The Prophetic Dream

I’ve always had very visual dreams, and I usually remember them. As a little boy, some could even be classified as night terrors as I would wake up screaming, and my dad would rush in and hold me during such frightening episodes. Other dreams were just oddly nonsensical, and some were good, but a select few were prophetic.  

During my MFA program in visual art, an older, black woman named Tamara asked me one day after class, “Terry, do you have dreams?” 

I answered a little interested in her question, “Yes, I do.” 

She said without hesitation in her long, calm voice, “You know some are prophetic, don’t you?” She seemed to have a supernatural confidence about her words.

“Then why don’t they all come true?” I asked with polite scholarly criticism. 

She answered, “Some dreams take a lifetime to come true … some after that.” 

When I went back to my dorm area—they were called the mods at APU—I thought about the dream I had as a beginning undergraduate student. If any dream had ever been prophetic, that particular dream felt like a real vision from God. 

In between misguided college relationships while searching for the one, I had a dream. I was invited to my friend’s wedding, and it was out of town. Dressed up in wedding attire, I got into my car and pulled onto the highway to begin the distant journey to a location I had never heard of before. About an hour or so later, I followed the card stock printed directions from the wedding invitation and pulled off the highway to a regular road surrounded by more agricultural land. I followed the directions turn after turn until I found myself further away from anything that would resemble a wedding venue. I double checked the directions and continued to follow them apprehensively. Thousands of trees hid any sign of my location as they surrounded both sides of that two-lane road.  

Then I slowed as the asphalt faded into a dirt road.  

I stopped my car.  

Something had to be wrong.  

I pulled out my directions and recounted every turn. This was before GPS or smartphones, so I only had the card stock printed directions as my guide.  

I looked all around me, and due to the trees, I couldn’t see anything.  

There was no way my friend would have his wedding in the middle of nowhere, I thought. The logical thing to do would be to turn around and try to find where I messed up, where I missed or misread some sign or turn.

But something deep inside told me to just trust the instructions and have faith in something other than myself.

I started up my car to move forward on the dirt road. It wasn’t bad at first, but then my car began to feel each little divot and hole as I was jerked left and right.  

At this point I thought, well, I’ve already gone this far. I might as well keep trusting the directions. 

And I did, even though it was completely illogical. It made no sense. There was no way my friend would have chosen to get married way out here where people would have to take a dirt road that made you feel like you were on the King Kong ride at Universal Studios.

But then … I saw a turn come up. It was the next and last turn printed in the directions.

I took it.

The thousands of trees opened up, and before me was a small lake, a large pasture of green grass, rows of white folding chairs—the wedding venue.

I parked and walked up to be greeted by friends with excited smiles ready to celebrate a special occasion. Behind the flower-covered alter was the setting sun casting a radiant orange to pink gradient glow through the sky and reflecting off the water. It was the kind of sun that didn’t hurt to look at briefly, the kind that welcomed the cool evening and the awaiting stars.

I felt a special presence outside at that venue. It was God. And I already considered the analogy of following his directions even when life gets confusing and difficult, even when things don’t make sense.

My lonely natural self thought how nice it would be to have a girlfriend in such as setting, someone to just sit next to me and share such a glorious scene.  

But I decided to be thankful for what I had. I was there in the presence of God, in a holy place for a holy reason.  

Then I sense someone coming up behind me. I heard a voice behind my right shoulder say hello. It was one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard.  

I then felt an inaudible voice from within say, “This is her, Terry. Here’s your future wife.”

I turned to my right as I widened my eyes to see her with the most eager excitement.

It was my bedroom.

I was awake now.

And all I had was the sound of her voice still in my head developing into a lucid memory.

Even if I tried, I knew I couldn’t go back to sleep. It was unlike any dream I’ve ever had, and I knew no one would understand if I tried to explain it to them. I walked around my room for a bit, and then reached for my Bible for some sort of answer.  

I normally never condoned such Bible reading practices, but I opened it up to a random page desperate for a heavenly answer. I immediately read the first verse I saw. Proverbs 3:8: “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” 

Fifteen years went by of private mental battles about the authenticity of that dream until on a regular Sunday morning I heard the same voice again when she walked into Bible study.

And this time, it wasn’t a dream.

The Christmas Tie

There was an excitement in the crispy, cold air as students hurried through the halls of my junior high in their California-thin jackets the week before Christmas break. The two-week break was practically an eternity for us young teens. And there was also the excitement of the anticipated Christmas presents. Christmas always seemed to be the time when the best video games were released with the newest gaming consoles.  

I was in the 8th grade, and it was my first year in band. I was a drummer. And although many would say that it should be illegal to give junior high boys drumsticks, drumming was a great passion of mine, but since it was my first year in band, I wasn’t very skilled yet.  

The top band students got to leave school early the Friday before Christmas break to perform in a musical Christmas concert off campus, and boys had to wear ties and girls, dresses. Some of the nerdy band boys got all dressed up in tight dress pants tucked in too much, exposing their awkward transitioning junior high bodies. But not the drummers. They wore their dress shirts but tucked them into lose jeans, and their ties hung a little more casually and were bright with fun colors, some even rebelliously featuring cartoon characters. So somehow it became the cool thing to wear a tie on that last day of school before Christmas break.  

The night before the last day of school, I asked my mom around 8ish at night, if she would take me to get a tie to wear.  

Yes, I was one of those kids who waited until the last moment to tell my parents anything—my mother hated science fair projects.  

When I mentioned my tie request to my mother, I didn’t expect her to be all for it. I didn’t really need to wear a tie; I just kind of wanted to. My mom responded with enthusiasm, and we hurriedly hopped into our family’s minivan and drove to Mervyn’s because they were open later than most of the other clothing stores.  

She and I searched the large store as elevator Christmas songs placed in the background. It was the same Mervyn’s she used to take me to for back-to-school shopping when I was little, and I would hide inside of the giant clothes racks, the circular ones.  

My mother and I eventually found the perfect tie. It displayed the Looney Tunes characters with a Christmas theme. My mom bought me a dress shirt to match it too, and the next day at school, I was one of the cool kids … well, maybe not “cool,” but I stood out in a way that I liked.  

As a grown man today, happily married and with my own son, I understand my mother’s eager excitement during those short hours of late-night shopping, and to this day, that Looney Tunes Christmas tie still hangs in my closet with all my others.  

In many ways I have learned about God’s character through my mom. I didn’t need that tie, but she still blessed me with it. God does the same, and we need to remember all the blessings we have been given in our life—all the ties. 

New Christmas Novel Published on Amazon

I want to share my deepest appreciation to everyone who reads and shares my posts from Tripp Blog and supports me in my writing. I have not been writing on Tripp Blog as much lately due to being a first-time father and a doctoral student, but I have been writing books. My newest book is called Christmas Land: And Other Seasonal Stories. It’s a story that encompasses all of our popular Christmas mythology into one novel. Viewers can have fun finding references to Christmas movies, cartoons, songs, and stories from popular culture. This story is like a literary Where’s Waldo book. I specifically did not include the Nativity in this Christmas story because I did not want people to associate the true story of Christ’s birth with elements of playful popular culture.

Also included in this book are short, Christmas stories that pull at the heartstrings. I challenge you to try to read these without tearful eyes or a wistful heart. Here’s the main book summary:

After Cindy loses her grandmother, the young graphic designer in her twenties faces the yuletide season alone in the small mountain town of Timberton Heights. This Christmas will be unlike any other as she uncovers the magical land of Christmas. Classic legends meet modern day reality in this new seasonal novel of Christmas adventure that will help anyone get into the Christmas spirit. Terry Tripp’s collection of short stories touches upon the wistfulness of the Christmas season as they span the spectrum of human thought and emotion, leaving readers in a pensive state of awe. Tripp pushes his readers to meditate upon life, death, love, and family in these touching holiday tales.

Terry Tripp

I hope you enjoy this Christmas book, and I pray that it encourages you to reflect gently during this cold season while being moved to appreciate this very unique Christmas.

New Published Book on Christian Worship

I want to share my appreciation to all of you who read and share my posts from Tripp Blog and support me in my writing. I have not been writing on Tripp Blog as much lately due to being a first-time father and a doctoral student. My son is now five-months old, and I’m officially halfway through my doctoral program in worship studies. Although it’s an interesting time in our world, my wife and I are very thankful to be able to spend it together with our growing family.

I felt God calling me to write a book during my last doctoral class, so I did. It’s called Lifestyle Worship: 8 Roles of the Worship Leader. Here’s the preface:

The term “worship leader” is one that is commonly thought of as a person in leadership at a church in charge of musical worship. Although this is a true description, the worship leader can be anyone who leads others to worship God. A senior pastor is a worship leader. A church counselor is a worship leader. A Sunday school teacher is a worship leader. If we are followers of Christ, we should aim to help lead others to worship God, not just in the musical part of the church service but in all areas of life—living out lifestyle worship. Although this book focuses on the musical worship leader, the concepts in it can apply to many different areas where people lead others in lifestyle worship, as it discusses eight important roles to provide direction and encouragement with focus on the calling of being a worship leader.

Terry Tripp

I hope you enjoy this new book, and I pray that it encourages you in living lifestyle worship unto the Lord as a child of God.

The Vegabond

Vegabond

Adventure. It was a yearning that Shawn and I shared, and we would often take last minutes drives out of town. This time in life, Shawn was married with two little girls, and I was still single at age 34. I always thought I would get married at 27, but I was wrong.

Sometimes in life we are wrong.

I was in the middle of my masters in fine arts (MFA) in visual arts degree at Azusa Pacific University, and art was on my mind. There was an art show opening in Chinatown, which was one of the Los Angeles art districts at the time. Some of my APU professors were going to be there, along with two gallery owners who became friendly acquaintances.

Seeking last minute adventure, I texted Shawn, and we cruised down the 5 to Los Angeles on a Saturday evening catching up on all of life’s little details.

It was September 5th, and the fall season was introducing itself with the slight change of weather and the coming county fair with the anticipation of Halloween following shortly.

We decided to take a detour and check out a Halloween super store in Los Angeles. Shawn and I roamed down the towering aisles packed with all genres of costumes, yard decorations, masks, toys, etc. It was a world of make-believe awaiting the cooling season. We examined it all. I remember the swords. We took up the plastic weapons and wielded them in the middle of the aisle.

It was a short flashback to childhood.

And then we moved on to the couple’s costumes.

Examining all the different themes—some funny, some stupid—I told Shawn, “Someday I would like a girlfriend who would want to dress up with me for Halloween. Someone who I would want to dress up with too.”

Once again, I was 34, and I was beginning to wonder if I was being too picky about who I should marry. Some people would tell me, “You’ll just know when you meet her.” Others would tell me, “You can’t be too picky; nobody’s perfect.” I knew no one was perfect, but I still had expectations. I still had a list. And I felt that God told me to hold onto that list.

But I was 34.

Single.

I told Shawn, “Maybe I need to ignore a few items on my list and just get married already.”

I could tell Shawn was in a difficult place to answer; he wasn’t for sure what to tell me.

Back on the highway through the downtown city lights, we arrived at the art show. We viewed colorful art, ate authentic Chinese food, but mainly talked to a bunch of different people. I made some helpful contacts in the LA art community, and we called it a night.

At one point of the night, Shawn took a break from the gregarious groups of art enthusiasts and wandered around the area to capture some creative photos. Shawn had a deep passion for photography. Later, he showed me one of his photos and tagged me on Instagram. He titled it, “The Vagabond.”

Honestly, I had to look up that word: “A person who wanders from place to place without a home.”

I appreciated the photo.

It was me taking a break from the crowds.

By myself.

Blurry.

The late drive back to our hometown was long and full of tiring thoughts: I need to just commit to a decent girl. I’m being too picky. I’m not going to meet a girl who fits every expectation on my list.

I wrestled with my newly found conclusion on my way to church the next morning.

I walked up the stairs to my Bible study life group.

I went in and greeted everyone with a smile, trying my best to be encouraging.

I opened up the Bible, and we started reading.

Verse by verse we studied and discussed the Word of God.

Then she walked in—the complete list.

I knew I was no longer a vagabond.

 

Growing Up with OCD

Stressed on Chair

I remember it being silent.

Dark.

Cold.

So early in the morning.

Alone.

It took me two hours to get ready in the mornings when I was in junior high. I scrubbed my entire body with soap and hot water in the bathtub and had to finish rinsing off in the shower. I had to partially air dry after using my towel. My hair had to fall perfectly into place before I plastered it with hairspray. I used my mom’s old blow dryer to warm my feet before putting them in my white socks—I was once told that damp feet cause athlete’s foot.

The meticulous details were physically tiring, and the obsessions were mentally exhausting. I barely made it to school on time to face all the other difficulties of junior high school life. If any part of my arduous morning process went wrong, there was a good chance I was “staying home sick” that day.

I had obsessive-compulsive disorder.

But I was never diagnosed formally.

Before the sun came up one routine morning, I accidentally knocked the blow dryer off the bathroom counter onto the hard tile floor. As I hurried down to pick it up, my hand grabbed onto the loose part of the cord that attached to the handle.

I’m not sure if the lights flickered or not, but with a striking flash, something hurt my hand. I examined myself. Besides for a fading stinking pain, I was okay. I continued my extensive process of getting ready for school. For the entire school day, I smelled the awful stench of burnt hair.

OCD wasn’t talked about as commonly as it is today, so my parents didn’t really understand my behavior. They were concerned though and took me to speak to my junior high school counselor. In his office he asked me a lot of questions. He was a nice man, but overall, he didn’t seem concerned about my behavior. He just encouraged me to try to get to school on time and not miss so many days.

Later on I learned more about obsessive-compulsive disorder. My struggle even helped inspire me to major in psychology. I wrote my college senior paper on the effects of cognitive-behavioral therapy versus selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Reexamining my own mental health past brought some frustration about the interaction that took place with my old junior high counselor so many years ago. I felt he should have known.

Maybe he could have helped me.

Looking back at it all now, I realize that it was a true blessing that I was not formally diagnosed. I was never given medication for it. I wasn’t given a reason or excuse for my struggle. Instead, I was expected to work through it.

That’s exactly what I did.

I learned to truly analyze every compulsive thought to see if it were realistic or not. I asked myself, “Do I really need to wash my hands again?” “Will touching money really hurt my health?” “So what if my hair isn’t perfectly in place?” I then took baby steps to remedy my compulsive behaviors.

I’m not sure if it was just me figuring out how to properly think through my thoughts or growing out of my OCD tendencies with age or my parents’ new family routine of going to church.

I do know that with the prayers of my parents and grandparents, God helped me relearn how to think.

Another boy I grew up with who was a few years younger than me didn’t have the same success. His parents took him in and had him diagnosed. Then came the treatments—drugs. Then came the side-effects. Then came more drugs to help with the side-effects. This led to a 20-year, downward spiral. Today he receives a monthly check from the government and still depends on his parents for stability.

I’m not stating that drugs are always bad when dealing with mental health, but drugs as treatment alone are not enough. There should always be something else paired with pharmaceutical treatment.

Mental health is such a major topic today, and so is physical health. But what people forget to add to this conversation is spiritual health.

We are so much more than physical containers housing neurotransmitters, and understanding this will help us have a proper perspective on life.

We are a soul; we are spiritual.

We have a body.

An earth suit.

And it comes with an unknown expiration date.

Concerning mental health disorders, sometimes the soul is fine but the physical body, the brain, is off. Sometimes the physical body is off because the soul is off.

Does the world ever suggest healing the soul and helping the spirit?

Typically, no. Just more drugs. Or a different drug. Or maybe, yoga.

Let’s be thankful we live in a time where there are drugs to help the physical body, but let’s never forget that more than physical healing, we need healing of the soul; we need spiritual help.

There are times in my life when I still struggle with old OCD tendencies. They come more when I’m tired or experiencing a lot of anxiety, but as I did as a child, I continue to do today. I try my best to take captive each thought. I force myself to go to bed earlier. I enjoy a light jog around the neighborhood. I refocus my life in meditative prayer.

And things get better.

Everyone’s story is different though, but this is mine.

May we seek after God in his Word as we are guided by his Holy Spirit to find the reconciliation that comes through Christ, Jesus—the mighty healer who cares for all parts of us, including every obsessive thought.

 

 

The Wanderer

Night Driving

It was shiny, red, and new. Only two doors. Low to the ground.

Fast.

It was Shawn’s Celica. I had a Corolla, and he bought a new Celica in the midst of the dangerous Fast & Furious craze that overtook the nation. After seeing that movie, every guy in some sort of running car thought he was a racer. I, myself, put a spoiler and chrome rims on my little Corolla and installed a sound system. But my good friend Shawn didn’t have to upgrade his car.

When he picked me up in it, we imaginatively transformed into Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.

Sitting outside at the Market Place during a bored summer night in Bakersfield, our inner youth yearned for adventure. A girl named Jayme was trying to win over our attention, but we weren’t that interested. As she smacked her chewing gum in mid sentence, Shawn interrupted: “Hey, we should go out of town. We should try to get lost.”

It was summer, and my tutoring job on my college campus had ended a few weeks after my classes. “I’m down,” I replied.

The next moment Shawn and I were speeding up the highway driving through rural farm towns in the late night with Jayme riding in the small back seat.

We eventually came to a little town and grabbed some youthful fuel—Taco Bell. We ate it in the parking lot because the restaurant was already closed. As Shawn swallowed down the last of his chalupa, he confessed, “So I’m not sure if we can get lost. It’s harder than I thought.”

I suggested, “Let’s turn off on one of these side roads. We’ll have a better chance then.”

Jayme asked, “So why are we trying to get lost again?”

Shawn replied, “Do you ever get tired of being in only places that you know? How cool would it be to be in some place where you didn’t know where you were?”

We tossed our trash and continued on with our half-full sodas. Old telephone poles flashed beside us as we moved down desolate roads of bumpy asphalt as we were deep in our conversations about life, literature, movies, and video games.

Then it happened.

Shawn yelled out, “Do you know where we are?”

I examined my surroundings and didn’t. I asked, “Wait, are we?”

Shawn pulled over, and yelled, “We’re lost! I don’t know where we are.”

Victory.

We pulled out on the road again, and within only a few minutes, we saw a street sign that informed us we were only a few miles from the highway.

We were not lost; we were wanderers.

When I graduated college with a BA in psychology and a BA in English, I bought my own sporty car after signing my first teaching contract. It was a convertible. I wanted a custom license plate cover but couldn’t think of anything that would appropriately represent me. Then I read a quote from J. R. R. Tolkien: “Not all those who wander are lost.”

Being a Christian and a young, single adult in a valley of college classes and new teaching career would lead to a season of wanderlust.

Seeking out how adult life works while taking risks and even making mistakes in years of unyielding change identified me as a wanderer.

But I was never lost.

That’s how it is knowing Jesus. The road may be dark and desolate. We may be running on the junk food of life. There may be a gum-smacker in the backseat trying to steal your attention.

And for a moment, you may very well believe that you are lost.

Then you see the sign—you remember God’s Word.

You are not lost.

You’re just a wander in a land that’s not your home.

And you’re trying your best to figure it all out.

Hang in there, mighty wanderer. Eventually, we’ll all be home together.

 

 

To Think and to Live 

blog car

Austere seat belt rules seemed to be less meticulous back in the 80s as I loosened up the tight restriction from my waist to lay my head against the boxy side window of the backseat. The telephone pole lines seemed to sway up and down with foothills blurred behind them as the car drove steadily on the two-lane road.

The Game Boy hadn’t been invited yet, and only the rich had televisions in their cars. My parents sometimes had the radio playing oldies quietly in the background on that enduring drive from Derby Acers to Bakersfield and from Bakersfield back to Derby Acers. And I simply sat in the backseat of our long, white car with maroon seats and Life Savors dried into the matching floor mats and stared out the window, attempting to avoid car sickness.

But I really did so much more than just stare—I thought.

I thought about everything a small child could possibly think about. I wondered if I could strain my eyes hard enough to faintly see the Statue of Liberty in the distance. I reflected on cartoons I recently watched. I debated with myself the possible birthday presents I might get months down the road. I revisited confusing feelings I had about that one special girl at school. I anticipated the next time my best friend would come over and how we would team up to fight off imaginary alien invaders or protect our castle from medieval soldiers and dragons. I analyzed the lyrics of the quietly played tunes and tried to make sense of what was being sung. I soaked in the notes and the melody and felt the music.

I thought.

Those long drives were some of the best gifts my parents ever gave me because they gave me so much more than a ride from one point to another; they gave me time—free time.

Time to think.

Time to live.

There were no cell phones, email, or social media. Video games were only in 8-bit. And television was something watched with my mom and dad on the couch.

There was time to play. There was time create. And there was plenty of time to think freely.

All of those minutes of thinking added up to make me who I am today.

Someone who thinks.

I didn’t need programs and lessons on the practice of thinking. I didn’t need an educational mindfulness curriculum. I just needed time.

I hope I can someday give my children the same gift in this technologically packed society of today. I hope they can sit back and watch the telephone pole lines sway in the sunset and observe the mountains around them. I hope they can ponder what is beyond our visible sight. I hope that they can be still and know that God is God. I hope they can learn to hear that still small voice through the deafening static of our society.

I hope they can think so that they can truly live.

 

The Worst Job, Temporarily

 

blog

My parents always had to work jobs in high school, so they missed out on the many common high school activities that are normally associated with the typical, American, high school experience. They made the most out of it with each other, marrying instead of graduating and starting a family a few years later.

They wanted my sister and me to have a different high school experience. As long as we were involved in school activities and earning good grades, we didn’t have to get jobs. Thus high school, for me, was some of the best years of my life, full of new experiences, unfamiliar adventures, and social challenges.

The summer after I graduated high school, my parents informed me that it was time to get a job. And when you’re an 18-year-old with no previous job experience and no employment connections, you don’t get to be picky.

I spent the early days of my summer as a high school graduate driving around in the increasing heat in a long sleeve dress shirt and tie, dropping off resumes at any and every place that looked tolerable.

I recalled my nanny and papa telling me how my dad used to make the best pizzas when he was a teenager working at a pizza parlor when dating my mom. He would bring them over on the nights he closed after loading up the pizzas with the best combination of cheese and toppings.

I can still hear my nanny say, “Best pizza I ever ate!” as she sat on his couch reminiscing back to the past as my papa nodded in agreement.

Following in my father’s footsteps, I drove to a pizza parlor near my house. After introducing myself to the manager and asking about employment, I was turned away with the common “We’re not hiring right now.”

After a few days of more rejections all around town, I decided to go back to the pizza parlor again to ask if they were hiring now. This time the manager said, “We’re not hiring right now but maybe later.”

A few more days went by with no luck on my job hunt, so I went back to the pizza parlor again. This time the manager asked, “Why do you want to work here so bad?”

I explained I thought it would be a neat job. And that’s how I got my first job. Or that’s how I got the worst job I ever had in my life.

I learned quickly that my dreamy idea of making pizzas while cracking innocent jokes with a new community of friendly faces was far from reality.

I was the joke.

The workers there were not what I would describe as people of high character, and I didn’t belong.

And they knew it.

And they wanted to make sure I knew it.

I seldom heard my name without profanity attached to it, and I was yelled at for questioning their disagreeable procedures, such as making salads with their bare hands directly after handling money and crushing the ice down with their foot when too much was placed into the soft drink ice machine tray. One of their favorite moments was when some kids set off a cherry bomb in the toilet, and they laughed hysterically as they watched me mop off the filth from the walls and ceiling.

The real humbling moment was when I saw my high school ex-girlfriend walk in holding hands with one of my old friends. I had heard that they were dating, but the moment of humility was when they saw me and uncontrollability let out a slight laugh of shock. My post high school life looked dim and lame as I stood there in a cheaply printed pizza parlor t-shirt with one of my managers staring down at me from the oven, looking for a reason to criticize me. When they had finished eating their pizza, my manager quickly yelled at me to clean up their mess as they were still walking out the door.

Now you might think one of the advantages of working at a pizza parlor would be getting free pizza every now and then. Not for me. I was allowed to buy pizza at a small discount, and when making minimum wage, I wasn’t about to spend an hour and a half of my wages on a pizza. During hungry evenings there was a real temptation to sneak a bite from unfinished pizzas left on tables. Being a rule follower, I would throw away half eaten pizzas that were still warm from the oven and leave work hungry.

It wasn’t long until I found a better job working at the bookstore on my university’s campus, which really was a breath of fresh air. My managers there appreciated my hard work and even rewarded it by increasing my responsibilities. I made friends there and got to meet many of the university’s professors before classes began. Plus, I enjoy books far more than pizza.

Eventually, the fall came, and a very special moment of my life happened.

I arrived on my university’s campus to be early on that first day of college, and as I stepped onto the white sidewalk and strolled over freshly cut green grass still wet from the morning’s dew, I took in a deep breath and exhaled in victory knowing that I had made it farther than anyone in my family.

I was a university student.

I was going to be the first in my entire family to graduate college.

And I did, and now I have a wonderful job.

The worst job was only temporary. And that’s something to remember when God has us walk through the valleys in lifeor through the pizza parlors.

It’s only temporary.

Even the good career I have now is only temporary.

It’s all only temporary.

This is why our focus should not be on what can be seen around us, for all of this is only temporary. Our focus should be on the things that are not seen, for those things are eternal.

 

Underarm Deodorant

Old Woman

Not everyone is lucky enough to know their great-grandmother, but I was. Grandma Patterson is what we called her. From Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, she and my great-grandfather brought their many children over to California for a better life. She spent her time working in the laborious fields and raising her 10 children.

When I knew her, she was already old. She wore her hair pulled back tightly into a brown bun that rested on the back of her head. She mostly wore long straight dresses that hung like giant t-shirts. She was overweight some, and she hunched over when she walked.

And her eye vision was failing.

Back then, people didn’t always wear sunglasses when working outside in the fields, and a lifetime of abuse from the unforgiving sun did a number on my Grandma Patterson.

When I was in the sixth grade, I was chubby with an acne covered face and a mouth full of metal. My undiagnosed OCD caused me to slick my hair straight down with a perfect part so not a single hair would ever dare go out of place. I was extremely shy, awkward, and my best friends went by the names of Nintendo and Sega. Needless to say, I didn’t have girls chasing after me, and I didn’t blame them.

For Christmas that year, I remember unwrapping a Christmas present from Grandma Patterson. I think it was the last one I ever remember receiving from her. It was a green bottle of spray deodorant.

Yes, underarm deodorant.

I opened it up not knowing how to react. I was still at the young age when body odor didn’t exist, but I didn’t want to be rude, so I forced out a “Thank you!” with a decent smile.

My great-grandma stood up and walked over to me hunched over. She leaned in close to me and said, “You spray a little of that here and there, and you’ll have to fight those little girlies off of you.” She motioned like she was spraying it on both sides of my neck.

It then made sense to me and my observing parents that my Grandma Patterson thought she bought me spray cologne. Like I said earlier, her eyesight was failing.

Not too long later, I visited her with my family, and she said to me, “Terry, I bet all those little girlies are after you now, aren’t they?”

I answered awkwardly, “I don’t know.”

She continued, “Well, this is what you do. You need to get yourself a baseball bat in one hand and a croquet stick in the other, so when the girlies come after you on the right, you can knock them off with the left, and when they come after you on the left, you can knock them off with the right.”

I thought she really must not be able to see the dorky looking kid standing right in front of her; the girls at my school didn’t want anything to do with me.

On our way home that night, I silently chuckled in the backseat of our family minivan. And after thinking about it some more, it was nice to have someone see something in me I didn’t see in myself, even if that person was going blind. It was encouraging that she saw something in me that she thought others would find attractive.

A few years later, my acne cleared up, my braces were taken off, and my hair hung more loosely and naturally as it grew out in a blond, suffer style. I lost weight and spent time outside swimming in my family’s new pool as my skin darkened into a healthy shade. With my newly gained confidence, I traded in my timid shyness for a gregarious, extroverted personality.

And the girlies started to chase after me.

My Grandma Patterson didn’t get to see me graduate high school or college. She didn’t live that long. But she didn’t need to see those events because even with her blind eyes, she saw me—the real me.

I pray to be a little more like her and see others not with my eyes but with something more. I hope to see their future possibilities. I desire to be a builder of people and error on the side of encouragement.

There’s already enough honest evaluation. There’s enough tough love. Even after the silly self-esteem movement in the 1980s and this crazy post-modern society we live in now, we still need people to see in us what isn’t there yet.

We all need a Grandma Patterson who will give us our own underarm deodorant.