Short Story Reboot: The Atoma

In College I wrote a 25 page ‘short’ story called The Atoma. In the end this one chapter was a whole book. So I decided someday I should break each paragraph into a chapter. The idea of this story is that you don’t know what is going on for awhile and it is a post apocalypse story that I will likely write into a plot hole to bury forever. However, I believe in writing for the sake of writing and this is all I can think to do.

Chapter 1: What’s in a name?
Year 2123

“I think Aimee is waking up” A man’s voice said. I could hear his excitement warm the room. Aimee? That is an awesome and noble name… for a girl. Who is Aimee? I opened one eye. It was dark, I might have seen the flicker of a candle. I closed my eye again. What Fresh Hell is this? 

A female’s voice answered the mans “That is a girl’s tag, it isn’t his. Don’t call him that, he is a male of his species. How would you like to be called a girls name?”  Was that a child or a woman speaking? Ugh, how long had I been out? “He’s waking up, he might hear you” he was shushed. I ached. I ached everywhere. I could feel open wounds on my left arm, neck and torso. The sting was helping me come around. What went down? Am I dead? 

Another male’s voice chipped in “People have given him nicknames. I call him stiff for being unconscious and some call him lucky because he lived. I like skunk, because he needed a shower when we found him.” That was a rude comment. Who had taken care of me? Why am I wet with water and not sweat?

 I think I had been a solider, I bit back tears. I was filled with unresolved emotions. Had I killed someone? Would that all come back? There was a tight feeling in my stomach. Am I safe? Are they safe? Who are they?  Fear if I recall, lots of fear.  I just vividly remember the grief, sadness and overall darkness the first few days after I awoke. I remember hoping it was all a dream.  I hadn’t remembered what I lost and I  felt that was worse than knowing loss. I would soon test that idea. I hope I am not giving too much away by telling you that someone is going to die in a story about war and monsters. I trembled until I went numb. Then I opened my eyes and kept them that way.

The group fell silent as I sat up and groaned feeling as if I had been mauled. This was likely because I had been mauled. Mauled by breathless, but I didn’t know that yet. I should be thankful it was not an Odious that mauled me. Don’t worry, I will fill you in. The three people and the one with the girl’s voice watched me blink a few times and then wash the gunk out of my eyes. I had been out for a week. I wanted to pee, brush my teeth and changed my clothes more than I wanted to know where I was. Who cares where you are if you don’t know who you are or where you have been?

“So the man must be AB type, he has woken from the breathless bite. Lucky duck” the woman spoke. “Well Vyra, as always why don’t you do the honors. Fill the new man in.” The first man spoke. He was over by the small rooms door with his arms crossed across his chest. He was friendly looking despite his size.

It was hard to pay attention to him with Vyra in the room. She was perplexing and striking in appearance. She stuck out. What is wrong with her? The three others in the room were all sporting buzz cuts, tight clothes and guns. They were compact. They had the precise movements of a soldier. Their gaze was familiar. I had peered into countless expressions like those. I could tell inside they questioned the orders they followed and their morals. They wondered if the violence and gore was worth it and they would never ever ask if anyone else felt the same because it was too late to go back. They were uniformed, cautious and aggressive looking. Had I looked that way?

Vyra’s on the other hand had long hair. It came to her hips in a light blonde. It jumped from underneath the hood of a light purple cloak. “Fuchsia?” I tried to recall what that color was called.

She smiled, “No! Is that really your first question? Is that fuchsia? Fuchsia is more pink. I would call this a Lilac or a Lavender maybe.” I head a snicker in the room. I didn’t take my eyes off of her to see who. The longer I looked at her the more I got a feeling something was wrong with her. An angel? Am I dead? “Fine Gidget, I will fill him in on all the shades of purple and everything else he lost.” She waved her painted fingers at them. “Take Paulie and Jason to the commons and send in two more that should be on a work shift.”

Gidget nodded and smiled at me and gestured to the gun on his other hand as he left. Was it a threat? I reached for my holster and found it empty. Of course, I was a stranger there. They had no way of knowing the kind of man I was. Neither did I. I suppose that was the day I choose who I would be from that point on. I was still concerned with Vyra. She seemed inhuman, but why? I was fixated on it. She sat at the edge of my cot by my legs. “Is your pain manageable?”

“What? Yeah.” What kind of man says where it hurts? There really was only one answer and I didn’t want to be drugged. I felt out of it enough already.

I nodded. I was sore, I was covered in scratches and bites, my flesh was sore in some places and my joints ached. I may have had bed sores. My sheets had blood. I didn’t have time to choose what to ask. How did I get here? Who am I? Who are those people? Who are you? What’s going on? Vyra was already explaining. I shut up my thoughts and listened.

“Well soldier I think I myself will call you Lucky” she took my wrist feeling my heartbeat “Good and strong. We found you because we heard you fire your weapon as we raided a grocery store for supplies. By the time we got to you Lucky, you were being mobbed by breathless. Yoau were alone” I blinked. I didn’t remember any of that. It felt true. Not in my heart, in my sore spots. Can I trust her? What was I doing alone?

“Breathless?” I asked, this being the first time I heard my own voice that I could recall. I naturally reached up and touched my throat. That was what I sounded like? It was a normal voice but it surprised me that it didn’t sound familiar. I guess with the three intimidating people in the room I hadn’t noticed how odd my own hands looked and how unfamiliar my own voice sounded. The word breathless gave me chills. It made me want to scream and cry..and get a gun. I knew it was a terrible word. I just needed refreshed. I examined the hair on my arms to distract me.

“Yes breathless, the undead masses of the Odious” she took a canteen that was hanging over her shoulder under her robe and offered it to me “Drink.” Oh man am I am parched! I gulped the water down.

“Odious?” there was my voice again. I licked the last of the water from my lips.  If the word breathless frightened me Odious was worse. It made my aches more sensitive, it left me empty, listless, dead. Were her eyes changing color? She shot me a glance. She seemed to sense her appearance was freaking me out a bit. What is she?

She sighed “Really, I feel like this is all I ever do. Yes, the Odious. The creatures the Atoma of Xenos let through the portal after the 100 years of peace. If we had printers with ink I would make a pamphlet.”  I remembered that we had peace, then we didn’t.

“My memories–“

“Oh is that what you want to know?” She started to casually braid her hair. “You were scratched. The first thing that happens to a human who is scratched by the breathless is that they start to lose their personal memories. It dwindles your frontal lobe. Whatever is most important to you is lost most quickly. But– for some reason your blood type fights and defeats the sickness at this stage. Makes no sense to us. Next they get ill. Pass out for a few days. Lose sensitivity and most reasoning abilities. There was a study posted on it in the beginning of the outbreak if you want. Look in our library.” She frowned, a small line formed on her forehead. “Do you remember anything? Maybe the dead coming back to life?”

“I think that I was a solider… and that I like the color green.”

“What about your ability to do math or anything else you learned in school.”

“I don’t know, I have a feint feeling I was never good at school. I think I played football… a small town”

She snorted. “Well then, I will see if we have a place open for a football player”

I ignored her jab. “So who are the Atoma?”

“We replaced your energy resource with ours and cured all sicknesses. We illuminated the skies with improvement!” she shook her fist in sudden anger. “Ungrateful swine. We of course had to enforce our own way of dealing with people who refused to be peaceful..” Scary. Vyra took a few deep breaths “Then the Atoma went home. Or rather most did. We gave up. Your condition could not be cured. Even with peace and prosperity you all wanted more. Nothing satisfied you.” She took a harsher look seeming ten years older than a moment ago “I regret to tell you that when the Atoma left, Odious came through the portal.”

“You gave us 100 years of peace… then monsters?” I asked sitting up. Ow. I moved my feet to the floor. I felt the coolness of the cement. I liked it. I wiggled my toes.  I reached for the cool piece of metal that touched my chest and lifted it to read it. “Aimee Martin, that isn’t how you spell Amy..” the room spun a bit. I kept my balance.  I let my eyes adjust to the font on the name tag for a bit longer.

Martin,
Aimee L.
854-45-0900
A-Positive
Protestant

“Her parents must have been progressive” Vyra said with a shrug. “You are more curious about an Aimee than a Vyra?”

“I don’t know anything about how aliens spell their names..” I was sure now. She wasn’t alien. I said that out of humor though. Just realized it could have been rude. I don’t know what aliens find funny. “You are Atoma… arn’t you?” I thought I had pieced it together. I felt clever. The look on her face told me I might have just told a totally average girl she was an alien. She drew in a breath. She better be an alien. “Sorry, if you are not I just thought..”

“I don’t think we should label it” she cut me off. Each time I looked at her she seemed to have change a bit. Sometimes she looked older or younger than I she had looked a minute ago. Her eyes seemed to have every color present but in certain light they would choose one color. Her hair length was the only thing that stayed the same.  “Lucky…look, we just don’t ask that question. We can just know things sometimes without being told.”

“So yes.” Vyra shot me a look. She seemed to go between light brown hair and blonde hair. It was scary, cool and beautiful. Mostly it was weird. She was not human. Had I remembered other Atoma, just seeing her hair was long would have revealed her species. Unlike humans breathless would not threaten the Atoma. They did not have to fear being dragged off by the hair because the Odious saw the Atoma as an equal. The Atoma could not become breathless. All Atoma’s have hair at least to their elbows. Like their horns and tail, length had much to do with their perception of beauty.But that doesn’t matter and I didn’t know that then. Let me dive back in.  She had finally seemed to be the same. Her eyes fixed in a teal color and her hair stayed strawberry blond. Once she chose something it was as if she had been that way always. I forgot that she hadn’t been strawberry blonde with teal eyes. I would learn how to remember. Vyra is a very important part of my story. But, I will get to that. Promise.

She didn’t look anymore like she was from another world. So I eased. She turned on an overhead light and I could see my reflection in the mirror on the wall. Brown hair, square jaw. He looks familiar. He reached for his chin when I did. It was all too much. I wanted to lie down and go back to bed. Maybe I would feel less sick to my stomach if I rested more. Being a stranger to my own reflection was really scary the first day. I don’t know how to get you to imagine it. I imagine you can understand the loneliness of it a bit better if you tried anyways.

“Maybe we can look Aimee up in a computer. That is an army tag.  See if the tag numbers to a unit stationed nearby” Vyra then left without saying farewell or hinting she was done speaking with me.  “See if she exist still. You are free to go where you like. Or stay here.” She never bothered to tell me where I was. I guess she figured I would figure it out soon enough.  “Maybe you will get Lucky, lucky.” I don’t think I have that kind of luck if I am here. 

“We’ll see” she hummed as she went out of the small room. Had she just read my thoughts? I should get a tinfoil hat.

Wait.  I had never considered that I might be able to get back what I had lost. Who is Aimee and what did she know? Do I even want to know who I was? I guess I couldn’t know that without trying to find out who I was. It wouldn’t be to hard to forget again. It just took a scratch. I avoided the mirror with my gaze as I looked around the room. It was a makeshift hospital room. The cot I had been on was low and the floor was old gritty tile. The lights wires hung loose along the ceiling. Some were taped out of the way. An IV and an old computer system rested next to the cot and a couple empty chairs along the wall and one small table by the bed with an alarm clock and a candle that flickered low.

There was no door, just the cutout in the wall where it used to be. I went though it. The ceiling was just above my head and a light bulb hung every ten feet. We must have been underground, the hall way was a tunnel  dug out of the earth. A few people walked around. They had short hair but their clothes were not as tight. Oh, they must not leave base. It must be the people that go out that worry about being grabbed. I followed the metal of an old railway.

A girl eventually ran up to me.  Her whole face lit up with genuine joy. I knew from her smile that she was one of those people that you have to love being around. “Hey, Lucky!” she waved at me “Vyra just ran past me and said I should head to the med ward to meet you.” I stared at her. Her tone was different than what I just experienced. She came over to me and wrapped her arms around me. “There there, don’t feel so alone. We have a whole family down here.”

“Er..” I took a step back and shook her hand. “Hi” She had short copper colored cures, high cheekbones, bright green eyes and freckles. She wore hiking boots, dark jeans, with big pockets and a tank top. She also sported a rather large wedding ring.

“I’m Sadie” added “Can I give you a tour?” I nodded. It was better than wondering around. “Oh good, it’s easy to get lost here. We just keep digging when we need more room.” We passed a hall full of little rooms like mine. Some had just mats on the floor instead of a cot. One had Vyra in it with two of the men with guns. Had they just been found too? We turned down a hall lined with doors that rested against the sides of the dirt tunnels. “Rascal has been needing more raiders. He sure will be happy to have another man on the team. It’s not hard to be liked here Lucky. You just have to pull your weight.” Through an open door on my right I saw some kids reading books in a circle on a large yellow carpet. The walls had whiteboards and chalkboards nailed into the plywood. In spots not covered by writable surfaces were educational posters. I counted about 15. Including two adults.

“There are kids here?” I asked.

“Yes, everyone is here. We probably have about 200. Those kids have seen a lot… poor dears..” her voice lost it’s joy for a moment. “Do you have kids?”

Oh God. I don’t know. I stared at her bewildered. “I don’t know. Do you?”

“Oh, Lucky. You should know that in this world telling your story means a great deal. If someone tells you how they got here or what happened to them the day the portal let in the Odious, it means a great deal. We don’t have much anymore and it is hard to trust people anymore. If someone tells you something personal, understand how much they are saying.”

It made sense and it felt like she was avoiding the question.  I looked around and saw a bunch of hardened souls carrying supplies, running to stay fit, walking quietly and quickly. They did not look like the type to share their feelings. No one did. “What is this place called?”

“Rascal’s last stand. Rascal is our unquestionable leader.” I raised my brow at the word unquestionable. “He and his troop secured an old mine when all this happened. There are 10 of them total that made up the original group. That was five years ago.  They collected people on raids and well.. here we are.” She smiled and shrugged. “They found Harrison and I in a sad situation. If not for Russel and his men almost everyone here would be dead. Some groups have heard of a functioning society and sought us out. We can just keep digging. So we won’t run out of space. It’s the food and supplies we worry about.”

“How do you sustain yourself?”

“We steal generators, we have a lot of coal because we are a mine. So we don’t freeze.  We have several gardens on the surfaces and some underground. We are not well fed, but we eat. A lot of it comes from raids. Lots of groups bring food in with them. That helps for a bit. One group brought pigs with them. We have about thirty now. Thank goodness pigs will eat roots, rotten food and almost anything else we give them. They are not very fat pigs. If you head on a southbound tunnel and take a left at the warehouses you will start to smell them. Thirty pigs is not a lot for 200 stomachs. We make due. We have also let the chicken breeding go haywire. They run loose and eat bugs. If you find an egg in good shape it’s yours. One job is to try to gather them back to the pen. They just escape the next day but Russel likes to try to know how many we have. A few people have taken on cats as well.”

She told me a bit more about their electricity and how it ran on falling water from the man made river by the surface farms. She told me about their hospital and computer systems that monitored breathless levels. She took me to a room that there was mostly candles and only a few lamps rigged up. It was lined with beds and hammocks tied to the beams holding up the ceiling. Some sleeping bags lined the room. She took me to a nook dug out of the wall covered by a curtain with a cat pattern on it. “Harrison..” she whispered and shook a man’s foot that stuck out from underneath a cotton sheet. “Honey..” she chimed.

He sat up and stared right at me “Who is this?”

“New guy, Vyra asked us to make sure he adjusts.” She smiled at me “This is Mr. Sadie” she laughed. He was scruffy looking with a beard about three inches long that was well trimmed but as uncombed as his brown hair. His gaze was cool and serious. He had the complete opposite air to him of Sadie. “He majored in early 21st century film, so if he quotes something don’t worry, we don’t know what he is quoting either.” She crawled onto the bed so he could hug her and kiss the top of her head. I felt uncomfortable with the display. Who was I forgetting?

“Umm, hi?” I said to Harrison and he nodded at me; and I thought I was a man of few words!

“Harrison has rations duty in a half hour, you can go with him” she told me. “Harrison, will you get him a place to sleep.”
He crawled out of the nook and stood up. He was taller than me. How tall am I?  He took a blanket from a chest by the door and tossed it over a hammock. “Tory was eaten, so you can have his hammock.”

Oh, so that is how it is here. Fill this hammock, pull your weight, don’t question the leaders, don’t question the alien and don’t get attached to people. I don’t know who Tory was and I never asked questions about him. That’s okay. That felt right for now. It meant no one could question me either. I liked that.

An Engaging Post.

This picture was taken and edited by Miranda Renee Photography.  Just to keep you all posted while I work on several drafts of blogs. Can’t decide between a zombie rewrite or a devotional called “Am I a Corinthian Woman?” Also been wanting to write another poem. We’ll see. Love you guys. Also a link to my wedding website that features Alysha Owen’s engagement pictures for us.

SI0A8206-2
Miranda:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Miranda-Renee-Photography/239910126072855

Wedding website:

http://www.theknot.com/wedding/Jennifer-and-Chistopher

Anxiety and Life without Fear.

For a sister of Christ of a Sister in Christ.

I think it was two weeks ago. The worst panic attack I have ever had. My chest got tight. I gasped for breath and found none. I shut myself in my bathroom, went to my knees and sobbed, or tried to. I began to think my throat was shut for good. I was dying… no. I was fine. I would be fine. I had to hold onto my sanity. I had to calm down. I listened to my pounding heart and freaked out more. The tightness in my chest controlled and drove my thoughts. I kept thinking “I know what this is, I need to STOP IT.” Stop wondering if I was having a heart attack, stop dry heaving (retching) over the toilet and get past this moment. It is just so hard to focus when you are struggling to breath.

I had to stop my thinking. I had a meeting in a new location the next morning. I was terrified. I have become anxious and easily terrified since graduating. Sometimes my fear of… well I don’t know what I am afraid of but it keeps me from going to the store or out by myself. My head was throbbing but knowing what was happening calmed me enough to let me get in some air. Another gasp, more air. I started taking steady shallow gasps. I was going to be okay. People drive to places they have never been before all the time. I wasn’t going to choke on my snot and tears. I was going to get up in the morning and go to a meeting and everything would be just fine!

I had been trying so hard. I wrote the Google directions down twice. I used Google earth to look at the streets. But I felt helpless. No one else seemed to think what I was trying to do was ridiculous and impossible. As I looked at maps I isolated myself from my roommates. I decided for them that they didn’t understand. The place I wanted to go wasn’t clear on the street. I only really knew what the things around it looked like.  Worst of all, I had to do t myself. Anything could go wrong. I could get lost and have to pull over and have an embarrassing attack. Worst of all, I might have to confess that I am afraid of a very normal thing. Going to a meeting that is a whole 11 minutes. I think that is the worst part about panics. That they are embarrassing and make you feel trapped. I can’t live my life because I am afraid of doing ordinary, everyday tasks and you feel out of control of your own life. It sucks.

If you have panic attacks then you understand. If not, you can imagine. We have all had anxiety and felt out of control. Lately I have had that in overwhelming amounts whenever something changes my schedule, a new task is asked of me or I have to go somewhere new. I don’t have an answer for how I will get past this. It seems to be getting worse and I don’t know why it started. My plan is to tackle it like I did my depression. Cling to hope and struggle to adapt. Be thankful for all the kindness people show me. I know when I finally calmed and went to go to bed my roommate came and reassured me that I was normal and I could have a full life. She is a saint. I really mean that, God made her His saint. She is my sister in Christ. She can love me sacrificially and she did. I am so glad I received comfort from her. Comfort is hard after an attack.

I think these attacks might be suppressed from my senior year of college. Or at least I joke that they are! I love my job, my middle school and high school groups, my home and the life I am planning with Chris. I may have already bitten off more than I can chew. Who knows, with prayer maybe I will learn what size of plate I can handle. Not what other people handle. I can find a balance. I can decide that a full time job and youth group once a month with planning a wedding is enough. But I haven’t reached the point to start sacrificing yet. I am ready to change how I view my struggle right now.

“Do not be anxious in anything” is a comforting command. At this moment I feel the peace of it. I understand the life that my Father wants for me. One without worry. My Bible addresses anxiety, let me share with you:
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“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up” (Proverbs 12:25, NIV).

“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7) (Also seePsalm 55:22-23)

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’” (Luke 12:22-26, NIV). (Also see Matthew 6:25-34)

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8).

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:26-28).

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

The apostle Paul found his strength in God, He reminds us that, “I …have …been in prison …frequently, been flogged …severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. …I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. …Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. …I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. …[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 11:23-12:10).

“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).

“…put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:1)

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Like my housemate, my God cares for me. I can give Him my anxiety by quiet times, devotion and thinking about what I know of Him. Other people might need the help of meds or therapist to get here. No shame in that. I needed that for my depression for awhile. When I start panicking I pull on the Truth. Nothing can touch me. There is no fear in me. Perfect love has cast it out. When I am weak, He is strong. He gives me straighten. For the day and for eternity. Even if my understanding doesn’t make ends meet, His will! I will give Him prayers, praises and thanks. When I think on Him I will not panic. The spiral that lead to panicking stop in their tracks IF I cling to Him. If I do not cling tightly enough and I start to panicking I can get out of it by calling on me. He has delivered me every time.  He will do the same for you.

That being said please get to the root of your issues. Get good sleep, eat well, know your limits, exercise, talk it out. Do all you need to to live well and leave panic where it belongs. It doesn’t belong in me. It doesn’t belong in someone who has been promised by the God of the universe that he has this handled. Turn your eyes off of your fear and cast them onto Jesus and the hope He has given to us. It’s a fight you can win with Jesus at your side. Honest. A fight, but one worth picking. Most days I can go to the store if I need to. I can live my life if I fight my panic and don’t let it rule over me.

Here is my prayer for you if you are downcast or anxious:
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (2 Thes. 2:16-17).

The Trouble with Compassionate Men.

Time was of the essence. I had a checklist that I kept adding to. I had a lot to do before five and I was behind schedule. A bit by my choice. I love people more than I love getting everything on my list done on time. Change, bank, hair, props… we had engagement photos in two hours. It was time to double check everything! Chris met me and a friend at Echo, I parted ways with her and we went straight to the bank so we can pay the nice photographer who needs to eat just like me. We met late, I was worried. So Chris drove us in his truck straight to the bank since I don’t like driving when stressed. His truck is one of my least favorite places when I am stressed. I love sitting in the middle on most days. But on stressed days because of a lack of A/C I feel like primping is now a must to make me feel less sticky. ESPECIALLY if we are about to take photos to show everyone how in control of our lives and the time that is spinning toward April we are. As soon as we parked at the bank I was on the move! I stretched my legs out to meet pavement and slid the last half foot out of the truck. Chris and I noticed a man across the street holding their shirt up over their large belly. I pointed them out wondering if they were just warm and trying to tell if it was a man or woman in the distance. Anyways, no time to pay attention. My deadlines were closing in fast! Into the bank I went!

When I went into the bank Chris stayed at the truck. He was speaking to his youngest younger brother. When I came out he was talking about the person across the street. He was wondering if they are having chest pains. His mother is saying he ought to go over. Find out whats wrong and what their gender was. I slid into the truck. A symbol that I was ready and roaring to be on the move. Chris abruptly ended his phone call and looked to me. “I am going over there.”

I felt turmoil and warmth rise in me. The part of me that wanted to be on time battled the part of me that wanted to encourage Chris to be compassionate. “Go, I’ll wait.” The Holy Spirit let me win the battle to support a compassionate man at any cost, even tardiness. In my head Chris and I should have been chilling and preparing. Getting relaxed and flirty for the pictures. I took a deep breath and watched him cross the street in a few long strides. The warm fuzzy feeling I get and the small smile I have when I see him be faithful to our Father in ordinary and fantastic ways grew.He had the right motives right now.  He came back a few minutes later after talking to the man. He said something that made the tight, world is ending feeling come flooding back. “He’s hungry, I am going to get him a sandwich.”

I smiled and rubbed his back. I am supportive, I just don’t feel it. I glance at the dash clock. “Okay, lets go.” I hope he doesn’t hear any hesitation. This man’s life is more important than my schedule. No matter what. We went to the closest subway. He was a sweetie and took the mans preference. He got him the foot-long and drink the man wanted. I sweated in the truck and I tried to keep my hair neat and I tried to hold onto my joy in his obedience.  I felt out of control of how today was suppose to happen. Didn’t matter, that was secondary to what was happening. We went back to the bench. Well, really we parallel parked down a half block from the bench. He turned his big brown eyes back to me, he was in action mode. His heart knows mine and he knew I was watching the time. “Coming?” he was trying to be quick for me and still be fully obedient for God.  There is truly no greater man on this earth that lives in my eyes in moments like this. I had figured he would ask me this. He loved seeing me do ministry as much as I loved watching him do it. I had been thinking about it and what my answer would be. I could only see myself getting in the way. I was struggling to care at this time, it could turn into a glory story about me and I felt no nudge of the spirit telling me to go. He did, I felt the spirit urging me to encourage him, not usurp him.  Today I would be the strong woman behind a strong man. He had done the same for me countless times.

“You go, You felt called, not me” I can’t recall if there was an embrace or a glance that happened before he left. He was just gone in the moments I was counting seconds. I calmed myself. I couldn’t see him or the man and minutes stretched on. I prayed and craned my neck to see around parking meters, a truck on the sidewalk and trees. If I sat just right I could see Chris standing.

At long last he returned. Something was up, he was carrying the mans sack. The man was coming with him. I could figure enough out to presume we were giving him a ride. To where? How long would it take? I smiled at the man as Chris loaded him up all with a casual vibe. He didn’t want the man to feel like he was inconveniencing us, even if he was. I looked at Chris and mouthed “What is going on” he smiled back. He was too close to the man to answer. He opened the door for him, got all of his stuff settled and came around to the driver side to sit next to me. “We are taking him to ODM to get him some help.” How long would that take? Did we have time? What if we had to fill out paperwork? Why did the Spirit call my man to the battle field now of all times?  When we are busy..ug. We had no idea how long this would take. A quick romp is what Chris was protruding with his posture. I suspected worse. I knew how big ODM was. How long would it even take us to find the right place?

I leaned on Chris and the man slid in. I smiled at him. Got his name and gave him mine. “Is this your fiancee? Oh she is gorgeous!” I thanked him. He was nice, but this isn’t what I was planning on doing. “Oh, so young to be getting married. Sixteen?” he asked guessing my age.

“Twenty-two” I corrected him and had a gentle conversation with him while we went on our way. We got there and tried one building. I waited and they came back. Wrong building. We knew the right one now. We ended up at the right one. I had grown weary and the truck was downwind of some smokers. I decided this was the time to get out and go with Chris. I had been in this building before and I might be able to assist. Staying busy could help my anxiety at least. Keep my mind on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy is so much easier when I am taking action. This time after a bit of awkwardness we were let in. They took him and we parted ways. I was concerned that we should stay because I knew the man was afraid of getting stuck there and I wanted to make sure they had a place for him. Chris assured me they had space for him and that is why they took him to fill out paperwork. We still had a whole 10 minutes to spare! No changing, no primping. It was game time. Luckily I was already dressed and we had our props in the truck from the night before. Chris is as functionally organized as I am chaotically organized. We were going to be fine. I just had to relax over the next ten minutes. We were in time. Miranda was none the wiser! We had a great, happy, carefree session. I hope they show how wonderful he is.

You see the trouble is that true compassion requires sacrifice. If you stand by a compassionate man their sacrifices becomes your sacrifices.  It means awkwardly standing through confusing moments and trying to find an answer when one might not exist yet. I have seen it in my father when he lets a mistake slide or goes over to thank a veteran and make friends with them and their families. When he gives up his time for his friends when he is tired and when he goes the extra mile. Thank God for compassionate men. Standing by them means putting their need to see others needs fulfilled above your own, but it is so worth it. God’s call is higher than me. Chris following Christ is more important than my comfort. Every time.

“I am an Atheist”

“Why hello Atheist, do you want whipped cream?” I mean, what is there to say. This man gave me a title and didn’t give me a name until he left. He is thoughtful and disciplined. He was in the military when he was my age and still keeps himself in the same shape many years later! He led an interesting life and had interesting opinions. He was in the military and this year he has officially been an atheist for half of his life. He got out of the military and decided he didn’t think God existed. This was a return visit to Sozo for him. He wanted to get “Coffee and conversation”  and boy was he off to a start!

I think we both have a lot to think over now. We disagreed on a lot of basics. Like how to determine someone’s worth or what kind of future humanity has and if nature being an unmovable force is comforting. I was impressed at my self control. I wanted to yell at him. You believe lies, you don’t know. Satan has won you. But I sat and I listened. I didn’t think of my next witty comeback. I really listened to what he was saying. That left some awkward pauses. I had to think once he was done speaking to make sure I was answering what I felt he was really asking. I guess, if you are reading this pray for “I am an atheist.” He had 27 years of Catholicism and never met Jesus. He met rules, way to fail church. Way to fail. But, we haven’t lost the battle for this mans soul yet. Specifically pray that he comes to these realizations….

1. There are some things that don’t have a price. There are things worth dying for.
2. To continue to bring him to Sozo for coffee and conversation.

3. That believing our worth is limited to what we can do for society removes humans of all worth. That we are unique! And that that is beautiful. I have no less to contribute to society than him because I can’t bench as much as he can.

4.  To look into the historical evidence to the life of Christ. Good luck trying to find this non-miraculous Jesus without looking!

5. To give Him a Hope and a Future. You know, in the only way we can have one!

6. To open his eyes to tragedies. He doesn’t believe Christians face any persecution in this world. He has never seen someone risk something for Jesus. I think he needs to (goes with one).  He needs to understand that he can’t ignore something because he hasn’t seen it.

7. That Jesus is who he says He is and not who we want Him to be.

So Hello Atheist, thank you for your story.  I follow Jesus. There isn’t a price that will get me to claim otherwise, I have looked into the faces of the persecuted in China and they exist, I was created with purpose and it was destined that I would sell you a blended latte’ today. Please come again. Though you were concerned I would ban you for your opinions I have something to tell you. We are here for you! Bring your atheism in for coffee all you like. You did push buttons, I can take it. I won’t pretend it doesn’t upset me to hear my savior rejected. Still, we are not scared, we are not angry. We will listen calmly to your opinions. I can’t promise we agree, and we are passionate about Jesus. I have said things I regret, it doesn’t deter me.  We will be kind even if you are not kind to us. If you push a button I apologize if we fail to be kind, we are still sinners. It will be very hard to push my buttons on most days.  So don’t hold back anything you are really wrestling with. Being passionate for Jesus makes us passionate for you! Someone created in His image. Someone more powerful than gravity. You want coffee and I offer some of the best, I also offer salvation if you want it. If you aren’t afraid of conversation I will listen, really listen, if you will. I will offer you salvation and you can decline. That’s fine. Because I hope there will be a next time.

See you soon! My friends are praying for you.