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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Telephone (07/17/08)

TITLE: Umbilicalls
By Debra Martinez


I was beginning to show my frustration. A vehement “Hmph!” punctuated my actions as I all but slammed my cell phone down on my desk.

A questioning glance from my co-worker brought me back to the task at hand. “Sorry,” I offered. “But, any other time that cell phone would be attached to my daughter’s wrist. Why isn’t she answering the phone? As much as I pay for that phone every month….” I trailed off. Every parent in the room knew exactly what I was feeling.

Today’s cell phone frenzy has had an amazing impact on family life. Not only have our young people rewritten all social rules due to texting and picture phones, but their parents have made use of the instruments as re-attached umbilical cords that allow instant access to their absent babies.

I tried to focus again on the lesson plans that I was helping to create. But, even as I typed in the next Essential Question, my mama mind flew off into fantasy land. Had Shelly forgotten to charge her phone? Or maybe she had fallen back to sleep after I left. No. Nothing so mundane could be the issue. Someone had broken into the house. Or she had fallen in the shower and was lying unconscious. Perhaps she had snuck away from the house and was even now thumbing her way down the highway.

It is possible that the reader assumes that I have been trying to contact a daughter barely out of infancy, one that I have guiltily left at home alone. Nothing could be further from the truth. Shelly is actually a competent fifteen-year-old high school sophomore who is caring and reliable. In fact, she has been known to watch her younger brother, clean up the kitchen, and have supper going when her tired parents showed up after a long day at work. Even as I swallowed a feeling of shame, I picked up the phone and hit send.

Shelly’s ringbacks changed with her moods. One week, I listened to “Cry Me A River.” The next week, some unintelligible rock song assaulted my ears. Today, “Rock me, Mama,” entertained me until her answering machine message came on. I held back a grimace and started back to work.

Marsha, my co-teacher, stopped me. “What’s worrying you?” she asked, knowing that I needed to air my feelings. “Is something wrong?”

“No,” I had to reply honestly. “There is not a thing in the world wrong except that I can’t get Shelly to answer.”

“Did you need her?” she probed. “ Is she late for something?”

Again, I had to admit that she was not. As I tried to shake off my irritation, I heard another mom saying, “Now, call me when you leave the house. I want to know what time you leave.” With a cheerful good-bye, she put down her phone, but not far from her hand. The invisible cord shimmered in the air, connecting mom to her young, even though she was miles away.

Suddenly, as a new wave of frustration enveloped me, a verse from the Bible came to my overworked mind. In Psalm 139, it says,

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your Presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.”

Suddenly, I was overcome with laughter. I had just gotten hold of a wonderful truth, allowing me to recapture my joy for the day. Even as I pictured my right hand laying hold of Shelly, I realized that my reaction was far from rational. My cell phone might have trouble today asserting its usual watchful role in the life of my child, but God’s omnipotent presence was still exerting its force in our lives. Peace and calm restored, I turned back to my work.

I had not typed four words when Shelly’s unique ring-tone filled the air. I picked up the phone and was pleased to be able to answer her return call in a pleasant voice, as she deserved. As I listened to her lilting voice filling me in on her plans for the day, I turned her over to her real Care-giver, one who could watch over her in any circumstance.

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This article has been read 493 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Rhonda Clark07/24/08
I like the title and your visual. Comparing the cell phone to an umbilical cord is spot on.

Your article seemed to wander around. Some rearranging and removal of unnecessary words will make this piece great.

Love the comparison.

Sarah Heywood07/24/08
I was attracted to your title and thoroughly enjoyed your piece. As a mom, I can completely relate. It is a daily task to release these children of ours into His keeping! Great writing!
Yvonne Blake 07/24/08
As a mother, I can really relate to this. Now that they are grown and scattered across the country, I feel it even more if I can't reach them. Thank you for reminding me that God knows exactly where they are.
Sharlyn Guthrie07/26/08
I really enjoyed this. You told the story in an engaging manner, and ended with a wonderful truth.
Catrina Bradley 07/28/08
Your clever title drew me to your story, and I'm glad I read it. I like conversational voice - it's like listening to a friend. The scripture is perfect for the devotion, and with it, the tone noticeably changes from frustrated to peaceful. Great job!!
Anita van der Elst07/31/08
Altho' cell phones didn't enter my family's life until the last child was out of the house, I'm still working on not needing to know where they are at all times. I think I will always WANT to know but I don't need to know anymore. And they all have cells now, even the one that said, "Never!" Enjoyed your article immensely. Thank you for your most encouraging words on my first challenge entry. The best reward I could hope for!
Patricia Turner07/31/08
Debra, I'm so glad you wrote this and I got to read it. Right now I've been wondering why neither of my children has responded to my texts, but they do have lives of their own. Yep, I just need to let go of the umbilicall (love the spelling :) cord and let God have them! Thanks and please keep writing!