How Your Life Really Can Change [and what to do when change comes]

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The kid went to get a big machete.

A year and a half later, I think of that everyday.

How he and his brother took off down that dirt road with their last handful of American tourist dollars to spend on that one longed for glint of steel before the flight home.

How miracles happen and you better believe it — or you don’t have to, and they still happen anyway. 

How there’s this space between your vision and your hand and your heart that can only be measured by longing. 




Ralph Martindale Machete


Now, honestly, I was of the mind that there was a snowball’s chance in any flame-blistering place of your choice that either of the boys could get their hands on a machete.

Yeah, sure Madame Cheap Cheap (a name like that when you’re peddling? Sheer marketing genius!) —  yeah, sure she had a a clattering pile of blades down at the makeshift market but the thing was the kid didn’t have enough greenbacks for what Madame Cheap Cheap was asking.

“Look, boys, first, you don’t want to insult her.” I walked quietly behind our two oldest boys.

“And second, are you sure you want to spend your last American coin on a machete? How are you going to get that on a plane?” Most times I do a poor tootin’ job of masking my maternal angst.

“And how are you going to make sure none of your little brothers ends up wearing a five inch machete gash?”

“It’s called checked luggage, Mom.” Smart boy. “And using your brains and being safe.” Yep, brilliant. Gets that from his father, he does.

“Look, I’ve wanted a machete all week. No —- I have wanted a machete a whole lot longer than that,” Caleb turns and hollers it back at me over his shoulder.

“And c’mon, how often does a farm boy from Canada really get a chance to buy a machete? Yeah, I don’t have what she’s asking — but I’ve really wanted one for a long time and I’ll just offer her what I’ve got and see what happens? It can’t hurt.”

Actually, boy —— there’s lots of things that can hurt… but that doesn’t mean that we’d ever want the ache of them to go away because of what that would mean. 

I hang back when we get to Madame Cheap Cheap’s.  It’s not that her Creole accent is thick, hard to understand, as much as it is that bartering makes me break out into hives and my throat grow thick and dry.

Because really, I’ve never figured it out: How do you reconcile your frugality and haggling with someone else’s dignity?  

So I spin her wooden globes.

The Final Cut



Saint Lucia Day 2 (Feb 3, 2011) (74)






I spin her wooden globes, polished and tilted, without the texture and roughness that is reality.

Hand drawn and grainy. All the world perched on a wooden stand— a flurry of mountain ranges flinging shadows out across plateaus of ocean waves, shorelines that keep kissing waters that never stop pulling away.

It’s all mere suggestion, these haphazard marks on Madame Cheap Cheap’s wooden spheres. You can’t draw the valleys of grief, the craters left by the dreams and stars and planes and people that fall from the sky.

You can’t map the way of migrating wings, the way of people trying to find their roads and each other and meaning, you can’t map the way hope persistently flies.

Go ahead — how do you put your finger on the place and your people and trace their way back to the place where anything is beautifully possible? What do the headlines and heart fractures mean about the kind of world in which we’ve been set down? How do impossible things revolve and change?

I slowly spin Madame Cheap Cheap’s globes.

The boy who takes after his Dad and has made peace with haggling somewhere down deep in the recesses of his own soul, he nudges my shoulder to show me: he’s 12 dollars poorer but he’s wielding a machete and is grinning like he gently swallowed a canary — and not the sharp edge of the blade.

“Happy, Son?” The kid grins ridiculously.

“Yep — now let’s go fly this baby home.” He cannot stop running his hand along the gleaming edge of silver.

Then the kid turns. I’ve got a globe in my hands, a curvature of two oceans, oceans of pain and the impossible. And he reaches out to spin it— “You like this globe?”

Yeah, boy — I like this globe.

I like this world of wanderers and and wonder-ers and the brave who don’t know how to believe that good is coming around the bend anymore for them.

I like the doubters and the dogged fighters in places no one ever sees, I like the limping and the weary and the busted and the lame and the prodigals who can’t for the life of them remember their beloved name.

I don’t say all of that —- I just say yeah. Yeah, I like this globe.

The kid with the machete nods. I slip the teetering globe back on the shelf. Tap the flashing edge of his prized blade. “Nice.”

And start the trek back up the dusty road, back up the road that is straight up hill that no one’s ever bothered to give a name.

But when the boys catch up to me, halfway back up the hill — there’s no machete. All Caleb’s got in his hand is just that: one wobbling globe.

“Wait —- whaaaa?” I stop short, mid hill.




What can I say, Mom?” Caleb half smiles. “You mean the world to me. Well — at least a globe.”

He winks, shrugs his shoulders like it’s no big deal, like the weight of the world really can slip off your shoulders.

“So I changed my mind.”

And I etch that: Minds can change, kids can change, things can change, people can change, the world can change.

The unlikely happens, the unbelievable proves to be believable, and the unexpected turns around and brushes up against you and you remember your name, the hope in your DNA.

You remember: We get to change the world— every time we choose to change personally.

We get to change the world every time we choose to have a heart change.

The same Jesus Who changed water into wine can change the hard kid into the kid with the big heart, can change your wounds into wisdom, can change your impossible into the impressive, can change nightmares into that which is only dreamed.

They say time changes things — when mostly time only changes your scenery. You need One beyond time to change everything else.

And the old Best Book, it testifies to the honest thing: that God works everything together “for the good” of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). And what in this tilting world, pray tell, is good? Good means being changed to be like Him who is Best. (Rom. 8:29). Thus — all change is meant to be good change, changing us to be like Him who is Best.

We fly home from that Haiti island in the middle of it’s own aching oceans. I put that wooden globe on a shelf as a global witness that machetes can be exchanged and things and kids can change, minds can change, the world, your world, can change. And there is not anything to fear.

Change is as positive as the promises of God.

That one little wooden world sits here with it’s own turning, this quiet dawning that I feel: There is no soul growth without change, no change without surrender, no surrender without wound. Wounds are what break open the soul to plant the seeds of our growth.

The children keep growing, growing up and away from all that was.

The clock ticks on at the top of the stairs. There is time and history and headlines and the moving sun and you can always count on things changing and there is one sure revolution:

You can handle change as you much as you take His unchanging hand.

The globe that’s made from the wood of a surrendered Tree, it sits on the shelf and you can see —

How it moves from dark to light.



Related Post: When You are Looking for Hope

and the audio of today’s post:

and if you wanted to listen to the audio of this post, click above on the arrow (not the text) for a recording of me reading today’s post from the farm. {Consider turning off music by clicking the speaker bar near the bottom of  the left margin?}