What would Jesus do?
Lauren was on a mission to complete his work and clean up before church. Katy leaned out the door and called the time at one hour and then one half of an hour where upon he pushed tool buckets into the garage, stripped down to his underwear and threw his sweat pants and baseball jersey into the washing machine and ran to the sound of the shower heated and ready compliments of his loving wife.
They walked into the church that day down the gradual slope to the front pew on the side of the ambo and directly in front of the tabernacle. From their seats they could view almost the entirety of the rest of the congregation except those seated directly behind them as the church was designed for access to the base of the altar which provided almost two hundred and seventy degrees visibility and closeness in proximity to the three a three step inlaid marble tier ascending to the presiders seat.
At the end of his homily Father Paul turned to Lauren, Katy and the children and said: “We have always heard the phrase; Is that what Jesus would do? and I am here today to tell you this is exactly what Jesus would do? Someone in the rear shouted "Amen" and another "Bravo" and the entire congregation jumped to their feet applauding and whistling wildly then Father Paul shouted while walking over to hug Katy: "That’s right let’s give the Pentecostals next door something to talk about" which drew a thunderous reaction and approval. He then mimicked a local televangelists pretending to hit Lauren on the head with his microphone while saying “Jesuz” which brought the house down and culminated in group ecstasy including some who were slain in the spirit that day. Father Paul walked to the center of the altar, wiped the sweat from his brow with a handkerchief retrieved from underneath his vestments and appealed for calm gesturing with the lowering of his arms to signify the importance of returning to the awesome respect requested of congregants and priest alike to celebrate Holy Eucharist.
Lauren and Katy were greeted by what seemed like the entire congregation one, two and three or four people at a time while standing in front of their pew. Many replying with their RSVP’s for the upcoming party one week from this every night, others offering legal, cooking, clothing and many forms of assistance in any and every way possible including young men and women volunteering to baby sit the children if and when Katy needed a break.
For the first times in their lives they truly appreciated Texas hospitality and the good people of Tyler who rallied around them that day and supported them no matter what might lay ahead of them in this their new walk.
After the last goodbyes and hugs were exchanged they headed home and Katy ordered pizza, wings and some fun bread and fed the baby while Lauren applied the finishing touches to his work this Saturday evening. He slid the door across the track and locked his work space jumped in the shower and reappeared with wet hair chasing the boys through the family throwing water in every direction until a towel tossed from the kitchen landed on his head and he utilized his new prop to chase the boys again this time as the ghost making boo sound effects.
The doorbell rang and Lauren answered it accepted delivery of the pizzas and other goodies kicked the door shut with his foot and placed dinner on the orchid marble counter. Katy said “Lauren are you forgetting something” He replied: "My hands are clean” “Lauren” “What?” “Did you pay the man” It’s not a man it’s a woman and oh no… he grabbed his wallet in the drawer next to the garage and ran back to the front door where he offered the young lady fifty dollars for a thirty dollar order and bade her a Merry Christmas! She laughed and replied: “Thank you too," and departed. They prayed over their dinner and retired to the den. They sat on the couch with mom and the baby next to her or in her arms on one side and Lauren on the other with the two boys sandwiched in between while eating pizza, hot wings and bread dipped in marina sauce all spread out in front of them on the glass coffee table while watching the Thanksgiving Day parade, saved on their DVR compliments of Lauren, and then after tucking the children into bed the late local news and then a movie as Katy fell asleep and Lauren engaged in their late night TV watching ritual of shepherding her to the master suite and tucking her in next to the baby fast asleep in her new crib the mobile  of Santa Claus and the reindeer slowly rotating one way then the other all donated by a fellow church member.
Lauren returned to the quiet of the den and glided in his socks into the kitchen where he heated some cold pizza and wings and cracked a Michelob Ultra Light. How interesting he thought that the Ultra Light packaging appears very similar to the Natural packaging from years ago. He ambled in one trip with his late night party tray and beer to the couch where he turned off the television and prayed quietly to himself before turning the television back on searching for the sports channel and watching the highlights while partaking of the remnants of the family dinner and drinking his first beer all day even though now it was officially Sunday.
Lauren pretended to hear a noise and went to the front door and then out to the driveway in his stocking feet under the pretense of looking for an invisible stranger when he really wanted to admire his handiwork erected in the last two days as the effects of the home, sled, front yard and rear wall lighting appeared brilliant against the backdrop of the deep Texas midnight sky. Unbeknownst to Lauren strangers had appeared and were lingering in the shadows of the darkness of the home of Karen Engle and her husband known only to many in town as “Abner.” Others thought that he was a race car drive named Tommie as Karen Engle many times invoked the name of Cleveland Tommie the Tyler rumor was that he piloted cars equipped with the Ford 351 Cleveland so named for where it was manufactured.
Their silk robes fluttered in the breeziness and were held in place by simple ties much like that of the Dominican or Black Friar.  There they rested standing upright their faces concealed by the hoods of their garments, their hands resting in the pouches as they remained steadfast in prayer of the wonderment of God that brought them forth for this witnessing of his love, grace and power. A guiding hand had directed them to this very home in all of the earth and here they remained as quiet as the night sky.
Early Sunday morning Lauren recovered from another night on the couch in front of the television and quickly loaded the dishwasher with soap and his plates and turned the dial.
The machine hummed to life and he was off to the shed. He climbed way up into the back of the attic and pulled and tugged on one box after another stacking them three high on the edge of the shelf and then pulled them down in front of him as he slowly walked back down the ladder. He stacked them on the floor and made repetitive trips recovering all of the ornaments, lighting, angel top, stand and the heaviest of all, the artificial tree packed each year with tape used as a form of sealant layered like the rings of a tree over the edges and around the top to keep the branches and base contained within. He pulled it to one side and looked behind the box and viewed the hand made cradle he had spent months of wood cutting, crafting, fitting and re-fitting, then sealing and painting. The colors matched perfectly the rocker inside the den and Katy’s new favorite chair when holding the baby. Lauren paused a moment and then with the tip of the broomstick pulled up from below pushed another box in front of the cradle and proceeded down the ladder to move the thirty some boxes to the living room from his wood shop for this Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend tree decorating ritual.
Katy opened the tree box and went to work straightening each of the branches and organizing them by length. She attached the base to the stand and built the tree from the lower branches to the final tip. The boys and the baby were in the room and after she wrapped the tree in seven or eight light strands including a cute M&M pack that Lauren had sent away for redeeming some candy coupons after responding to one of the inserts in the Sunday paper.
Katy tested the lights stepped high on the ladder and placed the Angel on top and then plugged the cord into the female lead tucked between two branches and discreetly placed underneath the robe of the angel to appear invisible.
She stepped down off and away from the ladder breathed a sigh of relief and imbibed in a Coke then asked the two boys to pick their favorite ornament from the vast array of options assembled in neatly packed original boxes displayed next to each other. They looked and looked and looked and finally she said: “well pick one and then we can pick another.” They reached across each other to pick their favorite from opposing boxes and she hung each one high on the tree for all to see and fussed at how beautiful each selection was and each one was her favorite too! They repeated the process until each and every ornament was placed on the tree. She then walked to the wall and flipped the switch and the tree started to turn inside the stand. The boys were mesmerized and watched with each rotation as the ornaments appeared then receded and eventually reappeared once again.
They sat on the floor for a whole hour still unable to comprehend the mechanics behind the moving tree or simply because they in their short lives had never witnessed a decorated tree or Christmas.
Lauren loaded his truck in preparation for the trip to Arkansas commencing shortly after four in the morning for the three hundred mile drive he scheduled to arrive mid day at the home of on Ms. Kitty.
They as a family watched the annual Christmas Hallmark Movie and both Lauren and Katy cried while the boys and even the baby looked at them with bewilderment and fascination at the emotion two adults were experiencing from watching a screen attached to the wall flashing pretty colors and images of people talking to each other.
Morning came early and Lauren slid out of bed showered, shaved, and otherwise groomed himself. He picked up a gym bag of change outs and walked into the kitchen where the red light and aroma of fresh coffee greeted him; the timer set for one half hour prior to his departure. He lugged the cooler outside loaded it with ice from the stand alone freezer and packed it into the passenger seat floor board. He returned for his coffee and saw his wife standing at the base of the stairs. She walked over embraced and held on to him as if for dear life. “Please take care and drive safely. Remember our Christmas party is this Saturday night.” They kissed and he walked outside locked the door behind him and set his coffee on the roof while organizing the inside of the cab. He looked up into the night sky, and watched as the moon slowly receded to the west, stretched his arms and legs reclaimed his coffee and set off in low gear down the street. He accelerated through all five speeds as he entered the highway even with a tow load and ladders extending the full length of the truck, tool rack and customized trailer built with triple axles.
He lifted the lid of the center console to view his nine millimeter handgun and shoulder holster wrapped neatly therein. He laughed at how his friend Susan Balda relayed the story of a Texan riding his jeep through the desert and ran over a rattler that was so long both sets of tires on both sides of the jeep ran over the snake. He stopped the Jeep and opened fire on the gargantuan reptile with his pistol and then finished it off with his shotgun; or the story that she told of the people driving their mini van onto their driveway and when they activated the garage door opener the door lifted to a coiled rattle snake sitting in the middle of the floor. She ran back and forth over the snake but it somehow escaped and a few minutes later family and friends appeared to search the entirety of the house for the missing reptile which was later found in the engine compartment.
He crossed the Arkansas state line and stopped at the lower part of the Arkansas River just outside of Little Rock. He walked down to the edge of the River and let this thoughts roll like this the sixth largest river in the United States. He was pondering his life and what might come of the children and his marriage. He and Katy hadn’t shared their love since the death of their child. He wondered why he hadn’t reacted the way she had after all the baby was his child too. He heard a loud shrill blurb and looked up the hill to see an Arkansas State Police Cruiser idling behind his truck. He climbed the hill and approached the Officer who was now waiting for him on the side of the vehicle facing the river. The Officer inquired as to if he needed aid. Lauren replied in the negative and stated that he was on the way from Tyler to complete a roofing job in North Little Rock. The Officer seemed relieved as someone had jumped into the river from the very landing where Lauren was first spotted by the Officer. The Officer inquired if everything was all right. Lauren replied yes of course but sometimes I don’t understand the twists and turns in my life and the amount of pressure to be a good husband and now an apparent step father, or someone to three children dropped on our front door step. My wife and I haven’t made love since our first and only child was still born and now as a favor to my parish priest I’m here today to make good on a promise to fix a roof for a woman I have never met.
The Sgt. Replied: “Well were glad you’re here. That storm was most intense and spawned three tornados including one right through the middle of the river. The folks in North Little Rock need all the help then can get so whoever this woman is let me tell you something her prayers are about to be answered and none to soon as we’re expecting more rain by the end of the week; And while we’re sharing a moment in the sun man to man my wife prays everyday that I will return from work in one piece. I’m the father of seven great kids, no health issues, no drugs, all in school and they love their mother. We couldn’t ask for more but every day when we meet for our daily briefing I look around the room and take in the vibrancy of each and every officer as no one knows who will return at the end of their shift and who won’t or how about the kid who was driving a lonely stretch of two lane highway and hit a bulldozer at four in the morning. He died at the scene. Someone committed a malicious prank by moving the machinery onto the highway and it cost him his life. Listen I’m no expert and you sound like a God fearing man and I learned a long time ago that I’m only responsible for the effort and the good Lord is responsible for the results. Once I let go my life became much easier. Come on I’ll give you an escort across the river to Northtown.”
And so Lauren marked the last few miles of his destination escorted by The Arkansas State Police and a Trooper who through his speakers alerted the entire neighborhood and Ms. Kitty that her help just arrived where upon the door of a small house burst open and six or seven elderly ladies converged on the truck and trailer while the Trooper sped off.
Lauren was treated as a Rock Star that morning. They invited him in for coffee, bourbon and donuts. He politely declined and went to work surveying the damage to the roof while they retired to a back parlor to play cards and gossip about what a fine young man the Lord and Father Paul had delivered to Ms. Kitty.
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12.24.2010/ 12.29.2010. Last revised.