Childhood Home

There’s something special about one’s childhood home. I was born in Bakersfield, California. When I was two, my parents moved out to Derby Acers. Just to give you an idea of this area, some people called it “Dirty Acers.” But to me it was home, and a wonderful home at that.

My parents were in their very early twenties when they bought a brand new, double-wide mobile home and placed it on a quarter acer of land. They put up a nice fence and divided the backyard for a horse corral. I remember having a swing set, a tree to climb in, a little area designated for our doughboy pool, an orchid for my mom, a long, extended drive to skateboard down, and still plenty of room for a young boy’s invisible adventures. It was in that backyard that my best friend Matt and I fought off alien soldiers who hovered over us in a giant flying saucer. Other days we were fighting off medieval warriors who were invading our castle as I w a knight and Matt was a wizard.

A dog named Boy barked in excitement at the imaginary scenes as my mom baked a cake inside waiting for my dad to get home from work.

I lived in that house until my family moved to Bakersfield at age 10, so the majority of my innocent childhood was spent there.

It really was a perfect place to grow up as a kid. I left my bike in the front yard, and there was never a thought about someone stealing it. Doors were often left open for a sweet breeze, and most of the time they were unlocked. We had horses, cats, bunnies, dogs, chickens, a pig, and three-wheelers.

The foothills and mountains that surrounded the valley were close and always clear, and there was something special about the sunset that fell down over them. There was time then too. Time to watch cartoons. Time to play outside. Time to stare at my mother as she made dinner or organized her records and folded laundry. Time to wait on the front porch to see if I could spot my dad’s work truck driving home on the main road a few blocks away. Time to think.

My younger sister, Amber, was about seven years younger than me. Since we moved to Bakersfield when I was nine, and she was around three, she didn’t get to experience the same childhood I did.

A few years ago, when I was in my early thirties, and she in her twenties, we made plans to grab lunch as we tried to do every few weeks. Christmas was approaching, and we were looking for some place special to eat. I thought up the idea of driving out to Taft for lunch and another 15 minutes to Derby Acers to show her where she first lived. I was surprised that she wanted to join me on this adventure. She had recently gotten engaged, and we would get to use the long drive to catch up.

The road went from straight, long lanes to hilly roads and then to a small two-lane road surrounded by oilrigs and foothills. Turning into our, I guess you could call it a neighborhood, the road faded to dirt. My sister jerked around in my truck as we went over the uneven dirt.

We drove past my old best friend’s house, Matt, and then turned left. There in the middle of the dirt road, I stopped in reverence to show my sister her first home.

After a few seconds of silence and an odd look on my sister’s face, she said, “Why did Mom and Dad live here?”

I looked to examine my childhood home. The fence had fallen. The grass has turned to dirt. The orchid was gone to just an empty dry space with scattered weeds. The pool has vanished. No dog barked eagerly to see me. It was a pathetic sight.

I tried to explain to Amber what it was once like—the fine details of every bit of energy that Mom and Dad put into it to make it a fine home for their two children. But then I realized something.

It was more accurate in my memory than it was in real life. What now stood wasn’t my childhood home, for it was gone forever.

Or maybe, it was forever saved in my memories, where it will always be real.

That’s the moment I understood that the past can’t be revisited in real life but only in the heart.

I looked at my sister. Graduated from college. Engaged. Grown. Accomplished. Faithful. Kind. Wise. She is what I still have from that past. Not some house.

We drove to Taft and ate at a Mexican food restaurant. It was mostly empty inside. There was a huge Christmas tree with colorful lights across from our table. My sister and I laughed and smiled as we told stories and revisited jokes while eating our food. And I enjoyed the present before me—my grown little sister who would only hold the same last name as me for a few more months.

Let’s be thankful for the past and hold it dearly in our hearts, but let’s be thankful for all God’s given us in the present and never neglect for a moment what we have now because in time, it too will be gone.

There’s something special about your childhood home. I was born in Bakersfield, California. When I was two, my parents moved out to Derby Acers. Just to give you an idea of this area, some people called it “Dirty Acers.” But to me, it was home, and a wonderful home at that. 

My parents were in their very early twenties when they bought a brand new, double-wide mobile home and placed it on a quarter acer of land. They put up a nice fence around the property and divided part of the backyard to have a horse corral. I remember having a swing set, a tree to climb and sit in, a little area designated for our doughboy pool, an orchid for my mom, an extended drive to push my Big Wheel tricycle down, and still plenty of room for a young boy’s invisible adventures. It was in that backyard that my best friend, Matt, and I fought off invading alien soldiers who hovered over us in giant flying saucers. On other days, we battled against medieval warriors who were invading our castle as I was a knight and Matt was a wizard. 

A dog named Boy barked in excitement at the imaginary scenes as my mom baked a cake inside waiting for my dad to get home from work. 

I lived in that house until my family moved to Bakersfield at age 10, so the majority of my early childhood was spent there. 

It really was a perfect place to grow up as a kid. I left my bike in the front yard, and there was never a thought about someone stealing it. Doors were often left open for a sweet evening breeze, and most of the time, they were unlocked. We had horses, cats, bunnies, dogs, chickens, a pig, and three-wheelers. 

The foothills and mountains that surrounded the valley were close and always clear, and there was something special about the sunset that covered them. There was time then too. Time to watch cartoons. Time to play outside. Time to watch my mother as she made dinner, organized her records, and folded laundry. Time to wait on the front porch to see if I could spot my dad’s work truck driving home on the main road a few blocks away. Time to think. Time to just exist.  

My younger sister, Amber, was about seven years younger than me. Since we moved to Bakersfield when I was nine, and she was around three, she didn’t get to experience the same childhood I did. 

When I was in my early thirties and she in her twenties, we made plans to grab lunch as we tried to do every few weeks. Christmas was approaching, and we were looking for someplace fun to eat. I came up with the idea of driving about a half hour out to Taft for lunch and another 15 minutes to Derby Acers to show her where she first lived. I was excited that she wanted to join me on this adventure. She had recently gotten engaged, and we would get to use the long drive to catch up. 

The road went from straight, long lanes to hilly roads and then to a small two-lane road surrounded by oilrigs and foothills. Turning into our, I guess you could call it a neighborhood, the road faded to dirt. My sister jerked around in my truck as we went over the uneven, dusty ground. 

We drove past Matt’s old house and then turned left down our street. There in the middle of the dirt road, I stopped in reverence to show my sister her first home. 

After a few seconds of silence and an odd look on my sister’s face, she said, “Why did Mom and Dad live here?” 

I looked to examine my childhood home. The fence had fallen. The green grass had turned to dirt. The orchid had gone to an empty dry area of scattered weeds. The pool had vanished. No dog barked eagerly to see me. The mobile home had weathered to a worn structure with a sunken roof as bags and boxes of trash sat at the front door. It was a pathetic sight. 

I tried to explain to Amber what it was once like—the fine details that Mom and Dad put into it to make it a perfect home for their two children. But then I realized something. 

It was more accurate in my memory than it was in real life. What now stood wasn’t my childhood home, for it was gone forever. 

Or maybe, it was forever saved in my memories, where it will always be real. 

That’s the moment I understood that the past can’t be revisited in real life but only in the heart. 

I looked at my little sister. Graduated from college. Engaged. Grown. Accomplished. Faithful. Kind. Wise. She is what I still have from that past. Not some old mobile home. 

We drove to Taft and ate at a Mexican food restaurant. It was mostly empty inside. There was a huge Christmas tree with colorful lights across from our table. My sister and I laughed and smiled as we told stories and revisited our favorite jokes while eating our food. And I enjoyed the present before me—my grown little sister who would only hold the same last name as me for a few more months. 

Let’s be thankful for the past and hold it dearly in our hearts, but let’s be thankful for all God’s given us in the present and never neglect for a moment what we have now because in time, it too will be just a memory.  

Last Dance

lady-in-red

In normal high school culture, the only thing that is worse than being dumped by a wonderful person is having to break up with a wonderful person. That was me during my junior year. She was a great girl—pretty, smart, clean, classy, but we just had different callings in life. I felt I had a different mission than she did, so during my junior year, I had to decide to do one of the most difficult things ever in high school. I had to leave someone who loved me dearly. I dropped her off after school one day and told her the hard news. She fell to the ground crying in her front yard, and I drove off alone—very alone. 

Don’t worry. She’s fine now. She has a beautiful family and a good career. 

But back to the past—it was towards the end of my junior year, and the prom was approaching. This would be the first high school dance I would attend without my ex-girlfriend. She had a date. He was a decent guy. He was actually one of our school’s better football players. 

It hurt in a way. I understood everything. It all made sense. But it still hurt. 

I knew what I had to do. It’s what any teenage guy would do in high school. I would ask the hottest girl I knew to be my date. Someone who would be the type of girl to wear a blazing red, tight-fitting, short dress. Someone who would latch onto my arm long enough, so I could walk through those huge, double doors of the prom’s entrance to have my ex see me for just a moment and miss me. 

Now I thought, Where would I find such a girl? 

Church youth group, of course. 

I asked her with a folded, hand-written note during a Wednesday night service, back before text messaging. She happily accepted. I’m still not sure if it was because of me or because she went to another school and wanted to be allowed to attend my school’s prom. At the time, my high school was one of the more popular schools in town. 

Bringing this girl to prom wasn’t purely selfish. I was hoping I would find something special about her and that she would win me over, like one of those 80’s movies or something like that. I knew she was pretty, and maybe there was something about her personality or character that I was missing and would discover on this magical night. 

Prom night finally came, and with the financial help of my generous grandparents, we arrived in a limo with friends. She wore a short, red dress and had taken on the essence of stereotypical, high school hotness. We walked in through those double doors, and she was latched onto my arm. The music vibrated through the souls of our shoes as our eyes looked up to the flashing strobes. My school’s ASB had once again transformed a regular building hall into a different dimension. 

My date and I quickly found my group of friendly peers as the young men lit up in surprise as they set their eyes upon my mysterious date. Then something happened that I’ll probably always be unsure about. My ex-girlfriend walked up to my date and said something before walking angrily away. My date’s mouth dropped in awe. 

“What?” I asked. 

“She just called me a skank!” my date said in her high voice while her mouth stayed hung open. 

“She did?” 

“Yes, she did!” 

Now that was very out of character for my ex, but honestly, I laughed a little in my mind, and maybe a small smirk broke through onto my face. The night was going just as planned. 

Just then a popular song came on, and over a hundred students rushed closer to the center of the dance floor. 

My date innocently said, “I told one of my friends that I would dance with him for one dance since I’m at his school. Can I go find him to dance with him, so I can get that over with, and then we can be together for the rest of the night?” 

“Of course, that’s fine,” I sent her off into the dark, teenage abyss of moving bodies. 

I wasn’t really bothered by her request because I honestly just wanted to dance with my own friends. Most of them only brought friends as dates, so they could just have fun dancing with everyone. 

Half an hour went by. Then a full hour. Two. Three. Still no sign of my prom date. Someone asked if I knew where she was. I didn’t.  

Maybe she was nearby, camouflaged with the other countless short, red dresses that moved around, near, and on sweaty guys. Someone else asked if she was okay. I answered confused, “I’m sure she’s fine.” 

I continued to dance with my friends and tried to pretend that I was having a good time as I did at every other school dance.  

But I wasn’t. 

I wasn’t second guessing my decision of breaking up with my ex, but I was sad. Maybe mourning in a way. And I was alone. The familiarity of the environment made me remember the first dance with her my freshmen year, and how I felt like the king of the world back then, when everything was still brand new. But I gave her up, and now she was dancing with someone else, looking happy and pretty as ever. Maybe I was second guessing my decision. 

As the DJ played a slow song, all my peers coupled up with each other under the moving white lights of the magical environment. I awkwardly stood there by myself. I watched time fade by like the last two years of my high school life. I felt like a fool. People started noticing that I was alone, and it was awkward, so I had to go. 

But I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t just leave my date, although she left me. I looked for a hideout, some place unnoticed and safe—the restroom. 

Surrounded by the cold, tall, echoing walls of the men’s restroom, I could still hear the song vibrating through the floor in muffled words of bass. The bottoms of my feet were now sore from my dress shoes. I looked into the scratched mirror and examined myself. Sharp dressed in a pressed shirt. A red tie to match a missing date. Hair still perfectly styled. But alone. 

Was this going to be my future now? Were the best days of high school already behind me? 

I second guessed my decision of breaking up with her. I felt wholeheartedly that it was the right thing to do at the time. I had prayed through it. I felt confirmation. 

I looked back into the mirror. 

“What’s up with this, God? This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.” 

I felt the bass massage the souls of my shoes as a new song began—Lady in Red, the 90’s slow song that became the signature last dance at all my school’s dances. I gave a wry smile and thought about how pathetic I was to be hiding out during my high school prom. I remembered who I was. 

A child of God. 

Someone bought with a great price. 

Someone loved unconditionally. 

A believer. 

I straightened up my posture and walked out of that cold restroom with a confident smile to see my world turning together in slow motion to the magical mood of the music. 

I stood there hoping for a miracle. Waiting. Even enjoying the happiness of others. 

Then, I felt a tap on my shoulder. 

I turned to see Britney, a friend of mine. Not anyone I ever flirted with. Not anyone I ever considered dating but just a friend. She said, “I thought you might be feeling alone there, stranger. Want to dance?” 

“Thanks.” 

We slow-danced together at a friendly distance for the rest of that song, and I wasn’t alone. 

Although we are friends on social media, Britney and I don’t talk much. We don’t comment on each other’s posts really or even “like” each other’s photos, but there will always be an element of gratitude connected to any thought of her. Although there have been many forgotten dances with many different girls, that one dance will never be forgotten. 

After the lights came on and people rushed to find their purses and jackets, I finally found my date. She told me some dramatic story about searching all over for me. I didn’t believe her, but I wasn’t upset. I knew she wasn’t the girl for me. 

I really didn’t give her much thought after that night, but I did think about Britney. I recalled how she was involved at her church. I remember visiting her youth group from time to time, and she was always there and involved helping with something. I can never remember hearing her say anything bad about anyone, not even once. She was never the center of attention. She mostly just blended in. 

I believe the Holy Spirit gave her discernment to see what I was feeling that night. I can imagine her noticing my out of character prom date. I can picture her watching me glance through the crowd at my ex-girlfriend every now and then. I can see her searching for me during the last dance of the night and feeling a bit of relief when she found me. 

The Spirit leads us to notice the lonely and seek after them. To have empathy even when their pain is from their own decisions. To be there so people don’t have to be alone during the last dance. 

Lost in a Grocery Store

lost-in-a-grocery-store

I often hear parents talk about how rambunctious their grown children were when they were young—how they would have their hands into everything that wasn’t theirs. How they would talk a stranger’s ear off. How they would break down and throw a fit in public when they didn’t get their way.

Honestly, my parents didn’t have these problems with me, not to say I didn’t come with my own share of unique problems.

I was shy. I had some unclear speech disorder that wasn’t properly diagnosed. I was an only child for seven years, until my sister came along. Yeah, I was that kid who played the first Nintendo Entertainment System and only had a few select friends who played with me. And the rest was all imagination.

I remember being about four years old and walking around the small town grocery store with my dad. Our home was about 15-20 minutes from the well-lit store, and it was a happy occasion to get to go with Dad for a dinner run. This was a time when stores were a more decorated for every holiday—individual and custom decorations for each season. Every once in a while, I would even get to pick out a toy from the isle across from the cereal. I don’t think my parents will ever realize how a five dollar piece of plastic would make my day.

So there I was walking through the store with wide eye wonder holding my dad’s hand. Then all of a sudden, I looked up and the hand I was holding was not my dad’s. This was terrifying for a four-year-old. He was a complete stranger, and I didn’t know where my dad was. My young brain couldn’t comprehend how this had happened. One minute, I was with my dad, and the next, a perfect stranger.

The older man looked down at me and said, “You’re a cute, little guy, but you’re not mine.” I turned all over to finally find my dad standing nearby and quickly reached out for his hand—embarrassed, frightened, confused; I wanted to cry, but I wasn’t one of those kids.

As an adult now, occasionally I’ll see small children who lose their mom or dad at a grocery store. A painful terror comes over them, and after a few seconds of desperately looking all around and realizing the scary truth of their situation, their eyes begin to water, their lips quiver, and then they cry. A loud cry from someplace in pain. Sometimes a scream, as all the other children continue walking quietly holding their parent’s hand, wondering what’s wrong with that kid.

Sometimes I get discouraged being a believer in this modern world. I’m bombarded with so many anti-Christ statements, philosophies, and ideologies yelled from rooftops. I see them printed online, in magazines, in newspapers, on television, and cluttered all over social media. I start to think that the whole world holds these same views, while a few others and myself are the only ones who still attempt to have some sort of desire to follow Christ.

But I’ve learned this is not true. The church is well. The church is strong. The church is winning. This is because the church is God’s bride, and God’s faithful to his bride. And in the end, God wins.

This world is full of believers who seriously love the Lord. Famous rock stars, actors, writers, artists, athletes, politicians. They are all out there and living for the Lord.

But why can’t we hear them? Why don’t we hear true Christians proclaiming their beliefs all over the media?

Because they aren’t lost.

They are holding their father’s hand.

Children aren’t terrified when they have their father’s hand. Believers have a peace that the lost children don’t understand.

Lost children in this world cry. They shout out. They don’t understand. They are angry. They hurt others. They take, steal, lie. They are hurting. They do anything they can to help themselves because they are lost—without a father.

It’s sad really. So very sad.

When we see the lost world, let’s remind ourselves that we are not losing simply because we are quiet. Let’s remind ourselves that we aren’t alone just because other believers aren’t yelling out. We are just at peace holding our father’s hand—the very best place to be.