Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

The Man-Boy Dreams of Heaven April 20, 2017

[I am excited to post my second short story—The Man-Boy Dreams of Heaven—a true story about my stepson, Alan Wade Kellogg. In spite of Wade’s many special needs, he is loved and adored by all who are fortunate enough to be a part of his life. Likewise, he is loved and adored by his Heavenly Father. I think you will understand why as you read about his life and his dream of visiting heaven.]

His small one-hundred-ten-pound, five-foot frame stood tall among the tombstones scattered across the mountain cemetery. The only sound was the wind rustling through a few dead leaves still clinging to the trees overhead. Wade did not know that Papa Buddy had died the week before Thanksgiving.

Dad had brought his thirty-two-year-old son with a missing chromosome over Jumbo Mountain to visit his grandfather’s grave. Because Wade had handled death with great courage so many times before, Dad wasn’t concerned that today would be any different.

“We had a funeral last week,” Dad said, as they neared the mound of fresh flowers heaped high over the dirt pile next to Grandmother Minnie’s grave.

“Who?” Wade asked, turning his head sharp to see Dad’s face.

“Bud.”

“Is he in heaven?”

“Yes,” Dad assured him.

Fighting back tears, Wade faced the reality of yet another life gone from his. Dad marveled that once again he processed the sadness like a pro.

Old enough to be a man—still so much a boy, this man-boy has many special needs. Wade is best described as a full bundle of God-given life living inside a body with a missing chromosome—Chromosome 4, to be exact. Wade has few basic survival skills, yet he is a genius in other ways. His ability to retain information is an uncommon gift. If it is history or geography, Wade knows his stuff. He can name the capitals of every state in the United States, and most capital cities of nations around the world. An avid Olympics fan, he can call out the dates of all future Olympic Games. While in middle school, Wade participated in an Academic Quiz Bowl. As expected, he gave all the right answers to his team; but he also gave them to the opposing team.

Shortly after his high school graduation, Wade’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Mama-Judy had hormone-negative breast cancer, not the usual garden-variety type. This would be a fight for her life. With Wade requiring 24/7 care, Dad’s plate was soon piled full. He held a job, tended his cattle, and kept up with the daily needs of his family. Still, Dad was by his wife’s side as she endured the many facets of cancer treatment.

Tough choices lurked on the horizon. “I can take care of Mama-Judy or I can take care of Wade, but I can’t do both,” the strong man said, bending beneath the God-size load. He wondered how long he could hold up.

“Why are you taking her and not me? Wade needs his mother more,” Dad argued with God, reminding Him that she had been Wade’s caregiver since birth.

Feeling as though God had turned a deaf ear, Dad continued to pray for wisdom, strength, and a miracle. He sought help at the Department of Human Services, but with a waiting list of 4,000 unplaced clients, hope was slim.

Mama-Judy fought hard against the disease claiming her life. Others fought beside her, bringing food and taking her for treatments. Her church and community offered up petitions for her healing. Once a hairstylist, the loss of her hair from chemotherapy was especially difficult, yet she endured with great grace. She worried most about her family. Would her husband survive the pull? Would God answer in time? She watched the impossible become possible—a door opened that wasn’t supposed to—and this mama’s boy was placed in a home for the disabled.

When the inevitable came into focus, Mama-Judy voiced instructions for her funeral, as well as how this family would move on after she was gone. Dad should remarry—he need not be alone. Oldest son, Brad, and new bride, Amber, should not attempt to be Wade’s caregivers. She knew too well the strain it would put on normal family life. And Wade—Dad must promise that he would always be cared for.

“Death is swallowed up in victory,” declares the treasured Bible promise, yet somehow it doesn’t feel like victory. The empty chair at the table; the eerie silence of a house once filled with life; sitting alone on a church pew—such pain must be endured by faith in the One who conquered death.

Some rocky years passed before Wade found the place made especially for him. A home here, a home there—none quite suited for this man-boy who had only lived with a loving family. Nonetheless, God and Dad remained faithful. Wade eventually moved into a group home hand-picked by God Himself. Wade’s caregivers, Randall and Peggy, respect their clients as valued members of society and encourage them to live life to their fullest potential.

Wade is best suited to a life of routine, so change can be difficult. However, he can be coerced to accept most anything with a promised visit to the ice cream store or a piece of his favorite step-mother’s homemade pumpkin pie.

While visiting the hospital after the birth of twin nieces, Ruby and Sara, Dad carefully placed Ruby in Wade’s arms and asked, “Do you have anything to say to her?” Wade gently put his small bent finger on Ruby’s tiny check and said, “Welcome to the world.”

In a moment, like quicksand pouring in over something caught in its grasp, death was overtaken by more life—it simply succumbed as new life emerged. And just as promised, the preciousness of two new lives somehow swallowed up the pain of loss.

Wade had attended church his entire life, but surprisingly had never asked what would happen to him when he dies. Dad wasn’t sure Wade could process such important issues as sin, forgiveness, and salvation. His caregivers had honored Dad’s request to take Wade to church regularly, and one day it happened—the understanding of this man-boy was opened. Wade cried out, “Lord, save me,” and He did.

“Wade, do you know what sin is?” Pastor Frank questioned hard.

“Yeah, sin is having a fit,” he said, ducking his head sheepishly to one side. He gave the right answer to every hard question and was baptized in the church where he grew up.

Today, just an ordinary day in December, Dad and his son are once again making their way over Jumbo Mountain, this time to deliver a Christmas gift to Wade’s Aunt Priscilla. The graveled road winding up and down through the pine trees is a trip they have made a thousand times before—but this ordinary day is about to become extraordinary.

The noise of truck tires pounding against the gravel is broken by Wade’s words. “Hey, Dad, I had a dream last night.”

“Really? What about?” Dad asks, not making too much of it. He knows his son is a person of few words, unless it is to his advantage to speak.

“I dreamed about Papa Buddy. He was in Heaven with Papa Junior,” Wade’s paternal grandfather, “and Mama-Judy; she had brown hair,” he said, explaining that she didn’t have hair when she died. “But she does now.”

Wade has Dad’s full attention. “Oh? What else?” Dad asks.

“There were mansions and streets made out of gold. And I saw Jesus.”

Trying not to appear too anxious, Dad questions his son, “So what did Jesus look like?”

“He had a crown, and said, ‘Welcome in.’”

Dad pulls the pickup truck over to the side of the road and parks. He doesn’t want to miss one word his son offers to tell. “What else did you see?”

“I saw Bob Hope and Merle Haggard,” both popular entertainers from Wade’s childhood.

“Anyone else?” Dad asks.

One by one, Wade calls the names of those he saw in heaven: America Mouser, a delightful 101 year-old lady he had met in a nursing home; Mr. Rogers, host of Mister Rogers Neighborhood; Carmen Taylor, his special education teacher; Leila Williams, an adopted aunt; and Dennis Williamson, his great uncle.

“Did you see others?” Dad presses for more.

Wade names others: Cousin Ed; Aunt Ina Jo; Cousin Daniel, his Aunt Camilla’s son who lived forty-five years overcoming his own disabilities; Granny Grace, his great-grandmother, and Granny Ruby, a beloved family friend.

“Did anyone else say anything?”

“I don’t remember.” Wade’s voice trails off. “Oh, and Jesus said, ‘Welcome in,’” telling Dad for the second time as if it were the most important thing to remember.

“Is that all?” Dad asks, sensing the end is near.

“They were happy to see me.”

“Anything more?” Dad makes one final attempt.

“Nope.”

It is over as quickly as it began. Dad doesn’t know why the Heavenly Father would give a vision of heaven to a man-boy with a missing 4th chromosome, but he does know that his son is at peace with life—and with death, too. Wade fully believes his family will be together again—all in the presence of a loving Savior who says to each one who enters: “Welcome in.”

 You just never know when an ordinary day can take a turn and become extraordinary.  ~Janie Kellogg

 

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The House Guest ~ A Short Story November 22, 2012

Filed under: Short Stories — Janie Kellogg @ 6:01 pm
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Life was busy. Life was loud. Some days were louder than busy, and today was one of those days. It’s a wonder I heard the faint knock at my door. I quickly opened it, hoping this wouldn’t take long. To my surprise there stood a stranger—a gentleman I did not know. In a soft-spoken voice he introduced himself and then explained that a friend of mine told him I wanted to meet him. It was true. I had. He politely asked if he could come inside, so I awkwardly extended an invitation for him to enter my house. He had a warm smile I could not resist, and his eyes—I could not stop looking at his eyes. As he entered the room, an uncommon peace entered as well. I knew for certain I had a special guest inside my house.

He said he planned to stay for a while if that was okay with me. I offered him the small guest room at the back of my house, and he accepted the offer. As time went by, we slowly got acquainted. I must admit that sometimes he startled me when he spoke, simply because I had forgotten he was there. At other times he would call to me from the back of my house, yet because he spoke so softly, I didn’t hear him. It actually took quite a while before I recognized his voice well enough to pay attention to him.

My house guest shared bits and pieces of his story with me, but we usually talked about me. He listened intently and acted as if he understood every twist and turn of my tangled life. Nothing surprised him, even the dark moments I had not shared with anyone. For some odd reason, I felt I could trust this stranger. After a few weeks, I handed over even more details of my past. When I thought I had covered everything, I would recollect yet another event, even the painful ones I had stuffed deep inside. One by one I shared them all—the good, the bad and the ugly. I bore my soul. I spilled my guts. He didn’t flinch or raise a brow, but smiled as if to say, “I know.”

Eventually I shared with him my dreams—the failed ones mostly, since they far outnumbered any dreams-come-true in my life. His compassion was not something I had experienced before. I remember thinking, “Does he really care about my failed attempts to be somebody? Why should it matter to him?” Yet his gentle touch upon my shoulder told me he cared. I wondered why.

We gradually became good friends. I opened more rooms of my house to him and learned along the way that I enjoyed his company. However, I kept much of the space for myself since it was my house. He began to make suggestions about all the clutter and offered to clean the closets. I was reluctant at first, but I soon realized that he had some good ideas about discarding things I didn’t need to make room for things I did need. He also encouraged me to visit the attic of my soul; you know, the place where things are stored that might never be used again. Sure enough, he pointed out several boxes of junk filled with bitterness and resentment towards those who had hurt me, and he recommended that I get rid of them. I hesitated, thinking I might need those memories in the future, but He assured me that I never would.

Next, he spotted a large trash bag in the back corner. It was tied so tightly with strings of self-pity I thought we’d never get it open. The stubborn strings eventually gave way, exposing the grudges I had held against those who had taken advantage of me. Obviously, I had not forgiven or forgotten. Was I supposed to throw out those memories too? I quickly reminded my house guest of the old saying, “If someone takes advantage of you once, it’s their fault. If they take advantage of you twice, it’s your fault.” Should I let him talk me into discarding such valuable wisdom? How would I be able to protect myself in the future? Again, he assured me it would be perfectly fine to throw them all away. I didn’t understand, but he said I would later. So out it all went.

We then headed to the basement. There we uncovered a quagmire of things I had buried deep within my heart—things I didn’t want anyone to see. We rummaged through hurts from my childhood that I felt were too dark to be exposed. Again, my house guest offered to clean it up. All that was required from me was my permission. I gave it. I didn’t have to touch one thing, and it was done. I felt so clean and so free—why I felt free indeed! Why was he doing all this hard work for me? I began to sense that my life was shaping up and he was the reason.

Although I had given him a great deal of freedom in my house, I still had my life to live, didn’t I? Sometimes I invited him to go with me to family gatherings or activities with my friends, but on other occasions I simply forgot about him. He never mentioned my negligence, but my gut feeling was that he yearned jealously to spend time with me. I guess I took it for granted that he understood it was my life, and somehow I believed he would always be my friend.

As the years passed, I noticed a pattern emerging. I did my own thing much of the time, leaving him out and ignoring him—until trouble came. Then I would rush home, seek him out in the back room of my house, and tell him what was on my mind. I usually cried and longed for him to console me. He always did, and then for a time, we were best friends again. That is, until another friend called and invited me to go out, and away I went with no mention of it to him. I was quite confident that my repetitive behavior grieved my house guest.

Then it happened. I found myself in a debacle I could not resolve. I was at the end of my rope, or better said, at the end of myself. I needed my house guest so desperately, yet I had ignored him for such a long time. In fact, it had been days, or maybe weeks, since I had been aware of his presence within my house. It was time to be honest with myself and face reality—I had actually pushed him further towards the back of the house and reclaimed some of my space for myself. A gut-wrenching emptiness churned within, and I thought perhaps I had gone too far this time. The words unpardonable sin flashed across my mind. Surely I hadn’t committed that, or had I?

My dry, parched soul yearned for his presence. The need for my house guest loomed larger than my pride, so I swallowed it and went looking. Twinges of panic compelled me. My thoughts and my body raced as I searched from room to room. He wasn’t in the usual places, so I pressed harder and sought him with more gusto than I knew I had. Finally, I heard a faint voice in the far recesses of my house and moved toward it. Much to my surprise and even more to my relief, there he was. Strangely enough, if I hadn’t known better, I would have thought that he was the one searching for me. I don’t think I’ll ever figure him out, and at that moment I didn’t care. He opened wide his arms and welcomed me into his presence. Ah, peace at last. My fears vanished as I poured out my very soul to him. I was amazed at his wise strategy to resolve my dilemma, but more so at his seemingly endless patience with me. This time I promised both of us that things would be different—I would never do this again. I had missed his touch and his fellowship. Oh, how I had missed him.

One day shortly after our friendship was restored, my house guest shared with me about his purpose on earth. Apparently, he was part of a master plan to redeem all of mankind and show us the way to God. I heard the word purpose explode in my head. This one knew who he was, where he came from, and his purpose in life, including being right here in my house. Perhaps I should have spent more time listening to my house guest, rather than my house guest listening to me. After all, I’ve never quite figured out who I am or where I am going, much less my purpose in life.

I decided right then that he could freely occupy more of my house. This stranger was no longer strange to me. I fully intended to ask for more of his advice, and who knows, I might even take it. Things in my life were certainly smoothing out. Now don’t get me wrong—life was still challenging, but I began to call on my house guest more and more to counsel me in decision making. I can’t say I always heeded his advice, but I was learning that he was always right.

As our relationship deepened, my confidence in him grew even more. I was anxious to hear his take on everything—his ideas and perspective that were so much nobler than mine. Apparently, I spent too much time grappling with the junk, re-thinking the what-if’s, and worrying over things he simply was not concerned about. Oh, to think like him! To have a mind like his! Only in the next life, so I thought.

As I learned more about my house guest, I made an all-important discovery—he had feelings too. My hurts and disappointments were something he himself had known. As I grew to love him, I began to care more about how I treated him. What seemed to be an innocent oversight on my part was rejection to him, something he had faced to the fullest. Surely I wasn’t capable of deliberately rejecting him, was I? Would I deny him as so many others had done? Deny that he lived in my house? Knowing how fickle I was made me wonder why he would take the risk with my friendship. I didn’t trust myself, so why should he trust me? I didn’t have the answer.

My house guest was now my BFF (best friend forever). Life was working more as a well-oiled machine these days, even though I sensed that something was awry. I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was. It was then that my house guest made me an offer—he would take control of half of the house we shared together. I told him I would think it over, fully confident that his proposal would be in my best interest. I thought about it and decided to accept, but with one condition:  I could keep my special area—my space—for myself. It was still my house and I needed to be able to regain control at any time. He accepted my condition, and the agreement was made. I worried that I had hurt his feelings, but I knew he would never tell me if I had. Things improved even more since I had less to worry about around the house and more free time to enjoy my house guest. My load felt so much easier and lighter, and I might have thought life was perfect, if not for the on-going reminder that something was not quite right.

Maybe my house guest could help me resolve the problem, so I asked him. I got the usual no-surprise response, and he said he could help me with that very thing. Although I had learned to love and trust my house guest a great deal, his proposal wasn’t something I was ready for. He offered me a two-part agreement between the two of us. He would take control of my entire house; he would make all the decisions that were made in my house—what to eat, what to say, what to wear, where to go; and he would take full responsibility to provide everything needed to maintain my house forever. My part of the agreement was to fully converse with him, staying in constant communion with him at all times so I’d know what his decisions were. I would be required to trust that his decisions were best for me and my house; and I would always abide by his decisions and obey what he told me to do.

Knowing by now that my house guest never made bad decisions, I believed this could be a good deal for me. He had never broken a promise, and something told me he never would. Of course, the deal was entirely up to me. It was my choice, for if I didn’t want to enter the agreement, he didn’t want to either. He would never take anything I didn’t willing give to him. But then he said one more thing that made me gasp! He would do all of this for me if I would give him that one last area in the house—my space—the control room where choices are made. That was the space I had reserved just for me, and now he wanted that too.

Plainly stated, I would have to surrender to him my all with nothing held back. That meant no plans of my own, no opinions apart from his, no overeating, no gossip, no criticism of others, no bad attitudes, no pouting, no tantrums, no selfishness. My money would be his money; my time would be his time; and my heart would be totally his. He said that once my everything belonged to him, I would no longer need to protect myself, and therefore, I’d have no use for those memories from the past. From that point on, my life would be hidden inside his life, sort of tucked away from the world where no one could find me to do me harm. He reminded me that his ways were very different from mine. Boy, did he ever get that right! Perhaps that is why it all seemed so mysterious, yet somehow I was beginning to get the picture.

If I understood him correctly, he had come to take full possession of my house. But was I ready to yield my entire house to this once-a-stranger house guest? We had enjoyed years of friendship and intimacy, building hopes and dreams together. I had felt a part in all we had done, enjoying the successes, being proud of our accomplishments, but now it would be more of him and less of me. He would increase; I would decrease. Would I simply fade somewhere into the background? Could I handle that? Actually, it would be all about him and none about me. He and he alone would receive all the recognition.

But wait! I thought we were partners. Where did that concept go—the two of us, co-captains, co-equals? No, it would be all about him. He would be the supreme ruler of my house. Oh, and my house would now be his house, his dwelling place. Was I ready for this step? Could I handle him being lord of all? Of my all? I didn’t know for sure what my answer would be, but the blueprint was clearly laid out. I had a huge decision to make.

Just then I remembered a conversation I had overheard a few weeks before between two friends discussing their own house guests, which by the way, sound a lot like mine. One friend had said to the other, “Don’t you get it? He must be Lord of all or he isn’t Lord at all.” I wonder if that explains what’s going on at my house. Oh well, no need to wonder. I’ll just go ask my house guest since he promised he would help me understand all things. As usual, I received the no-surprise response from my amazing house guest—my Best Friend, my Helper, Teacher, Counselor, Comforter, Ruler, and Lord—my Holy House Guest Extraordinaire!  ~Janie Kellogg