Who Has a Broken Heart?

Who Has a Broken Heart?
Memoir Chapter
I peered into the reflection of the mirror and I wondered who the person was staring back at me. I had been too depleted financially to get my hair done at a beauty shop and was taken by a friend to a hair design school. This is a shop where the students learning to cut hair practice on you.  I sat nervously in the chair as the dye was placed on my head and the foils. Soon I was ushered under the dryer but something kept running down my neck. The dye had seeped through the foil. After shampooing the stylist showed me the brown spots that ran and dried. There were large dark brown spots in my blonde hair that looked horrible. Her assistant came out, the manager and soon a host of women were standing around my chair trying to decide what to do with the mess. The manager asked if she could re-dye and cut my hair. I nodded and sat in shock as I heard her clippers begin to literally shave the back of my head in a boy type haircut that left me with about an inch or two of hair on top that she spiked with gel. The color red she chose was more of a burgundy and covered the brown spots. It was such a drastically different look for me that I still had trouble gazing into the mirror when it was time to go out in public.
Losing my hair was just an outward sign. I had lost so many things I loved with such a swiftness, it seemed like one blow would knock me to my knees and before I could recover from the next one, down I’d go again.  The pain I felt seemed to seep out of my pores.   I felt as if I was walking around with blood oozing from my heart. I kept dabbing at the seeping places, applying pressure but to no avail. This pain was so heavy it made breathing problematic.
I drove the short distance to the church assembly and made my way inside with my new fashion statements, my cane, and red hair. Just trying to stand during one song was a struggle for me. Although I was better and able to drive some, I was still very spent from the chronic fatigue. Losing my health was more like losing my freedom.
Everything that identified me as a person had been plucked away.  I had begun to talk to Job as if he and I were old friends. “Oh Job what did it feel like when the messenger came with the news of more pain”? “How did you bow and begin to worship our Lord Adonai after hearing of the death of your children, your livestock, your servants, your health?”  I sighed and hobbled out of the mini-van and entered the sanctuary. I tried to focus on the people around me in the pews. They smiled, clapped their hands and sang loudly. Many had the joy that I coveted. Genuine joy. I am sure they all had a story–it seemed many I encountered did.
The message the pastor gave was well needed and many scriptures he quoted seem to speak to me, encourage me even.  He was gifted in the prophetic and humble and I knew I was where I was supposed to be going back then. I had just started driving this small distance to fellowship with other believers a few months prior but sitting alone on the pew was just a reminder that everything in my life had become empty.
I knew the Father had taken the desire from my eyes in more ways than one when he took the man I was sharing my life with.  He was in control but the pain was unbearable some days. I missed people,  I missed my pets, my step daughter, my job, my life as I knew it and yes a man that left me.  I couldn’t help but wonder how God could take my life and make anything out of it again. It seemed hopeless. I was too sick to start over and too empty. I did not know then that God loved empty vessels that He could fill. Elijah said to an empty widow, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few” 2nd Kings 4:2 ESV. She borrowed and the oil poured forth and filled them all. I needed to become empty of everything that was SELF so He could pour in HIS oil and His Spirit.
The service was coming to a close and soon the minister was asking if there was anyone who needed healing in their body. “If you have any sickness or disease please come up front we would like to pray for you according to James 5:14, Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord”.
I stood there on wobbly legs, my cane in hand but did not budge from my seat. I watched as many made their way down to the “altar.” I listened as the minister placed his hands on the heads of the many and began to pray for each one. My heart hurt so badly.  In that moment I began to notice the seeping blood and the sweeping sorrow and the constant throbbing that seemed to take my very breath. My heart felt like a sieve that blood was pouring out of. HELP! SOS! HELP!
I began to scream inside my soul, pleading even, “Oh Abba Father I am sick in my body, this is true, but MY HEART IS BROKEN IN A MILLION PIECES. PLEASE HEAL MY HEART. Father can you take this grief away, it’s more than I can endure.  I began to cry and ask Him over and over until something profound happened. Something so incredibly intimate it brought tears that poured down my face like the constant rain. Suddenly the minister raised the microphone to his lips and said, “I need everyone to stop for a minute, I need your attention, The Father is telling me that there is a person here who has a broken heart, and I can see it, its battered, shredded and bruised. WHERE ARE YOU?” He began to look over the congregation and I raised my hand, my small insignificant hand. He said, people, I want you all to go lay hands on our sister as we pray for God to heal her heart and in that moment, in that precious moment I suddenly didn’t care about my heart. I was so in awe that HE HEARD ME and that He loved me enough to speak to His minister. He loved me enough to stop praying over people with physical ailments to envelop me. He knew. He saw. He wanted to take His Son’s nail scarred hands and hold my gaping places and pat the blood that had oozed out with His blood. Oh, I needed an Intimate Father in more ways than one–one that was intricate and detailed. He would speak with not only A ROAR THAT SAID, “GET YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER” But also in a whisper that blew across my heart and held it to His. Oh, what a GLORIOUS Father!
hands-heart

Psalm 34:18 (TLV)

The righteous cry out and Adonai hears,
and delivers them from all their troubles.”

Elmer the Rich Man

elmer the rich man
Elmer Chastening stood atop a bluff overlooking his vast acreage. The velvet green rolling hills cascaded into the distance.  The tall pine trees breathed in deeply and exhaled into the misty fog beneath. The thick dense forest stretched its arms and waited patiently for maturity. But Elmer didn’t see trees. His eyes saw crisp dollar bills waving in the breeze where leaves should have been. He would wait patiently for cutting the timber, as he had waited patiently for most the things he valued in his life.
He was barely eleven years old when he’d learned to strap a yoke collar on a mule. Elmer remembered clearly the day his father had taken him down to Saline Clifford’s place and told him to get the mules hitched for plowing, he’d had a putrid hatred for heat, sweat, blisters, and the sound of his stomach demanding food that wasn’t there for the taking. No, he would never let that happen again. He couldn’t.
He wasn’t going to have one of his children walking to school with no shoes on, or worse, shoes so tight they rubbed the back of your heels until the flesh came clear off. “Why wear any shoes at all, thought Elmer?” Pride, he guessed. No, sir. His children might hate him for the workload he gave them, but he’d rather they did that then live with the humility he’d been cloaked with growing up.
Elmer owned a good deal of the small town of Heaping KY– if you didn’t count color town which ran clear across the other side of the tracks down Lewis Street. Most the white folks didn’t cross the tracks and seldom did a black man dare cross except to see a doctor, dentist, or the likes. The small town was seldom silent and almost never dull.
Heaping had been abundantly fertile to Elmer, just like his wife Gladys. But life had not always been perfect and Elmer had seen the effects of the Great Depression first hand, as he was born during the beginning of it.
Elmer had six children; all strong and of goodly countenance. War had taken its toll on a couple; but they sprang back like the elastic of a rubber band, sturdy yet versatile.
His wife, Gladice, was anything but giddy; although her name might suggest otherwise. No, she was serious and inquisitive, annoying at times even. Of course, he wasn’t the easiest fellow to get along with and could lose his temper over the smallest irritant. When this happened he seemed to completely black out and become someone he was not even familiar with. It hadn’t been that long ago that he had taken a fresh green switch and beat one of his children until the blood sprang forth. Gladice had grabbed the switch and broke it in half. “Elmer stop!” she’d screamed.  “ELMER LOY CHASTENINGS you’re going to kill that child!” It was in that moment that he seemed to come crashing back into reality, and felt sure that the proverb that said “punish them with the rod and save them from death,” was not perhaps meant to be as forceful as he had taken it. He’d tried hard in the last couple years to stop disciplining them at all. He’d let Gladdy do that he thought. Yes. For Gladice’s words were like chicken soup– warm and nourishing to the soul, but his words tended to be more aptly described as tar trying to mix with water; hot and sticky, repellant even.
Gladice was a sturdy woman with broad shoulders and breast that had satisfied Elmer for over twenty-five years now. She had dark chestnut hair, thicker than the pines, and her eyes were as violet as an Aster bloom. She could outwork most men and she cooked better than his mother ever did. Perhaps it was due to the fact that there was plenty of food to be had in Heaping and an abundance on Elmer’s table–and he needed an abundance to keep all the mouths fed.
His son’s names and their order of birth are as follows– Elmer Almon jr, Samuel Wesley, Johnathan David, and Joe Dellas.  His last son, Clifton Robert, died of measles shortly after his first birthday. They would have grieved in anguish longer had it not been for the surprise of a daughter, their first, Katheleen Sophia, and then two years later Eva Victoria was born. She being the last of seven.
At night, after all the children were in their beds Elmer would reach for Gladice and she would lay listening to the sounds of mattress springs keeping rhythm with her husband’s body. She’d sigh softly wondering if this would be the last time her womb would fill up with life. Elmer figured the more children he had the more workers and the more workers meant more money and money was his constant companion. The fear of never having enough was a restless irritant.
Yes, Elmer and Gladice were proud of their four sons and two daughters. The eldest was one of the finest men in town. Almon was a good shoulder above the rest of the boys and handsomely mysterious with his seaweed eyes and blondish auburn hair. Elmer put him in charge of the service station he’d opened last June. His charisma worked somewhat of a magic over the customers. They trusted Almon with their vehicles, the cost of repairs and the prices he quoted to them.  He had a  humble smile and what appeared to be a genuine concern for their pocket books. Many young men his age were moving to bigger cities to work in the automotive industry or factories that were popping up after the war, but Elmer wanted his children to stay in Heaping and Almon wouldn’t begin to know how to think for himself. No, that was something his father did for him. There was an understanding among the Chastening’s and that was to never go against Elmer’s wishes or desires.
Heaping was growing for a town its size and Elmer was seeing to it that he was part of that growth. The station had been profitable and he had hired a mechanic who was training his sons on all the repairs of the latest automobiles. Once Elmer felt secure with the first service station, he had plans to open another in the next town over.
Elmer sighed again as he looked over his land and thought about all the sweat and determination it had taken for him to become someone. Yes, he was someone now.  Elmer had made something of himself, and as you can imagine when Elmer walked down the streets of Heaping everyone knew who he was and what he was worth. Everyone in the town loved Elmer and used words such as good, kind, a man of God, a great father and husband, a loyal friend, easy going and even comical jokester was added at times. Yes, all these adjectives were used to describe the affections bestowed upon him.  After some time he acquired a nickname in the town of Heaping. There was Charlie the milkman, Frank the postman, Connie the beautician, Lane the tailor and the townspeople referred to him as simply, “Elmer the rich man.” Just the sound of it tickled his ears and made his chest puff out further. “Elmer the rich man,” he spoke into the thick air of the morning. His eyes twinkled. He clicked his teeth making a tweek, tweek, click, click sound and kicked up his heels. He counted the coins in his left pocket as he walked down the hill with a sass in his step.
 Elmer loved to count things. Nothing was ever wasted in his sight. If extreme was what Elmer wanted than extreme is what he got. He prided himself in having the same car for almost fifteen years. Of course, he had splurged on a new 47 Cadillac, with white wall tires. It was pearly cream in color, but he’d never driven further than the church house and back home in it–Kept it clean and waxed and covered. Everything was measured in worth here at the Chastening’s home. To get something new for a Chastening was a rather peculiar occurrence and yet their house stood higher than anyone’s in the town. Sunday morning attire was the finest to be had and even his daughters were cloaked in satin and silk. Come Monday it was back to basics and cutting corners to squeeze a dime out of a nickel.
Elmer didn’t trust banks and although he had a large sum in the First Bank of Heaping. He also had quite a few coffee cans hidden in the barn, among other precarious places.
Elmer’s front porch wrapped around the house and stood tall from the Corinthian columns that lined the front. The inside was even more breath-taking. The spectacular circular staircase greeted guest at the entrance and the woodworking was impeccable. Dust did not have a chance to settle in Elmer’s home because he was a perfectionist. Each lamp, crystal vase, and gilded gold picture were placed just so–causing the light to catch the eye and leaving one mesmerized by the beauty of the objects. But like all houses who kept their tenants sheltered underneath their dwellings, their occupants carried secrets–secrets the window curtains tried to cover with their heavy tapestries. Secrets the birds knew that chirped outside in spring and secrets that were forbidden to be discussed for fear that once the words were spoken their power would destroy each and every occupant. Each family member knew that speaking these secrets would forever change the course of history and then everything the occupants were trying to hold together would collapse. Implode, and erupt.
And. . . Yet even the biscuits and redeye gravy seemed to try and cover them like a thick coating that stuck to their insides and stopped the pain from seeping out. Sticky jams and marmalades drenched in butter churned and beaten covered them. Sometimes the secrets were covered by music, laughter, and even a taste of wine or sherry on occasion, but mark my word they lingered like the smell of eggs after a boil. Putrid and rotten. Even the fans and the perfume couldn’t escape them. Yes, the Chastening’s had their own demons to deal with, but we’ll get to that later. As for now in our story, Elmer has just left gazing over the land he owns and has just kissed his wife, tickled the youngest Victoria in the ribs and grabbed his coat and hat.
It’s Monday morning in the town of Heaping and Elmer is getting ready to drive into town and check on his Service Station and his saw mill.  He’s about to get inside his car, the one he drives everywhere, not the one for show. Certainly, that’s really where our story begins, because Elmer Chastening routine is getting ready to become greatly altered and the choices he makes will forever change his path and I would assume your path as well.  If I could oblige you to bend your ear for a moment, I’d like to tell you the story of Elmer’s predicament and how it came about. Perhaps, I’ll articulate it well enough to leave just a touch of Elmer’s fingerprints upon your soul?
If you ever find yourself in Heaping KY, look for the flag pole on Taylor Street and turn right at the service station. Follow the light post and the road that winds and curves down Boulder street and just to your left, you’ll see a road tucked back behind some trees, a road named after the very folks who live there, The Chastening’s. If you walk up the exquisite porch and take a hand to the brass knocker on the cherry red doors, you might just meet Elmer’s wife Gladys. If she invites you for tea, which more than likely she will because that’s just her nature, do try and study the creases right above her temple area and the violet of her eyes that now has softly faded. And after you dip your silver spoon into her rose covered tea cup and taste of the orange Asberry spice with ginger, do gaze out the sitting room, past the redwoods, and down the hill. There you’ll see a large oak tree with some carvings dug neatly into its skin and six steps beyond lies a secret box buried deep beneath the earth. A box filled with secrets that were never meant to be dug up. . . or buried for that matter. Buried secrets cause the most disparagement. For even though they may lie quietly at the bottom of the sea, their spirits walk amongst us.