Stumbled

While out on a walk where there was absolutely no ice or treacherous conditions, I started to fall. Weirdly, I had a few seconds to think as I knew I was headed for the concrete.

I was trying to determine the reason I was going down as it was happening. I hadn’t tripped, there was nothing to have made this happen, so the “why” question was ever present on my mind.

Somehow, I was able to land more on my right side than anything else. And as I was lying there, I thought I had done an outstanding job of not breaking anything.

I got up, and I felt a slight discomfort in my right shoulder. I thought I had fought off a problem until the following day when I couldn’t raise that arm more than a few inches upward. I had limited mobility for a few days, but I kept doing my usual workouts, which seemed to help bring healing.

By the end of the week, it was back to normal because I had kept using it, not to an extreme, but enough to strengthen it again.

I had no idea that I had done what you are supposed to do when this sort of thing happens. I found an article devoted entirely to instructing people to calculate the perfect landing. I didn’t think that was possible. I thought all that was reserved for stunt people thrown from a burning car on a movie set.

Who knew that they have community classes set up entirely to help the public when they end up doing a face plant? Do you wear a name tag? Hello, my name is…klutz. The first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem with gravity. I imagine a classroom that doesn’t have any throw rugs.

If you have a plan for this, it can ward off a bad outcome and cause only minor damage. One of the most surprising things is that you must lean into it. It’s like you are giving in and cooperating, which leads to another step involved. Relaxing.

A body that is not tense fares better when it makes contact with the ground.

I saw this demonstrated recently while watching an extremely volatile tennis match, where two men were engaged in a long back and forth battle. Both were hitting toward the far corners making their opponents run from one end of the court to another. One of the players slid in an attempt to send a shot back. When he did, it threw him off balance.

He was moving fast, but it was so noticeable that he purposely concentrated on what was around him as he began to crash. He let go of his racket and seemed to be in total control of how it ended. Like he was planning on doing a plank, he used both arms and legs to wind up in a push-up position. He popped back up and continued to play. Using his entire body, he spread out the impact coming his way.

Sometimes, though, there is no way you can think fast like that.

Taking an unexpected trip down the stairs happened to me quite often when I was a child. My parents had slippery wooden stairs with nails sticking up in random places that my dad had to hammer back down. I think when someone screamed and went airborne, that was his cue to fix it again.

If one of your socks got caught on that, you generally went from the top to the bottom really quick without your sock. And then my mom would sew up the hole, and the process would begin again.

It was anyone’s guess who would become the next victim. I always forgot how dangerous they were and what small child is not in a hurry? I mean, there are important things to do when you are little, so you run.

When I was around five years old, I recall putting one foot on the first step and then landing on my back after not touching anything all the way down. It was a silent descent that no one was even aware of. It would have appeared to a passerby that I had grown weary of life and just decided to give up by staring at the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs. Somehow I had pulled off the most brilliant gymnastic move without an audience.

As I lay there, I felt so alone. I remained motionless, wondering how I had ended up like that. Nothing hurt, and I was probably stunned. One of my sisters happened to come around a corner. She looked down at me and said in the saddest tone of voice,

“Chris? Did you fall down the stairs?”

Up until that second, I had not made a sound, but the pity in her voice triggered me.

“Yes! I did!” I said, hardly able to speak as I started to cry.

“Are you hurt?” She asked in that same time of voice.

“No! I’m not!”

“Then why are you crying?”

“I don’t know!” I wailed. We both started laughing.

Around that same age, I made a huge mistake while playing hide and seek.

I was under the watch of a bunch of teenagers. My parents had gone out for the night and left me in the care of a few of my siblings. I liked it when they left because it felt like the whole house took a deep breath for a few hours. No one did anything crazy while they were gone, but it felt different not to be under an authoritative person.

Someone at some point had an eye on me to be sure I wasn’t running wild in the street or touching a hot stove.

It was suggested that I hide so someone could find me. Thinking back on it, it probably gave them a break from having to pay attention to me for a little while.

I heard the usual countdown indicating that I better hurry up and get out of sight.

I don’t know how I decided on the upstairs bathroom tub, but I went behind the shower curtain and stood there waiting to see how long it would take before I was discovered.

I knew someone was coming, so I moved slightly, and that is when I fell backward, cracking my skull on the porcelain tub.

I don’t remember much except for a headache and throwing up. I know my mom was suddenly standing over me in a strange place, which I now know is an emergency room. From that, I only recall being put back into my bed at home.

The next day I was told I had a concussion. It doesn’t only happen in full contact sports, apparently. I didn’t understand that complex of a medical term. But I knew I had done something wrong from how I felt. The room was spinning, and I had this constant feeling of nausea.

“Do you remember hitting your head?” She asked me.

“No.”

“You had socks on when you went to hide, and you slipped and fell.”

That made sense, and I never did it again.

When you hurt yourself physically, you usually know what to use to promote healing. You get ice, heat, a pain reliever, elevate the area, stay off of it, don’t touch it, bandage it, wrap it up, and be careful.

When you are hurt emotionally, it’s a bit different. You can use external devices to try and help, but generally, it’s all work that has to take place on the inside. You can find a brief reprieve from the pain momentarily, but the problem doesn’t get solved.

Just like an unplanned tumble, events that seemingly came out of nowhere can leave you wounded. But, I have learned that once the dust settles, there is something in it for you to gain. You become more thoughtful, more discerning, and can see where you can improve. Like I never wore my socks into the tub again, I learned what to avoid.

Some have taken a mental spill because they knowingly did something in a hasty decision that maybe they wish could be taken back. Guilt, shame, and unworthiness are their company, keeping them down. It looks like this from Proverbs 16:18,

First pride, then the crash— the bigger the ego, the harder the fall. (Message)

Do they make a bandaid that big?

So how do you get up after that? You lean into it, don’t resist, and do this from 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NLT)

God is always ready to assist you up after you hit a wall, collapse, or lay motionless, almost left for dead even if you caused the trouble. Heaven’s biggest priority is to set you back on your feet and help you forget the part where you stumbled.

Yes, I have fallen going up the stairs as well…

Wounds

It wasn’t uncommon for me to suffer disappointment while growing up. My parents came out of the Great Depression, where they were taught that money was scarce, nothing should be wasted, and everything could be repaired. 

It was a routine, but horrible experience, to have water added to the ketchup or salad dressing bottle so every last drip could be consumed. She would shake it all together, try to hand it to me, and I refused because I had found it tasted like death. 

“Chris, just use it. It’s not that bad.”

Even her head shaking and sighing would not move me. She had stockpiled more, and I knew it. Sometimes she would give in and act as she had just found a brand new bottle that she had “forgotten all about.” Miracles can happen every day if you are stubborn enough. 

Besides holding my ground on condiments, I had to beg and plead for her to open the purse strings for anything. If she could find a way to buy something that never needed to be replaced, she was on board. So my request to get a pumpkin at a farm was coloring way out of the lines.

“I want a real pumpkin,” I kept saying day and night, starting in September. This was a tactic that had worked on a few things in the past. But, not always. If I got her to say,

“Maybe,” I knew I was closer to my goal. 

Every house in our neighborhood had carved pumpkins on the front steps. She had chosen to buy a plastic one that she could plug in, which she had gotten long before I was on earth. Frugal at its finest. 

It didn’t have the personal touch of a kitchen knife in an artist’s imperfect hand. It was a factory-produced, false rendition of something organic, started from a seed, grown in a field. Hers was a far cry from that. The light bulb had started to burn off some of the original orange paint. But, to no avail, she got it out every single year, which killed my chances of getting a real one. 

The year I had given up, feeling that she was not going to budge an inch, she took me by total surprise and said,

“I think it would be fun to go to a pumpkin patch.”

I could not believe it! I acted as if it was not a big deal, but it was. We made the drive to the nearest place. 

I walked through rows and rows of them, trying to decide which one would be mine. Because of the age gap between my siblings and me, I was the only kid in the age bracket to find this experience exciting. All my energy and wear-down approach had finally paid off in fourth grade. 

I carried my selection to the person who she would pay. She suddenly noticed the sign stating the price per pound. I hadn’t chosen the largest one I could have, but her default kicked in once it hit the scale. 

“That’s way too much. I’m not going to spend that.”

The guy dressed like a farmer looked at her and then at me. I could not believe that she was actually going to back out now. 

“Is that the real price?” She asked. I could tell that the “fun” part was being sucked out of it. 

“Yes.”

“No, thank you. Chris, let’s go.”

I had been so close! The guy glanced over at me again with very sympathetic eyes. It wasn’t until that moment I realized I shouldn’t be happy. I had been denied so many other things so often that my ability to feel sadness had been curtailed. I was supposed to accept that whatever she did or said would produce no emotional response on my part. 

I had become really good at it, but I also made a vow to myself that once I had children, I would never do to them what had been done to me. Or at least try not to. 

So whether it was acceptable or not, I took my girls to get pumpkins in the fall. The stigma of doing so and going against what was presented as evil in the church’s eyes didn’t stop me. I read all the literature and folklore about its practice and decided that God knew my heart. I wasn’t doing this to ward off mischievous spirits or engage in the dark arts. I was trying to heal something from my past. 

It worked as I watched them produce some of the most beautiful pieces of art I had ever seen. Somewhere in their DNA, they were awarded the ability to draw and create things I had never been given. Scribbling out a stick figure is a challenge for me. 

One year, my youngest daughter decided to spraypaint her pumpkin. She had seen the idea somewhere and decided that this was something she wanted to try. She purchased a can of purple glitter spray and covered the entire thing. It turned out very professional looking. 

The only thing was that it never occurred to us to put it outside in the cold air to preserve it. Day after day, it sat in the house looking like a royal piece of artistry straight out of a fairy tale, subjected to a warm environment. One night I noticed a strange smell. Why this always befalls me, I do not know. 

“Is that your pumpkin starting not to smell so great?” I asked as it was in the air drifting and becoming more fragrant. Pumpkin in a can of spray is nowhere near this natural one.

“Maybe,” she said. 

Both of us approached it warily. I have learned the hard way that once something makes its presence known by way of a foul odor, you have to think before reacting. I had been the unfortunate recipient of cleaning out the refrigerator and unearthing containers that held contents that once had good intentions of being used later. Refried beans are not your friend on day 237. And by all means, do not hastily remove the lid unless you are right over the garbage with a hazmat suit securely fastened. 

Now we stood in front of the most magical looking pretty display, trying to decide which one of us was going to pick it up. She knows she can outlast me, so of course, it would be me. 

All that glitters on the outside is not necessarily a good representation of what is really going on.

When I slowly moved it, I immediately saw the mold that started at the base and rapidly spread. Pieces of paint were falling off in the back as the green fuzz was making its attack. She leaned in to get a better look, and I turned it so she could see how bad it was. Right as I did, an enormous black spider jumped out from its hiding place, trying to dodge being squished into the afterlife.

I heard her scream, and when I looked, she was long gone, just like the spider. 

I could not stop laughing. 

“Where did it go?” She said from the farthest corner of the house. 

“I don’t know.” Dreaded words for one who is terrified of things that crawl. 

I had to throw away the decayed piece of produce, and she spent days looking over her shoulder for the escapee. 

God can bring resolution to the biggest and smallest of pain. And heaven has a way of providing it in the most perfect of ways. Even if the person who hurt you never apologizes, fractures can be mended. It may come in the form of a funny moment or a simple word spoken like this one in Psalm 71:20, 

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth, you will again bring me up. (NIV) 

In addition, this is a steadfast promise of God’s faithfulness from Psalm 147:3: “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages up their wounds.” (NLT) 

Yep..I have talent in my house

Unexpected

My daughter and I wandered into the air freshener aisle at the store. Cans of seasonal sprays, plug-in devices, and candles pervaded an entire section. It was one massive scent parade. An equally large clearance display housed the already forgotten summer fare of cotton laundry, ocean breezes, sunflower burst, and Malibu sunshine. It was, after all, barely the first week of September. Room needed to be made immediately for everything that suggested colder weather, crackling fireplaces, and sweaters. There was no more running wild in flip-flops and short sleeve shirts. It was time to buckle down and bundle up! Yet, it was still 85 degrees outside. 

She sensed my dissatisfaction with looking at pumpkin anything this early. I pulled out my phone to distract myself as she surveyed her options. 

“You don’t want me to get this,” she said, picking up my thought. 

It felt too early. My tan lines hadn’t faded, and I knew how this always ended. By the stroke of midnight one second past Thanksgiving, everything she was considering buying would be in the trash. All of this seemed so thrilling now but day after day of it got to be monotonous. Half of the product would go unused. Then it would be onto evergreen or sugar cookie, which I already saw on the shelf creeping their way in. 

“No, I don’t. Are you sure you will even use it? You know how you get tired of it quickly.”

She has a slight weakness for anything marked Limited Edition, so I didn’t put a lot of energy into dissuading her as I knew my efforts were futile. 

She went on to smell another offering, and I went back to not paying attention. Locking down her choice and sliding it into the cart, I still had a visual of me throwing it away in two months. 

Once at home, I took out a new box of baking soda. I had scoured the extra refrigerator in the garage, and it needed a replacement. My daughter was emptying the contents of her shopping bags on the kitchen table as I headed out the door. 

I was just about to open the fridge when I realized I forgot to mark the date to remind myself when another box would be necessary. 

I spun around quickly in the pursuit of a black sharpie located in the kitchen. From that moment, I don’t clearly recall everything. Right as I pushed open the door to go back in, I collided with my daughter, who had one arm upraised. This caused me to look upward at her hand. In a swift, sweeping motion, she dispensed pumpkin air freshener into my eyes, onto my lips, and straight up my nose. I gasped, which only caused me to inhale more, and my tongue fell victim. I had luckily slammed my eyes shut out of an initial response. 

“Mom! Oh, no! Are you ok? Mom! Mom!” 

I was saturated in an artificial mist cloud, leaving me without the ability to communicate or breathe properly. 

The more I was frozen in place with my eyes closed, the more she panicked. 

“Mom! Please say you are ok! Mom!”

Finally, able to speak, I said one word, 

“Why?” 

“I wanted you to be able to smell it when you came back in. I was going to spray it around the whole door, so you could see what it was like. You were supposed to walk through it and be surrounded by it.

She had maced me. 

I ventured to open my eyes a crack. There was no burning, just the overpowering aroma of factory produced pumpkin, mainly because I had a wet upper lip dripping with the scent. 

I looked at her through the haze. Her eyes were wide with her finger still on the nozzle. 

I have lived long enough to have tasted pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin bars. This was not that at all. Not even close. It was a disguised can of hair spray marketed for autumn. 

I noticed I had somehow held onto the box of soda as I started to return to a state of consciousness. 

“Mom? Are you ok?”

“No! I am not! I’m not okay! No! None of this is okay! Nothing about this is ok at all!”

And that’s when I started laughing so hard I could not stand up. I ended up lying on my back in the middle of the kitchen. The air closer to the floor wasn’t as perfume ladened, but I was a walking fragrance from which there was no escape. I tried rubbing it off my face, but it soaked in more and transferred itself onto my hands. As I took in oxygen, I got to experience the simulation of fall over and over. 

Assuming I was fine, she laughed with me. 

“I wanted you to see that it wasn’t a waste to buy it, and I would use it.” 

I rolled to my side, trying to stop the waves of laughter that gripped me. 

I caught my breath for a moment to say, 

“It is not even fall yet!”

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time isn’t a pleasant experience. I was going about my life, not anticipating a seasonal assault at the door. 

My daughter intended to “cozy” up the house, but it didn’t turn out that way. Her timing and mine were off. What if your timing and God’s don’t coincide? Do you keep trying to make something happen, or do you wait until the way opens up? 

I think we all know when something is easy, and all the pieces fall simply into place. There’s no force needed or coercion, and it just comes along naturally. Often with God, we are left with mouths hanging open in awe. All of your plans could never be as detailed and take into account all that is involved. 

Lagging is never a good idea either because opportunities get missed, and regrets happen later. So how do you walk in line with the Creator of all? 

Proverbs 3:5-12

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;

    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;

    he’s the one who will keep you on track. (Message)

So as we move into another season, where things change beyond our control, remember the One who is in control of it all. You never know when that great thing you have been waiting for will suddenly manifest. 

Often God’s timing is just like that pumpkin spray…unexpected.