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Slowly, the women’s locker room door opens. Out limps a wizened senior, the drape of her swimming suit clinging to her thigh bearing a recent incision. She studies each step as she leans upon her helper’s forearm and inches her way toward the pool.

“Oh! She’s back!” says another, with white cornrows patterning her head like crop circles. She begins to wave. “Carolyn! Carolyn! We’re here! Over here!” Others, already in the pool, wiggle off the noodles supporting them in the water and head toward the steps. As they splash, eyes glisten with joy; gaiety implodes their spirits.

It is Tuesday morning at the Clayton Center in St. Louis, Missouri, and time for their water aerobics class. Only one other group ripples the surface of the pool at the deep end.

Carolyn looks up, a grin parting her creased lips, her shoulders shrugging off the tension. She stops, draws a deep breath. These are her old friends, the Noddlers—Their storied lives sealed by years of such Tuesdays, always followed by lunch at Subway’s.

Such groups like the Noddlers evidence the multifaceted mystery of life. Despite the crimping of physical pain and other diminishments, their spirits thrive within the so-called amniotic fluids of the heated swimming pool. Like the unborn, they are becoming the beautiful women God intended. Such happens within each Tuesday’s splashing around.

We learn from them.

 

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“Hey! Look over there! That car’s stopping!” exclaimed Sloane, already tanned in her flowered sundress and clapping her hands in the air. Excitement fused through the gyrating torsos of kids, just released for the summer from the nearby Mark Twain Elementary School. Beneath the shade of a maple tree stood a cloth-covered table lined with pitchers of lemonade and red plastic cups; coolers of ice chips flanked its corners. Mason grinned as he tended the cash box.

And so the exuberant afternoon went, with moms and dads watching. Kids from other blocks hung around the lemonade stand where they laughed, turned cartwheels, and spoke of summer plans—No matter the heat. They had their lemonade with its tart sweetness.

Such places of refreshment still soften hearts—An opportunity to enter the world of the child we once were. And it’s this same child, today, who still gets overwhelmed by the unexpected, however small or great, and seeks help at the closest “lemonade stand.” That could be a trusted friend, a solitary walk in the woods or by the ocean, a pet dog’s nuzzling her owner.

Or even more powerful: sitting still in prayer and waiting for the emergence of God’s presence. The release of tears gives urgency to the plea for comfort, for the inevitable new learning, for its assimilation within the ridges of the hurting heart. In time, its bitterness, like the lemon, is sweetened by wisdom’s smile.

 

“I’ve also been cleaning houses for twenty-five years. Getting them ready for realtors. Even sprucing them up for estate sales,” says a tall hefty woman, her short brunette hair pulled back into a ponytail. “And I also paint,” she adds, while shifting her weight onto her other foot and holding a bucket filled with bottles of vinegar and distilled water, sponges, squeegees, and clean cloths.

Because eleven years of grime had besmirched the windows of my bungalow, I decided to have them washed. And on the morning of dribbling rain, likened to the incontinence of an embarrassed dowager, my new friend showed up, her quiet smile assuring me of her expertise. Immediately, she set to work on the living room windows while I returned to my word processor.

Time passed. On my way to the kitchen I noted the sparkle of the “forest pansy” redbud tree through my bedroom window. And so, for the rest of the morning, my windows began to look out upon the crystalline wet world I had only experienced during walks. Within my bungalow I could now enjoy the true colors of the outdoors.

I had been helped.

Its deeper lesson soon emerged: the surrender to Creator God who alone has power to wash clean my stuff (the grime) in order to relish the true colors of my Senior years seasoned with daily challenges. Such appreciation emboldens spirit and readies it for its transition.

 

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