Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Jeremiah 31:3 “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love;I have drawn you with loving-kindness”
` Do you feel alone? Kelly knew all about loneliness. Have you ever felt unloved and unwanted? To Kelly that feeling was a familiar friend. At six years old, she lost her mom. Her mom did not die, she just up and left one day. Kelly would ask Daddy where Mommy was and his face would twist up. Then, he would take another gulp from the beer can that became an extension of his arm after work, and say “You were so ugly she couldn’t stand to look at you anymore. You made her sick just lookin’ at you so she ran away from you.”
She didn’t leave her two little twin brothers, Jake and Ian. No. Daddy said she’d love them and it’s Kelly’s fault they “got no mama now.” She calls the summer she was seven, the whoopin’ summer. That’s because if she didn’t have her chores done by the time daddy got home from work, or ‘the boys’ weren’t happy, she’d get a whoopin’. So just about everyday that summer she got whooped.
She couldn’t tell you why her stomach and chest hurt everyday. OR why she wants to go to sleep and not wake up. She didn’t have the words to explain why. This was just life as she knew it.
One of the last Saturday mornings before school started again that year she was given the job of washing the windows of the house. She reached the twins room and placed the Windex and paper towels on the lowest bunk. The curtains were closed so she had to open them up to reach the windows. As her little hand gripped the white cord, everything seemed to become still, as every sound in the world had been shut off. The neighbor’s lawn mower stopped. The laughter from the twins playing in the back yard stopped.
What will happen if I wrap this around my neck? If I stop breathing how long will it take before I just go to sleep like my dog Barnie did?
As she was thinking these curious thoughts her hand seemed to have a mind of its own as it wrapped- and wrapped- and wrapped- tighter-and tighter- and tighter…..
She was so focused on her thoughts that she did not hear her father’s footsteps creak up behind her. However, she was snapped out of her trance-like state by his barking laugh. She dropped the end of the cord as if it were lit on fire.
Oh No! He’s gonna’ whoop me now!
What a strange thought.
Daddy leaned against the doorframe, tears of laughter welling up in his eyes.
Then, as if the laughter had been swished away by a windshield wiper, he was dead serious and his blood shot eyes pierced through her.
“You’re so stupid! Ya’know if you’re gonna’ do it, do it right ya’ ignorant shit!” He turned to leave and as he did he barked over his shoulder, “If not get back to work!”
Something inside her grew icy.
If he wanted her dead, if that made him happy, she wasn’t going to make him happy!
In second grade she and her little brothers got scholarships to St. Luke’s Parochial Elementary.
This sad eyed little girl, that didn’t know how to smile also didn’t have a clue how to make friends. But she was hopeful. She’d never had a friend before. Daddy kept her in the house doing chores and taking care of the boys.
The children, of lawyers, and doctors, and dentists, and rich business owners, sensed right away that Kelly was different. IT became a game for them to find new and creative ways to torture her or set her up to get in trouble. So Kelly’s alone-ness became complete.
But at least she was learning new things and finding new books to escape into. Sister Moran also started coming into class every Tuesday to teach religion class. What all of the other children found boring, Kelly was fascinated by.
One day Sister Moran made a lot of little marks all over the chalkboard making everything look very dirty and scribbled. She turned around to face the class, smoothed her rough hands over her black dress and said, “Now class, this is what your soul looks like. You see all of those little marks? That is the sin that you do.”
Kelly raised her hand, “Sister Moran does every body sin?”
The older nun laced her hands together in front of her tightly. This was taking to long. She had afternoon tea waiting for her. “Yes, of course they do. Don’t be stupid, you knew that.”
*Sister Moran cleared her throat and continued, “Now. There cannot be sin in heaven with God, and since we all sin we can’t go to heaven. There is a price to pay. For example, if you break the law, you go to jail for a certain amount of time. There is an old saying that says- if you do the crime you must pay the time. The problem is, where can never be good enough to be able to do this,” she paused for full affect and Kelly was leaned forward in her desk intently.
“BUT- since He loves us so much He sent His one and only son Jesus to take our punishment for us. Jesus died on the cross for our sins not His.” She click-clacked back to the chalkboard. Picking up an eraser she lightly dragged it over the surface of the board. The “sins” were erased a little bit but were still there.
“Now there’s still some left, right? Now it is big enough for us to handle ourselves. Now, when you die, you go to Purgatory to pay for the rest of your sins. You do your time.”
Kelly raised her hand again and Sister Moran nodded with an annoyed look.
“How long do we have to stay in there?” she asked.
“That all depends,” sister Moran answered, drilling holes in Kelly with her laser eyes. “Really naughty little girls have to stay for a very long time.” There was a giggle from one her classmates.
Sister Moran held her hand up to silence the giggler and continued, “However, there is good news! People that love you and care about you can pray for your soul and have masses for you so that you may then get out earlier.”
Kelly raised her hand again.
Sister Moran sighed heavily, “What is it? You keep interrupting. This is not hard to understand, young lady!”
“But what if no one loves you? How do you get out then?” Kelly asked.
Sister Moran looked ready to pop her cork! Her face was red and splotchy. This scholarship child was making her tea get cold!
“When Jesus comes back EVERYBODY gets out! “She snapped.
Kelly raised her hand again.
“No! No more! No more questions!” Sister Moran hissed.
Kelly couldn’t help herself. This was important. She had to make sure she understood what Sister Moran was saying!
“But- But. Okay. Okay. So if nobody prays for me- I mean nobody prays for you, you can still get out when Jesus comes, and He won’t be mad at me that nobody prayed for me?” Kelly spoke quickly, knowing that this may be the last question Sister Moran let her ask.
Sister Moran lost all control as the rest of the class started giggling.
“OUT!” She hollered. “Out of the class! Now! Take your desk with you! In the Hallway! Now! Move it! You think it’s funny to be disruptive and ask stupid questions? Only stupid people ask stupid questions! OUT!”
Well, maybe third grade will be better. It couldn’t get any worse, could it?
In third grade, a new girl, Diane, joined the class. Kelly thought Diane was beautiful. She had beautiful, shiny blonde hair like a baby doll, and baby blue eyes with long lashes. Kelly thought that perhaps, just perhaps, this might be the year she made a friend. However, Diane learned the “game” real quick. In fact, she mastered the “game” and became the queen of not only the “game” but of the class. She had those nuns wrapped around her eight-year-old, manicured, pinkie. All she had to do was shake her baby doll blonde hair, and bat those baby doll eyelashes, and those nuns would scoop up every word, every syllable Diane uttered, as if each were pearls and gold.
Kelly was still hopeful however and so she did not see it coming. One day at recess, Diane smiled at her with those baby blues and said, “Hi! Would you like to play a game with me?” She stuck her bottom lip out as she was just so sad and said,” Nobody else wants to play it with me.”
Kelly felt so bad for Diane. How unfair! “I’ll play with you,” she said.
“Great!” Diane said quickly. “It’s called Houdini. Here sit down. What we do is, I tie your shoelaces together and you have to get out of them like Houdini!”
Kelly thought this sounded odd, “What if I can’t get them undone?”
Diane waved her hand, brushing the thought away, “I’m not gonna really tie them hard, you know!”
So Diane tied them together in an intricate design of multiple knots. “Okay. Now you can try to undo them!”
And so Kelly did. But Kelly couldn’t. After about five seconds of Kelly fumbling with the laces, Diane’s personality did a Jekyll/Hyde, “You’re so stupid! Figure it out. I’m going to go over and talk to Phillip.”
So Diane skipped off to Phillip. As Kelly struggled with her laces, she noticed Diane standing with one hand on her hip talking to Phillip and pointing at Kelly. Then they both broke out laughing hysterically
Just then, Sister Childers blew her whistles for the children to line up so that they could go back inside. Kelly tried. She knew she wasn’t going to be able to get those laces undone. She started half-hopping, half-tiny stepping to the line.
Sister Childers put her hands on her ample hips and said sharply, “ Just what do you think you’re doing, Kelly?”
Kelly flushed, “It was a game. Diane tied them together and then I’m s’posed to…”
Diane sauntered up to stand between Kelly and Sister Childers. Hands on hips she narrowed her eyes at Kelly and said, “How dare you?! You are such a little liar!”
Diane turned to Sister Childers and flashed on her baby-blues, “Sister Childers, I have absolutely no idea why this-this girl would lie and try to get me in trouble. You know I wouldn’t do anything like that, don’t you? I saw her do it herself. And I told her that she shouldn’t do that! Didn’t I, Phillip?”
Phillip grinned, “Yup! Heard it myself. That ugly girl is stupid! She wouldn’t listen at all.”
Sister Childers looked disapproving at Phillip and said curtly, “ Phillip! That is unnecessary!”
Phillip’s smile broadened and he chirped, “You told us we shouldn’t lie Sister Childers. She is ugly and stupid. I cannot lie! You don’t want me to go to hell do you?” He said this while absently digging in his nose with his thumb and wiping his found “treasure” on his brown corduroy pants.
“Phillip, stop! No, don’t lie! But stop picking you’re nose too! If you remember, I also said that even if something is true, there is a nice way to say it.
Sister Childers turned to Kelly. “Take you’re shoes off. You can tell you father yourself why you are barefoot. After the detention you serve this afternoon for lying and trying to get Diane into trouble, that is! Get in line!”
Diane smiled wickedly at Kelly and looked at her as if Kelly were something she’d just wiped off her shoes.
Pretty soon, the after lunch recess became so bad for her on the playground that she would hide around the side of the building where an empty lot of acorn and pine trees settled against the side of the school building. For a while, it was okay. She would lean up against the cool, roughness of the brick wall and look up through the tall trees. She would let her eyes relax and become mesmerized by the sunlight as it glittered through the leaves and made straight rays and shadows. She would listen to birds playing in the tops of the trees and make-up stories about families of birds. She watched in amazement as she observed an ant carrying a leaf more than five times its size on its back.
Kelly was only able to enjoy this reprise for a short couple of days; however, before her classmates got bored playing kickball, and tag, or whatever else they played without her. I mean, really, it was no fun at all to play dodge ball if Kelly wasn’t in the middle! You would get five points if you hit her in the body and a whole ten points if you hit her in the face. If you managed to give her a nosebleed, you were the automatic winner for the day and Diane would by you a slushy from the mini-mart down the street. No Kelly, no slushy.
When they found her they tried coaxing her to the playground but Kelly tucked her knees up to her chest and put her forehead on them as if she didn’t hear them. This only egged them on. Of course she could hear them! How dare she ignore them!
So the children decided to play the game a different way. This time they would use the fallen acorns from around the trees. You got five points if you hit her on the back and ten points if you were able to knock her in the head.
This soon became boring though because, as Billy pointed out, “Acorn’s can’t hurt nobody! That’s not slushy work!” Diane had just stood back and smiled as if the words were her own.
New game! The boys ran and grabbed paper towels from the bathroom and quick snuck a bucket from the janitor’s closet and filled it with water. The children crunched the paper towels into balls, wet them and then would throw them at Kelly. You got five points if you got her in the back and ten if you got her in the head. The person that could get Kelly’s head the wettest was the winner. Kelly, by this time, had curled into a ball as if it were a tornado drill. Her eyes and mouth were closed and squished together tight. So tight, that she could hear her blood pumping in her ears. She started counting her heartbeats.
The children were getting frustrated that Kelly wasn’t reacting the way they wanted her too. Kelly finally does look up, however, but only when she unexpectantly feels the cold milk from the carton Diane was pouring on her head, flood down her neck and spine, and then trickle to the waistband of her green and white plaid, uniform skirt.
“No way!” Billy shouts. “No fair! He picks up the bucket of water and dumps it on Kelly. “There! I win!” He shouts, and then starts giggling and running away with the rest of the lemurs following him.
Diane is clearly upset. She was the queen. No one out did her! She crossed her arms and her foot jabs at Kelly’s leg as she says, “This is your fault!” before stomping away.
The next day, Kelly knew that she needed to find a new hiding spot. But where?
The chapel! Her hand touched the smooth metal of the handle and ever….so….slowly….she opens the door, wincing at each tiny creak of the big wooden chapel door.
She desperately hoped that they would not find her here. If they did, not only would she have to play their game, she might be in trouble if the sisters found out she was in there without permission. She stepped softly, transfixed by the cross at the front of the chapel. She decided to sit in the very back pew. It was so quiet and peaceful here she could only hear the sound of her own whispered breath.
They never did find her.
Here, is where she found that much needed moment of “peace” to get through the rest of each day and night. Sometimes she would bring a paperback book with her to read. Inspired by books such as , “Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret,” and “Mister God, this is Anna,” she began talking to God herself. And although she never heard an audible voice speaking back to her, she never seemed to doubt that He actually heard her and that He answered in His own way.
Did this tiny corner of solace make things better for Kelly? Perhaps.
Year after year, she was pushed through with this same group of rich, spoiled and cruel children, who seemed to never tire of finding new and creative ways to hurt her. However, remember, it wasn’t just school that hurt. Home hurt too.
In fact, there came a morning, when she was in the sixth grade, that this all came to head for Kelly. It didn’t end really, but listen! One day, Kelly had forgotten to iron her father’s work shirt. She had been so busy trying to get the boys to settle down and get dressed for school that it slipped her mind.
He jumped in her face yelling at her. His words were daggers striking deep. Words that told her she was a lazy, no-good, piece of shit! Words that told her, she was as stupid as a wall-No! The wall was smarter! Words’ telling her she was so ugly that her mama must’ve had sex with a dog for her to be born!
His breath reeked of stale cigarettes and last night’s beer. She kept inching backward, fear painted on her features. She inched back until he had cornered her against the glass, patio doors, and she could go no further.
“ Ya’ gonna’ say anythin’?” Shove- her head bangs on the glass door.
He smiles. “It’s ‘cuz yer stoopid! Right?” Shove- her head bangs the glass again.
“Tell me yer stupid, ya’ little piece of crap!” Shove- bang.
“Tell ME!” Shove- bang, bang.
He’s so close now she feels his nasty spit hit her in the face as he yells at her, and his stinking breathe washes over her.
Something snapped inside Kelly then. Her fists balled up at her sides. She clenched them so tight her knuckles were stretched white. Her eyes shot poisonous darts.
And then, she hauled back and banged her own head on the glass as hard as she could!
Then she screamed, “Is…” BANG! “That…” BANG! “All…” BANG! “You GOT?!” BANG- BANG!
The glass door skitters off its rail a bit. Her dad’s eyes grow wide in shock. This freakin’ girl has lost her mind! She’s crazy!
“…YOU’RE GONNA…” BANG!
“…DO IT…” BANG-BANG!
“DO IT…” BANG-BANG!
“RIGHT!!!” BANG! She screams the last word louder than all. Then, continues to stare him dead in his bloodshot eyes as she keeps banging… and banging... and banging her head on the glass.
Her father notices a trickle of red on her neck. Her words, and her stare washed away the shock and he was furious! He balls up his huge fist and punches her in the gut as hard as he could. With the wind knocked out of her Kelly falls to her knees and palms on the cold tile floor. A drop of red hits the tile by her hand. The blood from the back of her head is matting and beginning to trickle down her neck.
He stomps off and hollers in parting, “And ya’ better not get blood on that uniform shirt! I don’t got no money to pay for your stupidity!”
Kelly swallows. Then eases up to a standing position. She methodically cleans herself up and finishes helping the boys get ready for school. The familiar, icy coldness has returned to
numb her mind, and her heart, and any hope in life she might possess.
She has to get to school.
That same day, as she is walking down the hallway she sees Diane walking toward her. Diane’s face lights up in a bright, sunshine smile, as if Kelly was her best friend in all the world.
Poor Kelly allows herself a tiny spark of hope. Hope that today will be different. Hope that today she will have a friend.
That spark of hope is just as quickly snuffed out as Diane, not slowing her stride, punches her hard in the stomach, right where her dad had that morning. For the second time that day, Kelly falls to her hands and knees.
It is then than she sees the black shoes. She looks up into the face of a “Grampa-man” she has never seen before.
But he’s not looking at her. He is staring down Diane. And then, he speaks with an authority in his voice that she had never heard before, or since, and he says, “I know you. Go to class.”
Diane swallows and has turned pale. Kelly has never seen Diane like that.
Who is that guy?
I don’t know. Let’s go.
Did he see anything? You think he’ll tell the sisters?
I don’t know let’s go.
He looks like a kind old, Grampa. His hair is so pure, white and looks so soft, that you can imagine, if you touched it, it would feel like the feathers of a dove. Although he has the soft, pale skin of an old man, his face seems to have been smoothed of any wrinkles. Wrinkles that he should have if he were as old as he appeared to be. His eyes are gentle and as blue as the sky on a sunny day.
The hall is bustling with the children rushing to get to class, but for some reason, Kelly doesn’t feel like she needs to bustle any more.
The old man helps her to her feet with a gentle, guiding hand. He helps her to a small, polished, wooden bench that sits outside one of the classrooms and gestures for her to sit down.
He sits down beside her, and as he does, he sighs. Not a tired sigh. A disappointed sigh. But Kelly didn’t feel it was directed at her. Oddly, Kelly begins to feel something she has never felt before in her life. Safe. Secure. Loved.
Before she can help herself, she ducks her head into the shoulder of his royal blue sweater, pressing her face into its softness. She allows her mind and heart to melt, and years worth of frozen tears begin to flow like a river, soaking the sleeve of his sweater.
His warm, gentle hand rubs and pats her back like a baby. This unfamiliar, loving gesture makes her cry harder.
Finally, she has no more tears left, but unwilling to let go of this rare, and safe cocoon, she keeps her eyes closed and her faced pressed against the downy soft sweater.
In a voice filled with love, kindness, and wisdom, she hears him speak, “I’m sorry, child. I know this is hard”
There is a pause. There is something in his voice that rings of undeniable truth. Kelly has absolutely no doubt that she can trust every single word this man says.
“It will continue to be hard for a little while more. But each trial will make you stronger.” He paused again, as if to make sure that every word is being heard and understood.
“Turn to your Father, in heaven. He hears your prayers everyday. He catches your tears and weeps with you. You will grow strong. Strong in love, in hope, in joy, in peace, and in purpose. Yes, in purpose. You will be a woman after God’s own heart. You are loved and treasured.”
Kelly starts to feel like she is floating. She still hears his kind voice, but now as if he is far away.
“There will be a day. Look for a girl to comfort, just as God Himself has comforted you in your troubles.”
“Miss Kelly Sandoval? What are you doing sitting in the hallway when you need to be in class? The tardy bell will ring in one minute.”
Kelly’s eyes fly open. It’s Sister Moran.
Without a word she gets up quickly and walks to class. There is no more pain. It is not because she is numb again. She is warm now. A warmth that she has never felt before flows through her; and as she walks down the hall her face lights up and does something it has never done before. Kelly smiles.
She never saw that old man again. And nobody but Diane even remembers he was ever there.
Twenty years later, she is in a cab in a different city. She is picking up her daughter, Lily, who had been visiting her Gramma, Kelly’s mother. Her mother’s house is around the corner from a beautiful park. Seeing what a beautiful Spring day it is, she asks the cabbie to drop her off at the park. She’ll walk the rest of the way.
She takes in a deep, satisfying breath of the Spring air scented with new grass, flowers, and budding trees. She begins to walk jauntily through the park and then- stops.
She sees a little girl in a blue and black plaid skirt on her knees and palms. The hard, rough sidewalk must be scraping her bare knees. Her skirt billows around her and her head is down.
A blonde girl, looking like someone Kelly used to know is looking down on the little girl and laughing.
Kelly whispers, “Thank you, Lord. For everything.”
Kelly knows what she needs to do.
*I personally do not believe in Purgatory. I believe that Jesus on the cross was the"Perfect" payment for our sins becasue he is perfect. The bible is clear that we can never, earn,pay or work our way into heaven.