The Black Eye

November 29, 2007

By the second day, the large goose egg just above Esther’s eyebrow was hardly noticeable.

It kinda surprised me considering the hammer end of a large claw hammer had hit her pretty hard.  Esther was excited to see the swelling go down and the tenderness go away… and thought the worst of it was over.  But having seen a few black eyes in my day, I knew it had just begun.

The “attack of the claw hammer” happened on one of our Thursday Service Nights.  You see, about 3 months ago, we decided that a weekly service project would help all of us get out of the house, spend some quality family time, and reap the rewards of giving freely to others.  It has been a blast!

On this particular night, we were at a friend’s new house, helping them remodel.  It is an old house – built around the 50’s or so.  The walls were all lathe and plaster, reinforced with chicken wire.

Esther, with dust mask on, was going after the living room wall with a vengeance, when she got in a tug-of-war match with a section of wire.  In the end she won.  With a mighty wrench, the wire suddenly gave up its grasp on the wall, causing the hammer to jerk back and even more suddenly connect with her eyebrow.

Well, by the fourth day, the draining started… the large pool of black and blue blood that had collected above her lovely brow, began to ooze down… first into her eyelid… then taking her eye hostage… and then finally running in streaks of violet down her cheek.

The colorful display stayed for almost 2 weeks, standing as a monument to her willingness to serve selflessly and at the cost of personal injury.  Because, you know what?  The next Thursday, she was right back at that wall, hammering, pulling, and tearing with the rest of us.

Family service… give it a try… just watch out for the hammer.

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Parenting In The Trenches

October 29, 2007

Technically, the little farm of our friend is not within Spanish Fork’s city limits. But we weren’t thinking of that on Friday afternoon as we got out of the car and walked down the steep hill to the lower garage.

I was the first one down and warmly greeted Nancy and Gerald who were using the tractor to move a 1 ton bale of grass hay off the massive haystack they had, just to the north of the garage. I chuckled as I thought how that haystack was wider, deeper, and taller than the first 3 houses Margie and I lived it. Well, with 15 horses and 4 cows, I guess she needed all that hay for the winter.

Looking back over my shoulder, I saw a chain of children making their way down the old railroad ties serving as steps down the hill. One had a rake. One had a pick ax. One had a shovel. The others were trailing along and laughing or talking. The image of Snow White’s seven dwarfs popped into my mind and deepened the joy I was feeling in that moment. And of course, the very vision of beauty and rapture herself came at the end of this long line of children.

“So, where do you want it?” I asked.

“Right across the road leading down to the barns… and I need it 18 inches deep. Sorry.” Nancy said.

“No problem! We’ll have it done in a jiffy.”

Well, as a matter of fact, it was a problem and certainly wasn’t done in a jiffy. But all the better for my purposes. Of course, we were not there to have a jolly visit. We were there to work. Both Nancy and Gerald are in their 70’s (maybe 80’s for all I know) and with no farm-hands, they manage all their projects by themselves… and some things they simply cannot do… like digging 18 inch ditches.

At first glance the road seemed to be a dirt road. But, actually, it was 2 inches of dirt covering 10 inches of old asphalt. And that is where the trouble started. As my pick ax slammed into the blacktop, my muscles groaned and my face split into a grin – this was going to be a lot of work for my boys. Over the next 2 hours, I swung the pick ax and they manned the shovels, clearing large chunks of asphalt, rocks, dirt, and gravel.

On their faces I could see the strain of physical labor and in their hearts I could see the transforming power of serving others without compensation or promised rewards.

Stopping for a break and a drink of water I saw Margie, Esther and Hyrum running down the hill. They had been up at the house raking leaves out of the yards. With a burst of excitement, Hyrum announced that they had already raked and scooped up more than 20 large black bags of leaves.

The signs of service were unmistakable on their faces as well.

Three weeks earlier before, we went down to Nancy’s farm to dig the trench and rake up leaves, we had a Family Council. The topic was giving of ourselves in service. The Council had decided that once a week – usually every Thursday – we would find a project to do for someone, and secretly if we could manage it.

Walking back up the hill that afternoon, I saw each of the children helping their buddy into the car. They talked pleasantly with each other, some holding hands, others with their arms around each other. No fighting, no bickering, no contention. There it was again… the home feeling.