Not What I Thought It Would Be by Toni L.A. Clegg

Tomorrow is never a guarantee

This truth is present and weighty

Time is ticking towards thirty

This future I cannot quite see

Finds me, now a divorcee

In this strange land where I’m oddly free

It’s not what I thought it would be

Married again, a mother wannabe

Yet I pause here in place like a lonely tree

Unmoved by the wind and the whispering sea

Missing my pain like an amputee

 

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Imagining Ten Years From Now…

 

asked the question, “When you think of your life ten years from today, what’s different?”
I found myself thinking, dreaming, imagining…

 

 

In the early morning stillness, I sit cross-legged beside my husband in a patch of sunlight, a cup of steaming coffee balanced on my knee. Lance looks up from his studies and leans over to kiss my forehead softly. Content in our morning routine, we sit in silence. I close my eyes to pray, setting my well-worn Bible to one side. As I search my heart, I find my mind wandering back over the past 34 years of my life and our 14 years of marriage together.

Abruptly, my reverie is broken by the sound of pattering little feet. The door creaks open and two very large brown eyes peek around the corner, followed by a loud childish whisper.

“Mommy? Zavey snuck downstairs to play with some of the other kids even though I told him he needed to get dressed first and now he lost that teddy of his. He can’t find it anywhere and he won’t do anything but hunt for it.”

The jumble of words flows from our oldest daughter’s mouth without a pause. She plants a hand on her skinny 8 year old hip, wearing an exasperated mother hen expression on her face with impish precociousness.

Lance sets aside his book and holds his arms out towards the door. “No hug from my Princess?” He makes a comically sad face and pretends to whimper pathetically. Chaya bounces across the floor to tackle her father in a hug. “Dad! Of COURSE you get a hug! she giggles.”

Sounds filter up from the lower floor of the orphanage. Quick scampering noises are punctuated by bursts of muffled laughter.

Standing, I place a hand on Chaya’s head, ruffling her fine brown-black hair. “Okay, Sweety. Let’s get those rascals ready for breakfast and find Teddy. That bear is probably under the covers of one of the beds again. Run down and tell the boys to quiet down a little, so they don’t interrupt Daddy’s study time, okay? I’ll be there in one second. We still have two hours before chapel. You are all up early this morning!”

“’I know. Zavy has been wiggling in his bed since 4 am! He just couldn’t sleep, I guess. He’s so excited about doing VBS this week. Anyway, Mom. I’ll tell ‘em.” Drawing herself up straight, she flashes me a grin and skips out of the room.

The other kids tend to flock around Chaya, following her natural leadership like ever so many puppies. Xavier, her five year old brother loves mischief almost as much as Chaya loves being in charge. Despite his spunky independence and love of fun, Zavey also has a tender heart.

I take a deep breath and let it out in a happy sigh. Another day has dawned, here at Hope Center. What will the next 24 hours hold? I don’t know, but I’m glad to have this moment in time.

Looking forward…

 

I find myself, at this extremely late hour, sitting before a blank screen. I feel an urge to write, a primal need to capture my feelings in solid little black letters.

I just finished reading a book, A Girl’s Guide To Homelessness. Honestly, I don’t know how that has affected my desire to write, but somehow it has. Perhaps it was the author’s frankness? Or maybe, just because she wrote and people read?

Or maybe it wasn’t the book at all. Maybe it is the fact that my husband is soon to be licensed as a minister. I look at him with eyes of love, support and admiration. He knows what he wants to do in life and is going after it full-force. Yet, something niggles at the back of my brain. Something whispers, “Why isn’t that you? Why aren’t you moving forward, too? What’s holding you back?”

I don’t know.

What I do know, is that I am staring into my future with probing eyes, straining to see beyond the veil of time. I want to know that what I do will ultimately count for something in the end.

I look at my job… it’s a good job. I get paid; have great coworkers, reasonable flexibility, a unique work environment, and even a few benefits. You could even argue that my place of employment holds a fairly important purpose in the grand scheme of things. After all, I work at a library, the all-powerful guardian of free-speech, equality, literacy and public computer access. I’m not exactly flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant. (Not that there is anything wrong with flipping burgers.)

Every week now, story-time is the moment I look forward to. I read to a group of 2-4 year olds, then make craft projects with them. Every time I interact with a young child, I ask myself: why am I not a teacher? Or in some sort of position that involves working more with children? I love kids; their curiosity, the fresh way in which they view the world, just everything about them.

Still, deep down inside, I know that I wouldn’t be content in this job forever.

It isn’t just the innocent, privileged cherubs that that draw me. In the daily reality of living in a city governed mostly by welfare, I see children that are unwanted, wounded and old before their time. Those ones break my heart the most. I want to reach out to them, to somehow show them that there really is such a thing as love.

I’ve seen young mothers come in, plop their babies on the germy public floor of the library. I’ve heard them callously explain to their friends that conception is one of the best money making schemes that our all-American government has to offer.

Another time, a young boy told me that he had to stay at the library after school. Going home wasn’t an option and the bullies that stalked his part of town were lying in wait for him. For a while, he stayed every night until closing time, at which point he would borrow the phone and beg someone to come walk him home. Sometimes his mother came, but not always. Now, that same boy is an older teen and is basically raising his four year old brother himself.

Then, there was the girl who used to come in and talk to me. She was in her preteens and very sweet, but she displayed signs of  neglect. No one seemed to have bothered to explain the basics of hygiene to her, but more even more alarming, she seemed to soak up any attention, from any stranger, like a giant sponge.

She was starved for anyone to care about her.

Like clockwork, she’d appear after school, tell me about her day, and then ask for help with her homework. One day, a patron who was observing us asked if she was my sister. Even as I said no, I could see her smiling to herself.

I know I affect these children, in some small way. But it seems so inadequate, like a drop of water in a planet of deserts. I want to do more, I want to be more. But how? What does this thing I dream of look like?

Ever since I was little, I would pretend to rescue the helpless. My many dolls were props as I acted out grand dramas of orphans I’d adopt by the hundreds.

I ask myself; should I try college? Study early childhood development and counseling?

But to do that now… I have a husband, a nearly full-time job, and a very small budget. The nearest college is almost an hour away… and, to be truthful, the prospect is scary.

I was homeschooled for every grade, except first grade. I got my GED at 16 years old. The theology classes I attended were from a satellite campus, broadcasted into a room of 12 people, who I already knew. To start anew, to deal with the dreaded unknown… maybe that is what is really holding me back.

I also long to travel again. For much of my life, I’ve planned to go into full-time ministry, probably foreign missions. I just always assumed that working with children would fit in their somehow and never really worried about the practicality of being trained for that task. Looking at things with older eyes, I can’t help but think that I’d make a much better missionary with some education, knowledge, and experience under my belt.

So, I end the same way I started this rant: I don’t know, but I do look forward…

Crying and Screaming… By Toni Cross

Did you hear me scream through my tears last night?

Will you hold me back or will you help me fight?

Do you see the rage burning in my soul?

Can you help me out, can you make me whole?

I am drowning, slipping out of reach…

Will you reach your hand across the breach?

The dark is real and thick and heady…

My lungs collapse but I’m not ready.

Not ready to die, without ever living…

Not ready to leave this world so unforgiving.

Show me something pure, show me something true…

Give hope to breathe, give me a day that’s new.

Reflect… By Toni L.A. Cross

 
This glass is cracked
My view is shattered
Like an old store front
On the bad side of town

Reflect these faces back
In defined color
Remove the smear
Of hate
Make the shadows
Melt and fade and flee
Take away the irresolution
Created by a single doubt

This heart is cracked
My love is shattered
Like fine china dropped
On the unyielding concrete

Reflect my world back
In black and white
Remove the distortion
Of emotion
Make the lines
Stark and crisp and clear
Take away the blur
Created by a single tear