.

They slow.

Someone honks on the southbound side. Everything metal and human slows.

People on the road.

Two people had been astride the muscular bike, and my body fires with the spiky adrenaline as the drama of Hollywood jumps into real life with no stunt people and no CGI to fill in the blanks.

People on the road.

I crane my neck–rubbernecking is a thing–and peer around the small SUV. The two ladies are on the scene, standing over the downed bikers, shouting questions.

Helping the fallen.

Hands reach for hands, and the two bikers struggle to their feet. A collective sigh fills the vehicles stopped on their way to pick up groceries and attend birthday parties. Gather with friends and play soccer games.

The motorcycle is black and shiny–a Harley most likely–and its riders a man and woman, middle-aged. Shock slows their bodies, paints their features. The  man nods at something the passenger–his wife?–says.

Car doors slam and three more people fill the scene, concern worn like coats, arms outstretched. Cell phones ready.

Someone takes a picture, and I grimace. Put it away.

A faithful woman jumps off her stool on the grass-carpeted corner from which she hands out grace each Saturday. The cardboard “Jesus Cares” sign tucked under one arm, she hurries toward the motorcycle couple brushing gravel from their jeans and leather jackets.

Without hesitating,  Jesus Cares wraps each biker in a thorough hug, comforting as a mother would. Whispering words I wish I could hear, but smile about anyway.

They’re okay. I’m still uncertain what happened this bustling morning, but they’re okay.

A burly bystander has picked up the bike, and three people roll it to the roadside. The ladies in the small SUV in front of mine jump back in their vehicle, pull up beside the limping bikers, and reset their flashers.

Giving the stunned bikers more time to settle, necessary moments to recuperate from meeting the road face-to-face, while the rest of us slowly drive away, considering what happened. Thinking of those now behind us who lifted the fallen.

Of Jesus Cares offering arms to comfort, hold close. Coming forward to strengthen and support.

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And I’m reminded of friends and family, of tight warm arms and grace-filled, you-can-still-fly words that have lifted me when I’ve fallen. Can you, too? I hope so.

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecc. 4:9-12)

When I started this writing life, it was mostly on my own. My parents have always been there, from the day in fifth grade when I wrote a story called Attack of the Killer Onions after watching a goofy movie with dangerous grumbling tomatoes.

They–and other dear family members– have moved me forward to the dream’s beginning mark. To the “GO” God inscribed on my heart seven years ago with a character who wouldn’t get out of my head.

Now there are fellow writers whose arms have lifted. Whose words have encouraged and whose stories have inspired.

And I meet still more each month, each conference I attend. Sensitive people who love the Lord, love words and stories and long to share those with others. Who use the gift of words to entertain and teach.

I’m thankful for their arms and words, lifting me when I’ve fallen.

And I pray I take my turn standing over the fallen, lifting them back up. Helping brush off the gravel of disappointment and the dirt of despair when the road chokes progress or turns the wrong direction.

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Today, tomorrow, be a lifter. Lifting the fallen.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Prov. 17:17)

Thanking in the Hard

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“We’re not telling our thankful thing for the day anymore,” Chase observed one evening.

We were seated around our kitchen table, probably eating tacos on a Tuesday. Maybe even grilled cheese and tomato soup on a Friday.

“Why aren’t we saying the thing we’re thankful for?”

I drew in a breath then thought back–a jagged breath, now–to the past three months. Truly, April was the first month in which the sun was literally and figuratively shining brighter.

“It’s been a hard year, honey. And, you know, I just forgot to start a new piece of paper for February.”

It was a lame-o excuse, but all I had.

The beginning of this year I started a family thankfulness page. Planned one for each month. I used my favorite purple pen to scribble down words we could read later.

Gratitude to remember weeks, months down the road of life.

We circled the table, shared one funny or serious blessing or thankful thing. Some evenings it was difficult to come up with ideas; other days we were excited to share. Sometimes my husband worked late and wasn’t there, and other times we ate out and didn’t get to share that night.

But my heart ached that it become a habit, externally and internally. For all of us. Gratefulness, noticing little blessings and humor in every day.

Gifts from God, reminders of His grace.

And now, those messy, purple words remind me of the month of January as I gaze over them.

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  • No school today (Chase & Cole)
  • Finished checking ramp A (Dad)
  • Watching Cole laughing with a friend at pick up line (me)
  • Epic soccer game in PE (Cole)
  • Made Chaz laugh in school (Chase)
  • Big encouragement from a writer friend (me)
  • It’s Friday (Dad)
  • Spent time with Chase (me)

My morning walk time is often part of my prayer time, and the other day, it was positively easy to pray. To say ‘thank you’ to God from the depths of my heart.

Gratefulness oozed from my pores.

After all? It was a beautiful morning, kids were mostly healthy and getting along, no humidity, house was clean, our families were on the upswing (Thank You, Lord), the bird was doing well with his potty-training, I didn’t have to work. Laundry was 98.8% conquered.

The dog was bathed. There was writing time on the horizon.

All good things going on.

How easy it was to stroll along, my eyes on the skies, gratitude flowing like spring sunshine.

The thing is, I was thanking in the easy. And boy, it was easy.

Two months ago, I tried thanking in the hard. And boy, was it hard.

How could I say thank you, God, when a family member was dying? Painfully?

Or when my Dad was bedridden for weeks from a hip-related physical therapy accident, very possibly out of a job now, totally not of his own doing?

Grumbles of protest and the weight of worry squelched out my voice and gratitude during those difficult weeks. Often I numbly recited verses and groaned to God on behalf of my loved ones.

I think all of us, some more than others, have had to thank in the hard. Have had to groan instead of pray.

And it’s okay. Because God still wants our thanks, even during the hard. Especially during the hard. Because He is still God, and He is not gone.

And His grace is sufficient.

If you’re in a trial, going through the HARD of life, hang on, friend. Don’t give up on the praise, on thanksgiving. God IS faithful.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (2 Thess. 5:16-18)

 

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