Leona’s Secret (Revisited)

Fictional story originally posted Sept 10, 2018

LeonasSecret

I received an interesting call this summer. The caller identified herself as Leona Green and said she hoped I didn’t mind that she got my number from the phone book.

“I saw your picture at the Fair,” she said, “and it brought back so many memories. The one of the old truck. May I ask where you took that picture?”

I replied that I’d found the rusty old relic in the Hills one day when I’d been hiking.

“Do you think it’s still there?” she queried.

“Very likely,” I said. “It looked like it had been there for a while. It’s on forest service land, off a dirt road.”

There was a long pause, and I wondered if I should say something to fill the gap. Finally she spoke. “I’d like to ask a big favor of you, but I think we should meet first. Do you live in town?”

I told her the area where I lived, and she chuckled. “Why, that’s just down the road from where I am at Clarkson.”

“The assisted living?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s the one, on Maple Street. Would you like to visit?”

Since I’m retired, we agreed to meet in a half hour. I got ready and drove the short distance, bringing the picture with me. She met me at the front desk and took me to her neat-as-a-pin room. I handed her the picture.

“Oh, my. I really wonder if it’s the same one.” She sighed as she held the photo and stared intently at it. She looked up at me. “I used to know someone with a truck like that. It was painted green at the time.”

She asked me about who I was, and we chatted and compared notes until we’d arrived at a few common friends and acquaintances. She had a quick wit and lively sense of humor, and we were enjoying one another’s company when she suddenly peered intently at me. “Are you up for a little adventure?”

I raised my eyebrows. “Uh, maybe.” When dealing with a 97-year-old, one should never jump right into anything without seeing a few yards ahead.

“How would you like to take me on a drive, and we can go see that truck?”

I did a short mental calculation, looking at the clock: 45 minutes to get there, a few minutes to look at it, then back should still get her home in time for her meal. “Are you sure?”

“It’s a beautiful day!” she exclaimed. “Why not?”

A half hour later we were winding our way up the highway on a hot summer day, Leona’s walker folded in the back seat. I knew right where the truck was, and drove straight to it. We parked on the side of the dirt road, her passenger side window giving her a clear view of the truck.

She turned her head to look at me. “I’m going to push my luck and ask you for another favor. I’d try it myself, but I’m too old and too short.” She pointed to the truck. “The windows are all gone, so you should be able to reach right through that opening, on this side – the passenger side. There’s a lever you can push, if it’ll still move. It opens the air vent. If you get in there, you might find a box. Could you do that?”

“You bet,” I answered, my door already half open. It was an easy task to reach my arm into the truck. Not so easy was the lever she’d mentioned. It was big enough to get a good grip, and I yanked and pulled until it gave way. I hesitated only a split second before my hand entered the dark slot, but found her little box immediately. I drew it out and brought it to her. We both sat in the car while she dusted the box tenderly. She cupped it between her hands for a good five minutes, then opened it. We both gasped. It held a diamond ring.

She pointed at the truck again. “That’s a 1934 Chevy pickup. See the hand crank out front? It used to belong to a Mr. Dewey Nelson and it was green. He was 24 when I knew him, and he’d bought it used. The spring before I turned 17, he asked me to marry him. I was absolutely dizzy in love! He was so much older than I was.” She smiled at me. “Of course, it’s that way when you’re young, you know. Twenty-four, for heaven’s sake!

“Well, I said yes, and he gave me this ring. Isn’t it beautiful? But we didn’t want anyone to know yet, not until after I turned 17, so we kept it a secret. I wouldn’t wear the ring except when we went out together. When he dropped me off at home, we’d put it back in its wee little box, and we had that cunning hidey spot for it in the truck, inside the air vent.”

She was quiet for a minute or two, remembering. She looked up at me again, this time with tears in her eyes. “About a month after we were engaged, I got word that he’d been killed in an accident. We had one of those spring snow storms, and the roads were terrible. He missed a curve. No seat belts in those days, of course.” She shook her head. “What a long time ago that was! I was devastated. I never did tell anyone that we were engaged, not until just now when I told you. No one else ever knew about this ring.” She sighed. “But that,” she pointed to the truck, “is why I am Leona Green now, instead of Leona Nelson.” She closed her eyes and smiled. “God has been very good to me.”

A Brief Encounter

I watched as she filled her plate for the third time. To her credit, she hovered around those items that carried some semblance to a nutritious food group. Those little party plates, though, couldn’t hold much, and she was nibbling as she went. She resumed her seat near the Christmas tree, and I went over to sit next to her.

“Oh, such a busy party!” I exclaimed. “I haven’t seen you around the departments before. What’s your name?”

She flushed as she mumbled through a barbequed meatball. “Miranda.”

“Hi. I’m in the languages department. Are you in History, or…?” I trailed off.

“Um, mostly science.”

“Well, our university is growing all the time,” I held out my hand. “It’s nice to meet you.” I looked down at the tree next to me. “Have you picked out your present yet?”

Her face turned even redder. “Oh, I’m sure there’s nothing with my name on it.”

“Nonsense,” I replied as I reached down to a red envelope. “Here it is right here. Miranda.” I showed her the tag.

She practically choked. “There must be someone else. Really, it’s not me.”

“I don’t know of any other person it could be for.” I looked again at the tag. “Your hands are full. Want me to open it for you?”

Her face registered horror. “No! I mean, please, no. I’m really sure it’s not for me. I’d feel terrible, opening someone else’s present.”

“Look,” I said. “There’s a lottery ticket attached to the name tag. It might be a winner, you know.” I detached a piece of tape. “Let’s see what’s inside.”

Tears sprang to Miranda’s eyes as she stammered. “Please. I know that’s not for me. I’m not even supposed to be here.” She put her plate on the floor below her, and started to pull her coat from the back of the chair. “I’d better go.”

I put my hand on her arm and spoke gently. “I wish you’d stay. We’re glad to have you here. And, I’d really like you to take this gift. Why do you think you shouldn’t be here?”

She hung her head and folded her hands. “I don’t belong here. I’m just a student. I don’t work in any of the departments. I crashed the Christmas party. Please don’t tell anyone. I’ll go; you don’t have to kick me out.”

“I don’t want to kick you out. I’d just as soon refill your plate for you, and chat for a while.” I smiled. “Why did you come?”

Her eyes closed. “It’s so embarrassing.” She shook her head. I waited. My hand, still on her arm, gave her a little squeeze. She sighed. “I was hungry. I came for the food.”

“Ah. A poor college student, are you?” My arm went to stroke her hair. “I’m glad you came, then. We surely have plenty of food. Eat up!”

She looked up. “You don’t mind?”

“Mind?” I chuckled. “I’m pretty sure we have more than enough food here, none of which any of us needs to eat.” I looked at her. “You, however, look like you could use a few more meals.” I opened the present, still in my lap. “Ah, look here.” I held up the gift inside. “Gift cards for WalMart and Red Lobster. What a combo! Here you go.”

She looked uncertain, hesitant. “Those aren’t mine.”

“They do have your name on them. See, I wasn’t kidding. Read for yourself. Someone must have known you were coming. Miranda isn’t a very common name. Please. Take them.”

While she turned to put her coat back on the chair, I reached into my pocket. She caught me as I added three more gift cards to her stack and met my eyes. “I’ve been carrying these,” I explained. “You know how people carry extra gifts around, just in case they run into someone who gives a gift, and you have to give something in return, or someone you forgot? These belong to you, too.” I put them all into her hand.

“That’s very generous. I don’t think I should take all this.”

“Yes, you should. I absolutely know you should.” I looked around. “Every other person in here, including myself, can buy whatever he or she needs at any time. Those gift cards may seem to be generous to you, but to anyone else here, they are surplus. Please take from our excess to fill your need.”

Miranda looked me in the eye and saw that I meant it. “Well, thank you.” She dropped her eyes, then looked at me again. “Really, thank you.”

Later, after Miranda had taken her coat, her gift cards, and a couple of full food containers with her, I was on my way to my office. “Miranda!” I heard and turned. “Miranda.” Lucy smiled at me. “I saw you with that young lady. Entertaining angels again, are you?”

I smiled back. “Oh, maybe. You never know.”

Hebrews 13.1,2: 1 Let brotherly love continue . 2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

[This is a work of fiction, based on real-life events.]

Expectations

Do you go to the movies? Sometimes we go to a movie after we’ve heard all about it: seen the ads, watched the trailers online, heard our friends talk about it. We go with expectations. If everyone loved the movie and raves about it, our expectations are high. I hate going to a movie with high expectations; I’m almost always disappointed.

Expectations

I believe the truth will set us free from expectations.

Truth and expectations are related. However, make sure where the plumb line of your truth lies. Some think we live by our own truth, that we should do whatever our conscience and personal happiness monitor tells us.

“Expectations” is a relative term. It often depends on how we feel.

Our expectations are related to what we hold as truth.

Take a look at your own expectations. You expect your spouse to be kind and understanding? Think your kids should be grateful? You get angry when things don’t go as you think they ought? You expected good health for yourself / your loved one / your friend / children? You expected a smooth drive to your destination today?

Hard truths:

  • You don’t deserve to live; you deserve to die. (Romans 6.23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.)
  • You don’t deserve to be happy; you deserve to suffer the consequences of your sin. (Psalm 34.16 The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.)
  • Truth is what God says (read His Word), not what the world says. (John 17.17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.)
  • Truth is what God says (read His Word), not what your conscience tells you. (Romans 8.13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.)
  • You don’t have any goodness in you; neither does anyone else. (Psalm 14.2, 3 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.)
  • There is no way you can go to Heaven without Jesus. (John 14.6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.)
  • You don’t have any good works in you; nobody has any good works in them. (John 15.5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.)
  • God created evil. (Isaiah 45.7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. Proverbs 16.4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. Colossians 1.16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.)

Those truths are what we are in and of ourselves: nothing, evil, dead, wrong, lost.

EVERYBODY IS! We cannot expect other people to be any better than what we are. We can expect that we hurt other people, and other people hurt us – really, really badly.

Disappointment, disgust, disapproval, disillusionment, disrespect, bitterness, jealousy, hurt feelings – all these come from expectations.

But look!

The truth is, we must set our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12.2); the Perfecter of who we are and who we can become.

Also true:

  • God created us in love (Jeremiah 31.1 I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with loving devotion.)
  • God redeems. (Isaiah 44.24 the LORD, thy redeemer… he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself)
  • God will guide you into truth (John 16.13 … when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…)
  • He cherishes you. He is powerful and can save you. (Zephaniah 3.17 The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.)
  • God gives us hope. (Isaiah 44.22 I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.)

God says we are loveable, cherished, special, and made in His image. Through Christ, we are redeemed, worthy, righteous, and alive.

When I go to movies, I try to set my expectations to zero. If I have low expectations, then I can be pleasantly surprised (maybe) with how it turns out.

We can similarly set our expectations when dealing with people. Are we to set them at zero, expect the worst from everyone? There is no set pattern. God doesn’t work that way. Set your heart and mind on God. See what He says. But do remember that we are all fallen – ALL of us. Forgive. Give grace. God’s grace.