I took a few days off of work this week. Mainly to “spend time” with Cliffie and Melissa, who are on spring break. However, Melissa has a 3-day long church campout, and Cliffie wanted to watch reruns of Flight of the Conchords and play video games with his friend Adam. Teenagers. So I got a rare day to myself – and it was wonderful. Slept in, read a good book, visited a girlfriend, then went to San Simeon beach to read some more and took a nice hike up the cove.
God speaks to me during these quiet moments. I looked down and noticed the caterpillars mingled with the broken branches and fallen Eucalyptus leaves. Lots and lots of caterpillars – so many it was hard not to step on one. In due time they’ll become the gorgeous Monarchs that descend on this area en masse, making the cove even more spectacular if that’s possible. A small example of God’s grand schedule, which is always perfectly timed.
I decided to veer from the usual trail and cut across to the other side of the cove. The thin trail that guided me for a while broke with a fallen tree and didn’t reappear. So I trudged through the grass — offroading it. Maybe this was a mistake, I thought, as I climbed through the foliage and fallen trees with no end in sight. I reached the other side to what I hoped would be a promising peak at the ocean — never get to see this side since it’s not on the main trail. I ducked under the branches and through the little hole leading to the viewpoint. What I saw brought me to tears. It was that lovely. Big waves crashing on a clear black table of rock with ridges, amber sand cliffs, purple daisies and flowering ice plant. And a subtle ocean spray almost kissing me. I sat for a while and cried at the sheer beauty of it. My gift today, for sure.
Caterpillars and butterflies, days and nights, new growth on broken trees — all expertly timed according to a precise, divine schedule. Can’t help selfishly plugging my own bits and pieces into this line of thought. I want to get better, feel less sadness, live happily ever after. Now. In other areas I want to turn back the clock. But I come here and am reminded: God's timing, not mine. Cliffie’s 15 and starting to drive — becoming a man before my very eyes. Tall, dark, and cute with ocean blue eyes. Same dazzling smile as when he was a baby. His thoughts and ideas are complex, sometimes way out there. He continues to amaze me daily (on the order of that ocean scene I shared in previous paragraph). Also, he understands and appreciates good comedy. I now have someone to watch Will Farrell movies with.
I believe it to be true that the more pain you’ve suffered in your life the more you appreciate the little gifts God gives you along the way. I just think you notice them more, maybe because you’re still expecting bad stuff to come your way – and when good things come instead you can hardly believe it. For me, everything seemed to hit the fan about five years ago. Marriage, brother, dad — all gone in a little over a year. And to make matters worse I had to give up the only two treasures I had left every other weekend to my lousy ex and that wicked witch that tore our family apart (and her own, incidentally). I sat in church one Sunday without the kids, unable to control my feelings of despair and helplessness. I had no idea what was going on with them, but I was sure they were being horribly abused and there was nothing I could do about it. With this experience now part of their backgrounds they would grow up crack addicts or teen parents for sure. Then God spoke to me. (Here's where it gets cheesy, you're thinking ... bear with me.) So loud and clear I’m sure the rest of the congregation heard it too. “Don’t worry. They will be OK. I’ll be taking care of them.” Oh yeah. You’re God. I didn’t have to carry the burden — at all. So I let it go right then and there and things have gone surprisingly better for me from that moment on. A promise.
What I didn’t know then is that that promise would continue to be fulfilled in droves as Cliffie and Melissa have grown. They’ve been blessed with great mentors, teachers, friends, friends’ parents, experiences. Hell, even their dad and his side of the family have stepped up to the plate most of the time. And when it seemed like family might have failed them, others stepped in to fill the void. To us, this little town is family. When the kids walk into town I know they’ll be safe because our friends who manage the shops and drive the streets are watching out for them. And not only are they OK and being taken care of, but they are also growing into happy, amazing human beings. I’m convinced they will go on to do wonderful things with their lives. God means business when he makes a promise. I don’t doubt it for a second.