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Lonnie’s Gift (A Short Story)

by Denise Marks

lonniesGiftHis dark skin was a stark contrast to our family members. I assumed he was a worker at the state park looking for a shaded area to rest on his lunch break. That became suspect when an hour later he was still seated at a picnic table on the far edge of our rented pavilion. His occasional glance toward the prepared food and personal items nearby alerted me something was amiss.

The morning had started with intermittent rain and overcast skies which didn’t seem promising for our annual Christmas in July family picnic at the Millennium State Park. We had a Jeep loaded with enough burger meat, hot dogs and side dishes to feed 60 plus people. I crossed my fingers the current weather would eventually give way to sunny skies.

My husband Chris navigated through the state park to locate our rented pavilion, situated at the bottom of a grassy incline Great, I thought. Not only do we have to carry heavy tubs of food and supplies down a precarious slope of wet grass, I have to do it in flip-flops. Water skis would have been a safer shoe choice.

With the arrival of family, sounds of laughter and chatter rebounded inside the pavilion. It didn’t take long for my disposition to lighten as everyone offered to lend a helping hand. Food was plentiful, almost to the point of excess, as three generations gathered to celebrate family. When overcast skies gave way to sunshine, lawn games and water activities dominated the day.

Yet, midst all the activity, my attention remained focused on the lone man seated in our pavilion. Why had he stayed so long? What were his intentions? I felt ashamed for thinking the worst, but better safe than sorry when clueless to a person’s identity. And so, I asked my grandkids to discreetly move electronic devices and purses to a more secure area before we walked to the beach.

The grandkids and I returned from the beach to find the unknown man gone. I was about to breath a sigh of relief until I caught a glimpse of him congregating with family members. My husband called out to me as I approached the group,
“I want to introduce you to someone. His name is Lonnie.”

As I offered a friendly handshake, I couldn’t help but notice the sadness in his eyes. They seemed to reflect an untold story of homelessness, hunger and loneliness. It was a family event and I didn’t have time to explore why a man who appeared clean-shaven and relatively well-groomed lived as a vagrant in a state park.

Chris had also noted Lonnie perched on the outskirts of our family event. In kindness, he introduced himself and asked, “Is there something you need?”

Glancing downward, Lonnie replied, “I’m hungry. Do you have any food to spare?”
“Of course,” said my husband as he handed Lonnie a plate and invited him to share with us.
Several servings later and a trail of cookie crumbs throughout the pavilion was evidence Lonnie had enjoyed his gifted meal.

From the outskirts of the pavilion, he watched as our family played lawn games. I sensed he wanted to be a part of our family surroundings, but was apprehensive to engage himself in any of the activities.
At the end of the day, Lonnie disappeared just as discreetly as he had arrived and I couldn’t help but wonder if Lonnie called the park his home. There were so many unanswered questions about this gentle man. The only thing he disclosed that day was his need for something to eat— and he did so with humility.

Since gifts are not exchanged at our Christmas in July gatherings, we didn’t expect the heartwarming gift Lonnie left with us. He gifted himself. His presence was an unspoken reminder that not everyone has food, family, friends or shelter. When blessed with more than enough, pay it forward.

These questions would never be answered, but we received the gift of a different perspective. If we were to ever meet again, I would say to our new friend, “Thank you Lonnie for spending a few hours with our family. Your presence was the best Christmas gift ever.

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MY CUP OVERFLOWETH

PoppyJuice“NeeNee,” shouted my youngest grandson at the top of his lungs, “I poured too much Poppy juice into my cup and it spilled all over.”

The grand kids coined the term Poppy Juice when they were old enough to drink from a sippy cup. It’s a blend of red fruit punch that Poppy mixes in a big jug; should it spill, you have one big sticky mess with a good chance it will stain whatever it penetrates.

I’m fairly certain permanent wheelie marks were left on my office floor as I flew out of my office chair in the direction of the kitchen. What I saw was a panic-stricken six-year old on his knees with paper towel stretched in every direction in an effort to stop the trail of red juice that covered the floor.

“I’m sorry, NeeNee, I didn’t mean to put that much in my cup.” The remorseful and tearful way in which he spoke those words resonated with me. In that moment, I saw myself at the feet of Jesus asking for forgiveness.

I can’t count the number of times my life’s cup has overflowed and required heavenly intervention and damage control to mop up my bad choice messes. Like my grandson, I tend to ignore the voice that continually calls out to be slow and careful and I find myself saying, “I’m sorry, Jesus. I wasn’t slow and careful like you asked. and my cup overflowed.”

With love and a forgiving spirit, my grandson and I worked together to bring restoration to a chaotic and messy situation. That’s exactly what Jesus does for us. When we cry out for help, He comes to us with love, mercy and forgiveness to clean the stains of sin that overflow from our life.

“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

Though we fall short of God’s glory, He made provisions to restore His glory within us through the cross of Jesus. He stands ready to restore our life messes and lead us in the paths of righteousness.

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DEATH: LIFE’S ONLY GUARANTEE

journey

As I unwind from a whirlwind weekend, I pause to consider what a fortunate life I live. Sure, there have been heartaches, losses and times I have lost my way; yet, there are also many blessings to be counted.

I have an income, a husband who loves me and grandkids that embrace their faith in Christ. My daughter and son-in-law have a solid marriage, my mom is still living, there is food on my table; and, so far, my health remains intact. Life is good, but that scenario can change at any given moment; like when my sister-in-law was instantly killed in a car accident or my dad was diagnosed with stage IV cancer.

Life offers but one guarantee and that is death will one day follow. God promises He will be with us in every circumstance of life right up to our last breath and I find great comfort in knowing I am not alone in my earthly journey. When faced with difficulties, even death, my Redeemer has promised to walk next to me; He has never failed me yet.

Whatever obstacle, heartache, addiction or sin you face at this moment, know there is hope in Jesus. Nothing can separate us from His love.

“…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:37-39

I leave you with this poem I penned.

The Journey
The road I see before me is filled with shadows black as night.
I lift my voice toward heaven and shout, “Oh, God where is the light.”
My soul is overwhelmed with fear because no one walks with me.
The deafening sound of loneliness is not something others see.

With outstretched arms before me, I try to find my way.
I grope along in darkness; all I can do is pray.
“Jesus if you hear me let your angels set up camp.
Along the path I travel may your mercy be my lamp.

Then Jesus grasps His hands in mine, my fear it is released;
Stillness like I’ve never known envelops me with peace.
No present things or things to come can keep His love from us.
Each day we journey through this life, God’s mercies are enough.

So when darkness casts its shadow, run to the cross and hide.
Call out the name of Jesus; He’ll walk right by your side.
Our journeys may be different, as are the things we face,
But one thing never changes; it is God’s amazing grace.

Author – Denise Marks