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Cheryl Mendoza

How He speaks to me…..Or… can't He just call my cell when He wants to talk?

Little trip down the middle

IMG_5447I live in California.  Now before you get all excited, I am not blonde, and I do not have a tan.  I feel lucky to live here though.  The natural beauty in this state is astounding.  I love our mountains, forests and beaches.  All of those picturesque places that draw people from all around the world, are wonderful, but I have grown to love our flat, hot and dry central valley.

I am on a train as I write this traveling from Modesto to Hanford on the Amtrak San Joaquin.   As I look out the window, I am staring at a field of trees, some kind of nut I would guess.  I wouldn’t call it an orchard, as that brings to mind a kind of lush grassy area, where you could sit and have a picnic as you pluck an apple off the branch.  Or a little rendezvous under the trees.  No, these trees are IMG_5451surrounded by plain old brown dirt.  The really fine kind that has a way of getting into everything.  It is the kind of dirt that I remember from my childhood, that I could not stand.

The landscape reminds me so much of those pictures of the depression that you see.  The IMG_5458only green are the actual crops being grown, other than that, the dirt is brown, there is grass that by this time has reached a golden yellow color and the sky with its perpetual haze.   It is a beautiful place.

Not because of the scenery, but for the work and people who do it.  These are people who work hard, and produce crops.  There are a few nice houses scattered here and there, but most are just small ranch style homes.  They may have a little land around them with some fences to keep some goats, horses and cows.  Did I mention the cows?  There are lots of them along the way, lazily eating and getting their fill of that yellow grass.  These are places where the whole town will go to the Friday night football game, put their kids in FFA and work as hard as they can to bring in a good crop.  They are the migrant workers who work amazingly hard during the seasons.  Doing their jobs in the triple digit heat and trying to make a good life for themselves and their families.  They are regular people.  They do their job, love their children, go to church, invite their neighbors over to parties and birthdays.  They are the ones who will bring over some food, help out a friend or just sit and talk over a beer.  These are great people.

IMG_5452I am passing through Madera.  There are boarded up houses all along the tracks, as California gets ready to build their high speed rail.  I saw some of the work being done, but boy do they have a long way to go.  We just went past a long stretch of it.

There it is, this trestle rising up out of the farm land.  It IMG_5457reminds me of when I was a kid in San Jose and the 280/101 freeway interchange was only partially done.  The trestle’s rose out of nowhere and stayed that way for a good long time, or so it seemed to a small girl.

You see some of the most interesting things from a train.  It is not always the prettiest part of town, but it is definitely real.  I like real California

Take Me at My Word — maryellenswafford.com

This has been coming up over and over again, so I figured I would share it. In a recent conversation with the LORD I heard Him say, “I have given everyone the ability to believe and how they/you choose to is up to you.” I was like what do you mean? He said “Well, when…

via Take Me at My Word — maryellenswafford.com

What would a little love do?

images-6So every year I wind up writing scenes for VBA, or Vacation Bible Adventure.  I take bible stories and I adapt them to these vignettes that we do one a day during the week.

I have done this for years now, and it has been one of the best things I could have ever done.  God has used this writing to do some tremendous things in my life.  It has increased my love of storytelling, and even shown me that I could do it.  Above all though, most of my “bible knowledge” is not from Sunday sermons, or even bible studies, but from the reading and pondering that I have done while writing these stories.

I was excited by the hope I saw this week in the story of David and Jonathan.  In a nutshell, they are the best of friends.  As close, and even closer than brothers.  There is a problem though.  Jonathan’s father is trying to kill David.  Now Jonathan doesn’t believe it, but after listening to David make his case, he decides to help David find out the truth.

I thought that was amazing!  Today, as everyone tries so hard to be heard, no one seems to really be listening.  We have people who cannot even have a conversation about things they disagree on.  How does that happen?  How can we ever find common ground, if we cannot even have the discussion in the first place?

Today though, I was reading a little further, I was reminded of probably the only way wea1e59767fe4e2000e74a5a76096446bd can find the ability to listen.  It is in 1 Samuel 20:17, “…..For Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.”  There it is, the answer to how these two men were able to communicate over such a divisive issue.

They loved each other.  Jonathan loved David as much as he loved himself.  That is how they were able to have that hard conversation.  How in the end, they chose to work together.  And when they find out that the King is truly trying to kill David, Jonathan makes an even harder decision to do the right thing and help David escape.

Love you neighbor as yourself, is not only in the Old Testament, but it is echoed in the New.  I am beginning to see it as the only key to a door that has been cracked open in the past, but feels firmly closed right now.

I am so tired of the hate I hear, so the idea of LOVE right now really brings a new energy and a new hope.   If you are feeling frustrated, I would encourage you to check out what God is saying in that ol’book the bible.  It may surprise you!  In it, you may just find the encouragement you were looking for.

References:

1 Samuel 20

Deuteronomy 6:5

Leviticus 19:18

A little trust…..

images-1Sunday morning.  It is always interesting to see what happens on a Sunday, and as soon as I got to church, it started.  One of the songs we sang had something to do with the “power in His name”.  I actually don’t even remember what the song was, because I immediately started thinking.  I wondered, because that is what I do, if I really believed in that power?  I am still trying to wrap my mind around that whole “love your neighbor as yourself” thing again.  Just then it hit me.  The whole problem wasn’t with the loving, but with trusting.

 

Sovereignty.  Do I really believe that God is ruler over all?  Is He sovereign?

Well there it was.  My whole problem.  Do I trust God? Do I believe that if I use my gifts and abilities for Him, He will actually use them to change the world?  Or at least my little part of it?  While it may seem like I am belaboring the point, I am really trying to wrap my head/heart around this question.  Why?  Because if I believe it, I should take the task God has given me and run with it. Right?   And if the church believes it, why don’t we look like we do?

Jeez Louise!  I am having a meltdown in service, and we haven’t even gotten to the sermon yet.   Pastor was on vacation, so when I saw our sub for the day, I knew I was not off the hook yet.  Our substitute has a bit of the crazy in him, and I am wondering if that is just what I needed that day.

He spoke from one of my favorite passages, about one of my favorite people and about Unknown-1some things that I had just recently wrote about.  By this time, I was sitting up and paying attention.   He started off by speaking of his own work, with an organization that is seeking to eliminate extreme poverty.  So I guess I am not the only one tilting at windmills?

Here is a man who had put on different lenses to see the world.  Not content to let it slide by and accept what is so profane about it, but to actually do something.  And the something he was asked to do, is way beyond the measure of any man.    Continue reading “A little trust…..”

My National Monument…..

IMG_5223
Funny thing was…I took this as we came in.

I thought it would be a nice drive to Porterville.  My son was there for work, and so we went down to have lunch with him.  It was a nice leisurely drive down CA43 and a relaxing lunch getting all the info on the job he was doing.

After lunch I was not expecting much, you see we had bee bopped around the house all morning.  Typically, we get up and out early, but this morning we had been moving kind of slow.  So I was not expecting to head into the mountains for long drawn out ride.  How naïve of me.

IMG_5234We left Porterville, and headed east.  My hubby kept asking if I remembered coming this way, but alas, my memory is shot and I kept saying no.  He thinks that it is crazy when I can’t remember all the places that we have been.

Ya gotta be kidding me!  When you have seen one forest, you have seen them all!

 

 

Not really, I love being in the forest, I just have a hard time distinguishing one from IMG_5270another.  I also have a hard time with long mountain drives.  Today, my hubby had decided to go to the Trail of 100 Giants in the Giant Sequoia National Monument.  The trip from Porterville is mostly in the mountains.   Actually it is on a windy, two lane road.  So while it is only a little over 50 miles, it’s more like an hour and a half drive.

It really wouldn’t have been that bad, but because of the snow run off, the river in that area was closed.  Why would that be a problem?  Well, all of the parking lots that head down to the river were closed, and that meant that the facilities were off limits.  Really?  A lady can’t catch a break!  I was able to relax a little and enjoy the scenery, after giving a show to any poor animal with the bad luck to pass by.

 
IMG_5276I was actually pretty glad we went up there on Saturday.  This National Monument is on a list of them that are under review by the Interior Secretary.  Why anyone would want to take the protection of that designation away from this area is beyond me.  There were many people out enjoying the drive and the grove of Giant Sequoias as we visited.  We saw people from different countries, boy scouts, families and lots of young people.  They were all out enjoying the fresh air and beautiful scenery.

 

IMG_5282When I think about it, and you know I will, it seems to me that this
was exactly why it was made a national
monument.  To protect it.  To give people the opportunity to breathe clean air,  see the lifecycle of the forest and give future generations the opportunity to reap the benefits of what we have sown.

 

Memorial Day

 

UnknownI have had a love affair with history since I was young.  I have gone through different stages, where I have read everything I could about various eras.  I hate to say it, but I am fascinated by war.  To tell you the truth I am really not sure why?

I would say that I am a pacifist, but in the Sergeant York type of way.  I believe that war is the worst way we have to solve problems, and should be avoided if at all possible.  There is a realist in me though, and she knows that sometimes war is how problems are solved.

So today, in celebration of Memorial Day, I just wanted to look back and think about those who have died fighting for the ideals of our country.  Specifically, those who fought in the costliest war in our history.

I think I was surprised at first that the Civil War has more dead, than the toll from all of our other wars combined.  My surprise did not last for long though, because it kind of made sense to me.  Really, there were only Americans who fought in this war.  So while there were two sides, there was only one country.

Our country.  Today as I think of those men who took up arms against their own countrymen, it makes me pause and wonder.  How far was the road they had to travel, to bring our nation to the point of war?  Hate that was allowed to grow, and became something that none of them could control.  Hate that was manifested in speech, slavery, pride and greed.  Hate that was manifested on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.  I think of some of the conversations I hear among people today, and I wonder if they are echoes of the past.

So today.  On a day that we remember those who fought and gave their lives, I want to honor their memory.  To do that, I believe that my role today is to encourage us all to remember that war is hell.  And when we see it and speak of it in any other way than the hushed tones of respect, we do injustice to the memory of those who paid the ultimate price.

 

Lesson 1..Keeping characters real

images-1So my husband was teasing me.  I know that is not surprising, but he doesn’t typically get to tease me in this way.  You see, I do not tend to use profanity.  Actually, I don’t even use it as all, except on those rare occasions when it slips out under duress.  Or sometimes to shock my children.  Anyhow, he was giving me a bad time because I had used two cuss words in a small story that I had written.  It was not a big deal, but I did it because it made sense for the character. That is of course, if sea otters could talk.

I didn’t think much else about that until later in the evening, when my hubby chose to watch the end of Gone with the Wind.  And when I say end, I mean the last two hours.  As the “exit music” was playing, I made a couple of observations of the film, and not all of them good.  One thing that I truly liked about the movie, was in regards to what I was thinking about earlier in the day.  Characters.

I really loved the way that the main characters were written.  They stayed true to who Gone_Wind_Minimalist_Movie_Quote_Posterittythey were right to the end of the film.  Mellie was kind and gracious, Ashley was living in a dream world, and Rhett was a gambler to the end but knew when to throw in his hand.  And Scarlett.  I think she wanted to love other people.  She was just never really good at it, except for maybe that twin in the mirror.  It’s funny, but because the characters stayed static in who they were, the ending is abrupt and somewhat of a letdown.  Really though, what was supposed to happen?  Rhett to sweep Scarlet into his arms and all is forgiven?  That wouldn’t make sense, and that is what is great about it.

I have no idea why this really struck me as it did, except for the reason that I am trying to get out of my writing “box”.   I think in fiction in my head, but when I write, I tend to do commentary.  So I am using this as a lesson.  An answer to a question that I think I might be asking in the future.  How do I write a compelling character?

You see, I realized that, as a movie, I am not a big GWTW fan.  As an adult, I have a very
different view of the movie than I did as a child.  Even with that, I have to say that I am in love with these characters.  Not because of who they are, but because how they are written.  (OK, I do like Mellie.  I want to be that kind and gracious someday.)  Those are the kind of characters I want to write.  Ones that you can’t stand, because they are written with such perfect clarity.  Or ones that you love, not because they are perfect, but because they are honest.

This sounds a bit like a challenge to me.  Why do I think so?  Well I guess it was also due to this quote:

“Everything you’re going through is preparing you for what you asked for.”

Esther Hicks

UnknownWell I have asked God for a lot.  Maybe this was His way to prepare me for whatever He’s got going on.  Maybe it was a message to get off my booty and write something different?  Write a character that makes people wonder, or think and maybe feel something.  A character to make someone laugh, cry or to encourage them to something new.  While I am still not exactly sure what it all means, at this point challenge accepted!

Otter Noir…

This is what happens when you make up stories using the things you see.  The fog really made me think of film noir…. and the only other characters around were some otters and a couple of scuba divers.  Enjoy!

It was a day like any other day.  The fog had rolled in and even the sun couldn’t break

_DSC3329 through the gloom.  It was early.  Like those first moments when you wake up and are caught between the heaven of sleep and the hell of wakefulness.   I always tried to get out before they came.  Those strange creatures that walk upon the land.  With their glowing white skin and strange seaweed hanging from their bodies.

They came and stared, and it always creeped a guy out.  Some threw rocks.  I am not sure why?  Rocks never did me any good.  Throw a guy some food…something to help break up the monotony of the day.

CayucosAs I glided along the water, keeping an eye on the three headed monster that seemed to always be there, my morning was interrupted by the two.  They were always here, always wrestling, always disturbing my morning.

I turned my head the other way and grunted a reply when they greeted me with their incessant chatter.  And that is when I saw her.  She was laying on her back, but her breathing was ragged.  What caught my attention was the look in her eyes.  I had seen it before, more times than I care to remember.  Fear.  She had the kind of look that says swim before it’s too late.  I couldn’t though, I was never the kind of otter to swim away.  Not from a fight, and not from a damsel in distress.  It had gotten me into scraps in the past, but I was still here, so why change a good thing.

As I started toward her, she slowly sunk below the surface.  After the splash of her exit, it was then I saw it.    It was just a small disturbance, rippling along the surface.  Bubbles.  Air was coming to the surface.  Was it her?  Was she in trouble?

Aw hell, I thought, this probably wasn’t going to end well.  It was like the time I was caught in that damned net.  I thought that was the last trip to the surface for me, but that strange creature grabbed me and so I bit him.  He let go of me as fast as a shark comes out of the gloom.

In that split second I knew, I would go after her.  Hey, there aren’t that many fish in the sea, and an otter’s gotta do what an otters gotta do.  So I dove, and there I came face to face with two creatures that I had never seen before in my life.  They had long skinny fins and were black as seals, with a huge eye and some kind of shell on their backs.  Bubbles floated up all around them.  When they saw me, they started moving forward.  Their double tails swishing back and forth moving slowly, steadily, through the murky water towards me.

They were slow, and that gave me an advantage.  So I quickly maneuvered out their reach and dove down beneath them.  It was then I saw her.  She was slowly making her way back up toward the strange creatures.  She didn’t look scared anymore?  She looked, chagrined.  Like when you find out that the dark shape you have been running from in the kelp, is really your cousin Lou Seal and not one of those filthy sharks.

She swam near, lowered her lashes and I knew I was hooked.  I knew she wasn’t afraid_DSC3380.jpg any more, and with that look I knew I was the one who was in trouble.  She was the hunter and I was the prey.  It was then that I envisioned my future.  Nightly grooming, babies, no more independence, the old ball and chain.  How could this have happened?  As I looked into her eyes, I thought, how could it not have happened.  Those eyes, that fur, and her knowing smile.

As we surfaced, the fog had lifted.  The sun was shining and we both watched as two of the land creatures climbed onto the shore.  Water cascading off their slippery black skin.  It was then that they looked back at us.  And you can imagine our surprise when they pulled off their one eye, and we saw that they looked totally different.  They were staring, baring their teeth.  They were very ugly creatures, like something you see when you go to the depths.

Well boys, deal me out.  This old otter has a place to go tonight, and it ain’t with you bums.  And while the chase was interesting, I can’t imagine what will come up next.   I think this will be the start of a beautiful…well you know.

 

California’s Central Coast

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