I had to slow my steps, intent on only art canvases, make the beeline to the back and hurry on. No eye contact, small talk time, just me and my fast walking.
I needed to halt or bump into a woman with her son. She had a shuffle step that was familiar, I remembered a mama long ago who had an injury leaving one hip higher than the other. So, I thought this might be her and I’d be able to ask how she’s doing along with her now adult son.
Strangely, it wasn’t her, instead a younger version.
Still, our eyes met and she exhaled a big sigh. I asked “Been shopping all day?” And she replied that they’d been in the street since eight o’clock and she’d been takin’ her mama to all her doctors.
I saw her then, saw her loyalty and I added as I walked beside and then ahead of her,
“I remember those days. They are so hard. Get home and find some rest.”
She nodded, thanked me.
I bought eight 8×10 canvases and carried on.
I noticed the line was short at Chick Fil A and I was thirsty. I ordered my little indulgence, kids meal, fruit not fries and tea and answered “Lisa” as the young man calculated my change.
He asked how my day was going and I said “good” as I sensed the awkward in between, the task of giving me change and so I asked “Are you having a good day?”
His deep dark eyes met mine and the rising up of his chunky cheeks in a smile beamed as he happily answered, “Yes, I am.”
I rounded the drive thru line and watched a couple of boys/young men play “rock, paper, scissors” to determine who’d bring my order.
The one who lost sauntered over to my car and chuckled, “I just took your order!”
I smiled back and said that’s so funny because I was about to ask if you had a brother.
Serendipity, sort of, the chance to share kindness again.
Last stop, Publix for collards for tomorrow. Intentional here too, I have a short mental list and on a mission. The soup aisle is running low on chicken broth and my path intersects with a shopper who doesn’t hesitate to look up and say “Hey! How ya’ doing?”
I smile, realizing I don’t know her and she keeps talking and adds “I’m about to cook a big pot of soup for my family!”
“Sounds good!” I go my way and she goes hers until we’re both in the parking lot, cars loaded and I hear “toot toot” from her little SUV and my eyes meet her excitement in getting to wave goodbye to me, someone she doesn’t know.
I’d say it’s just accidental, this thrice encountering kindness from strangers and reciprocating.
But, since I have a thing for things in 3’s, I know it was heavenly, this afternoon of kind conversation and willingness to be seen.
Unknowingly, three people changed the course of my day from sullen to seeking, from deficient in hope to hoping.
Three people, working in community with my Good Father yesterday.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2 ESV
Someone in a prayer group I’m a member of commented, “Pray for me because of this root of bitterness trying to grow.” And the replies understood the concerns, the need for prayer…even urgency.
Because bitterness begins in secret and then the roots grow thick and stronger and threaten us until they take over.
What is bitterness? I could share my list of things that are secret and of things I’ve vented in conversation with others (about others).
Roots destroy fertile ground. Love and peace cannot thrive when bitterness keeps growing.
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” Hebrews 12:14-15 ESV
More importantly, our roots destroy relationships with others. Bitterness that makes sense only makes us sadder.
Sometimes I look around and see how very different I am and feel from others and I remind myself to bring peace not judgment, love not frustration and a subtle but steady light that points to the source of my joy (even if it’s dim on the days questions, doubt or bitterness crouch at my door.)
When Elizabeth was born, I sang “Deep and Wide” over and over and over. I can’t say why (other than God) I sang it over and over from the first moment I cradled her tiny head in my hands.
With Henry, it’s been “This Little Light of Mine” and like his sister, he doesn’t seem to mind that it’s the same words over and over. I want him to see my light as I want Elizabeth to know the depth of mine and God’s love.
Love one another.
Don’t grow bitter.
Your life has no space for hatred to take over. Only room for joy to grow high enough to create a canopy for all who stand near you.
“Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2 ASV
I’ve never met an angel or have I perhaps, only dimmed and unnoticed by distraction?
I believe I shall notice more gently, silence the bitter banter of all other.
As Martha was met by Jesus, distraught over the death of her brother, she told Him she still believed in His goodness, in the purpose of Him.
Then, she went to get her sister Mary.
“She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”” John 11:27 ESV
Mary stood next to Jesus and asked why he waited so long. Jesus wept.
Then he told the sisters to take him to their brother although it had been four days.
“Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”” John 11:40 ESV
Lazarus was raised. Jesus told them both and all who had followed out of grief and curiosity, that this was the way God intended it, so that all would believe, not just the sisters.
All, like all of us.
“So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”” John 11:41-42 ESV
I woke up early, got my journal, books and pen and then felt the need, like a gentle call to read my (actual)Bible.
The Mary and Martha story is good. Always.
God’s timing is not ours. Don’t give up hope. Don’t stop believing in the grace, strength, mercy and presence of Jesus. Look at your life, remember times you asked for help and help came. Times of desperation because of delay of some sort.
Sometimes I pray “God, show us your glory today, come through in a way that it’s clearly you…’cause I’m not able on my own.”
And Jesus has come, has remedied, relieved, given me strength when I am weak.
I follow an author, Priscilla Garatti, who lives nearby. I imagine meeting one day. There are a handful of authors, bloggers, artists with whom I feel kindred. Their creativity is like I hope mine comes through, with depth, honesty and a belief that we can still hope.
On this sunny Sunday morning, I wake groggy from cold medicine and I read Priscilla’s most recent post about a dream I’ve found to be teachable for me. It contains the word conviviality which I had to look up.
I’m glad I did, glad I can now hope for togetherness despite pain, angst, differences or simply changes in relationship.
Conviviality despite perhaps unkind words, taking into consideration the pain of others before distancing myself or adding to their distress.
In my career days of meeting with those bereaved by suicide, these were my words, “Take it easy on yourself.”
Same with women who acknowledged mistakes and were trying to move past them, without their pasts causing shame.
Years later, I’m still saying to others and mostly to myself, “Be kind to yourself.”
This morning my mind goes back to the ugly work of shame.
Shame, when you feel unworthy, humiliated, powerless is an internal emotion tied to a circumstance or behavior.
Strangely, it’s a feeling we decide on, either because we have the sense we shouldn’t feel a certain way or we’ve felt that way for what we decide has been too long.
I thought of a feeling, a sadness I was convinced I shouldn’t have and I told myself embrace it, acknowledge its understandable place in your life now and most of all,
Understand that acknowledgement brings healing.
Talking to God about it and at least one other listening friend is freeing.
Denying sadness, fear or hurt because we convince ourselves we shouldn’t feel them only adds injury to the loosely bandaged wound.
Pretending stunts healing, numbs the work and wonder of God’s purpose in our acceptance of the circumstances we wish were not ours.
The hard things we deny being still hard only harden us.
Don’t be afraid to be honest with God. He knows anyway.
Refuse to be ashamed of your feelings.
Last week, I communicated with a stranger about anxiety and depression. It helped me to offer help to her. It helped me to hear the familiar words, “I usually just keep this to myself.”
Nothing shall hurt you. That’s a big, hard to fathom promise. It follows the reminder of the power within us, prayer and connecting with God’s spirit in us, even as Jesus saw Satan fall from heaven.
This morning, I got a text from someone I only know by phone, asking about counseling for anxiety and depression. I gave her a list of people I know and added “I understand and my weapons are patience with myself and prayer and more prayer and more prayer.”
Because, if we get tangled up in why am I depressed or anxious we’re only piling on more anxiety and depression.
When we pour it all out in prayer, the scary, sad or lonely question, we invite the power of God in.
We get better this way or we seek counseling and possible medication.
Either way, we grow when we know ourselves, can see it coming for good reason or out of nowhere. We employ our faith, we add to it as needed.
I found this verse by what I thought was accident this morning. No accident though, there are no coincidences or lucky discoveries with God.
“He knows all about this.” is another phrase, a tool against anxiety or depression that I employ.
Continue and believe.
Be kind to yourself, unashamed.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5 ESV
If she could go without a soul knowing, she knew where she’d run off to. Down Highway 80 through Savannah, through the mossy oaked canopy, and over the bridge crossing grassy low tidewaters. She would find that old place, the place she felt known. She would take what she needed, chill some water in the Frigidaire, and have crackers and peanut butter wrapped in her Kleenex, food for the road. All would be well. She’d venture down to the lonely October shore and sit on the sand; she would be on the beach. She would wash her feet in the frothy tide. She’d sleep soundly with the breeze, the little clapboard house by the shore, the place she longed for, left her art there, the place where her dreams began. The place where someone else now lives, strangely she decided they would just welcome her in. She would wake with the autumn crispness and move towards the kitchen, avoiding the tiny room, space where she used to stay. She ached to be there again. She longed to have her fingers, arms. elbows covered in paint, to forgo the brush, blending colors in. She would consider painting again, maybe later. She might allow herself to be taken away, to be lost in the translation of her concerns to thickly layered colors. “Iris”, she might pencil in in the corner, always signing that way. Maybe this evening she thought when the light comes through the sheers just before the day gives way to night. She might settle in then, lose all track of time and heartache. Wouldn’t that be something? Everyone would talk! Iris has up and left Earl, she always had an independent streak! She smiled, thinking of all the women at the factory, the gossip, the whispers.
Instead, she drove back home, the little white house, tin-roofed and porch screened in. It was Friday, no telling what was waiting. Her husband, a carpenter, fisherman, a rounder, and rascal would be waiting. About thirty minutes away, longer if she could drive like she wanted, slow and smooth in her silvery-blue Impala, if she could she just keep right on going she would. She’d like to take longer before easing up the hill and cruising, her foot off the gas and over the bridge that marked the creek. She flipped on the blinker, she had to get on home. The highway changed to sandy dirt; the first curve was the sharpest as she passed his cousin’s place. She cracked the window and let the other one down all the way, Remer’s wife would be peering through the parlor window, same time every day, making sure she had come back home. The one perched on the tractor slowing to see her, his baby brother was watching too, knowing he’d made it home from wandering now and waiting for his wife to get her “sorry self” back home. She smiled, satisfied in her last moments of alone. Creating pretty things, little flowery dresses, gingham checked and ruffled, her art, the products made by her hands. Only three days into October and she had made production.
Her fingers were bent and achy, their tips flattened smooth. One hundred little Christmas dresses from four different patterns and each of them the same except their velvety hue; cobalt blue, rich red, emerald green, or ivory. Some with broad white collars and some with wide sashes for tying bows cinching perfectly around tiny waists. For ten hours a day and a Saturday, she had been taken away to a place that was hers, a place she could be proud of, a place close enough to feel free, free like the painting she used to do.
She turned onto the path that led her back home. He might be sitting out back on the steps or she might hurry in past the sight of his broad back in bib overalls, bent over the old table cleaning his fish. She wouldn’t ask him what he had done today, only go about her business, get herself out of her slacks and cotton blouse and into her housedress and slippers, he’d been waiting for his supper. She knew his expectations. She understood her role.
As she headed towards the kitchen she remembered, there was no rice for supper! Oh, Lord have mercy! She had forgotten to cook that morning. Her husband had gone without, no rice for dinner and none waiting for his supper. She turned back towards the hallway and she saw it there, the old rice pot that was always sittin’ on the stove, it had been thrown up against the sitting room wall. Laying there with the sun coming through the picture window, shining like a flash of warning or a lost coin, either way, the rice was not ready, supper would not be on time. There was nothing for her to do now. She would have to be prepared. Sooner or later he would barrel through the door, overalls half on and half off and the stub of sucked-on cigar loping sideways from his lip. She would know right away; she would detect the smell or not of Pabst Blue Ribbon. She could only hope there wasn’t a deeper smell, the thick scent of warm bourbon or the belligerent tone of clear liquid, meaning there might be anger and she was surely too tired to take him on. Oh, how she wished her girls were there. But, long gone they were and with husbands of their own, one feisty and determined and the other followed not too far behind. She hoped the other brother who lived beyond the cornfield might pass through. They would talk of the weather or the crops or the President, move to compare their sorry-ass women, and how their lives should have turned out differently. But it was looking like a lone night, just the two of them and she had no idea when he might decide to come inside.
She turned to listen, as still as she could be, and decided he must be occupied with cleaning fish or digging bait or maybe brooding in a close to drunken state. She had time maybe, time to get the rice ready, time to pretend she had not forgotten before leaving for work, leaving her husband here. She reached for the Tupperware and opened its lid to scoop out the white grain into the soon-to-be boiling pot of water.
She startled when the screen door creaked. She stood still to measure his mood by the weight of his feet on the porch. She listened as he grew closer, seemed somehow more spring in his step. She’d grown accustomed to the heaviness of his stride, his feet like cinder blocks, the way they seemed so thick, pushing himself along in despair. Her heart was pounding. She listened. He stepped into the kitchen and ambled towards the sink and there he lingered. She felt his breathing on the back of her neck, she noticed the scent of his labor and decided today, maybe he had been working. She opened her mouth not sure what to say or which way she should begin. Before she could speak, he came even closer and then turned, his hand on her shoulder, the other one circling around her waist. He cradled her for a moment and then turned and walked away, left her standing there. Butterflies rose up in her belly and fluttered in dance at her throat.
She was frozen in front of the stove; the sensation of his touch had overwhelmed her. She looked at the pot waiting for the boiling water and listened as he ran the bathtub water, longer than usual. What in the world, was he not worried anymore about the well running dry? She realized she had more time. She opened the icebox and pulled out a chicken and the beans. If she hurried, the Crisco would be ready about the time the rice simmered down and the leftover lima beans, she would season them with a fresh “strick o’ lean”. She listened as she worked, his odd behavior allowed her more time. She thought of slipping past the tiny bathroom to the bedroom mirror to check her hair and her face, but she decided not to chance it, he would hear. She never knew really; she was careful not to wake her sleeping giant of a man. Something might set him off and he’d holler loud from the other side of the wall, probably then he’d let her have it, did she just expect him to go hungry again?
Supper was nearly done ‘bout the time the sky changed from blue to dark and thundering grey. The wind was whipping the loose tin on the back shed and pine limbs were threatening to come through the windows, thick and green they pushed against the windows and then moved away just long enough for her to see where the storm was headed, how long it was staying, the hard rain, the threatening thunder the flash of angry lightning. He’d be back in the kitchen any minute and he’d tell her he knew it all day, he knew a cloud was making up, he saw it coming. She waited and then continued. She floured the chicken and dropped it carefully in while the beans were warming and the rice was filling up the pot, the water making it thick and the way he liked it, thick and fluffed, not mushed together. The aroma filled the room, a later than normal supper. She was scrambling to move the cast iron from the heat for the gravy when he came around the corner. He walked towards the table, pulled his chair out, and told her, “You ain’t got to make no gravy.”
He surprised her when he said softly, “I was thinkin’ all day, I sure hope we get a good hard rain.” then asked her how her dressmaking went today. She answered that it was good, he nodded and then just looked away. He told her he had gone to town and that he talked with a man about helping a man with some carpentry. Rumor had it that there were new houses coming in just out past the grocery store, that a Yankee from Carolina had bought up all the land and that somebody told them if you need a good carpenter, well, Earl is your man. He told her that he was sure the rich man had been warned, “You just have to catch him sober or not fishin’”. She listened as he continued, remembering her daddy and how she had been warned about his reputation, his family was good people, but the son was rowdy. He was a charmer she remembered, his swagger swept her away, upturned lip with an “I got you girl” smile, he reeled her in. They finished their supper and she rose to clean the dishes as he leaned back in his chair and told her, “You better get on to bed, they’ll be expecting you early again tomorrow.” She paused, “Good night.” she said, and then she barely heard him mumble in reply. She did not remind him she would not be working tomorrow.
The storm had passed, and the windows only open a tiny bit, she listened to the birds in an exchange, singing sweetly one to another, the crickets and the frogs down by the pond would soon join in. Tomorrow she decided, she would go to town, it was Saturday, she might see if he wanted to ride along. She drifted off to sleep, slept like a baby. She woke to the sound of coffee percolating and a strange sense of mystery, of newness, and of intrigue. Coffee and cream and the corn flakes and evaporated milk were placed on the table. No words were spoken between them, unfamiliar and awkward, this new way of them. Not his way to think of fixin’ breakfast.
“I think I’m going to town today.” she offered. He grunted. He had grown accustomed to her independence, gave up on changing or caging her in. She did what her preacher man daddy raised her to do, she was dependable and gave in to most everything, knew when to leave him alone, stay out of his way. He let her veer off on occasion, it gave him his space. He didn’t know what she was up to, what was happening between them? He said okay when she out of nowhere asked, “You want to ride to town with me?” then he instantly regretted his answer. What in the world? That would mean changing his overalls, changing his plans, putting on clean boots, sitting closer to her than he had in years, all enclosed in her car and barely an arm’s length away from her body. He would be the passenger in her beloved Chevrolet. “You ready?’ she asked. He looked out the window and walked away, never gave an answer. She waited. She wondered. She regretted asking. Then she heard the rusty creak of the old Nova’s door, the pumping of his foot on the gas to give it the boost it required, and the beat-up old chassis backed up and bolted through the field and down the roads, swerving she knew it, barely keeping it between the ditches.
She sat as morning changed around her. The corn flakes flat and floating, the coffee cold and the house was again silent. She thought of her life, how it could have been. She remembered the cousin who left Georgia and moved to California, became a designer, famous in a way she supposed. She rose to wipe the counters, poured the coffee out the back door, took the corn flakes down by the edge of the woods, scraped her bowl, left it all there. She promptly returned to the bedroom, made her bed, knelt down, and prayed. She rose to gather the white blouse starched and waiting and navy slacks, flat shoes. She found her blue cameo pin. She washed her face, took the bobby pins from her hair, added red lipstick then blotted it to fade to barely there. Dressed and ready, she grabbed her pocketbook and her keys, her little list, her memorandum and she slammed the door behind her. It was only 8:00 in the morning and she knew he would be down by the river; she had the whole day.
Iris slid into the seat of her car, glancing down through the field, corn on either side, the road that led to his family. She popped it in reverse and glided back before turning the other way. She had no idea where she was going, she just knew she was going away. She made it to town too early for lunch, barbeque had been the plan for the day. She decided on the café, found a booth, and sat to listen, watch, pay attention to others. A pattern of hers it has always been, comparison of her life to almost everyone everywhere, she was an observer. The waitress served her coffee, toast, and jelly as she lingered. She thought about the possibility, of her husband sitting across the table having a pleasant conversation. She remembered the night before, the glimmer of different, a slight change in him, for them. No idea what to do next, she paid her bill and left, walked out into a perfectly cloudless day, and then started her car to go on her way. Windows down and a scarf tied at her neck, she drove towards the beach and then turned back the other way. Unsure whether to be angry at herself for not going or satisfied that she chose the better thing, she remembered her memorandum and made her way to the McConnell’s Five and Dime.
Barely noon, she still had a lot of day. She opened the door, welcomed by a sharp clanging bell. “Well, hello Iris”, she heard someone say and she turned to see an old classmate; the one who left the country and made her way to the big city. She smiled, dreading the questions of how and what in the world have you been doing. She anticipated grand stories of her successful husband, her children, her grandchildren, her brick home, a garden with brilliant flowers, a display of pride, and better than. Small talk of family and weather led to nosy interrogations she endured. Inquiries of her husband, of her daughters, of their home, and whether she had ever decided to pick back up on painting.
She answered all of them, made excuses to hurry up her shopping, nice to see you again, say hello to your mama. She watched her walk away, listened as her heels clickety clacked down the aisle, and overheard her words to the cashier, condescension over an apparent mistake in her change. Iris stood for a moment and then decided on a change. She slowly pushed her buggy down one aisle and then the next, forgot about the Pine-Sol and the detergent, continued on her search until she found it, the small section with the thick ivory papers, the colors, and the brushes. A box of crayons, she opened them and smiled over all the colors before closing tightly the lid and setting them down in her buggy. A large brush for backgrounds and a small for details, two or three more for blending and then tubes, oh so very many happy tubes of paint! She inventoried her list, best she could remember she had all she would need. She paid for her items and danced through the exit doors; going back home, not running away.
As fast as she could, she made her way back home, mapped out the afternoon, time allotted her for solitude. She thought of what she might do for a bite to eat, enough to get by until supper, she was excited, so very excited. Barely turning to notice the sister-in-law, the cousins, the brother in the field, she pulled in and unloaded quickly, laid her beautiful things out on the porch. She grabbed the peanut butter and the crackers, ice water, and a banana. Remembered the rice then and considered not cooking but decided it’ll only take a minute, might as well do this for him. It was expected and it required so very little of her, put the water in the pot, the rice does the boiling, cover it with a lid and just leave it there. It will be there for him, whenever and however he comes back in. It was such a little gesture, somehow, she saw it now, as a gift.
All of that accomplished, she found a big old sheet, spread it out on the floor, and made a place for her paper. She found an old piece of wood, leaned it up against the screen, and with a rusty nail positioned her idea of an easel for her paper canvas. A jar filled with water and brushes soaking, she found an old broken dish and made herself a palette. Vibrant blue was her background and greens, red and purple followed. With no idea of how to begin, what to paint, she simply layered colors. She stood back and admired the symmetry, the way one color spilled over to another bordered by heavy tint turning to faint shade and shadow. She found the box and crayons and added flowing lines in length and layers, she decided they reminded her of gowns. So, she quickly added shoulders, gauzy sleeves over arms, and shapes of faces titled one way or another. She added ruddy cheeks and pale hollowed ones made barely noticeable bridges of noses and only just hints of blue, brown, or green where the women in flowing gowns eyes would be. She sighed, an audible “Ah!” escaped from her lips, and then she felt it, the smile, the filling up because of it of her cheeks. She gazed at the colors, the freedom of them, thick paper flamboyant and joyous colors, all types of stories. She rested then realized the time had escaped her. The dusk of the day was approaching. She gathered her jars and her brushes, stuffed crayons back in the box, and careful not to ruin the extras, gingerly picked up her papers, picked up the unpeeled banana, and nibbled a stale cracker. She scrubbed the brushes and laid them on a dishcloth to dry, turned on the pilot light, and then the burner, the rice, oh, Lord, the rice had to be ready! Hurriedly she finished, put everything away, and decided chicken from last night would be enough, would be okay. She walked out onto the back porch to see the coral sun setting and she breathed deeply, sat down in the place where he’d be pulling in, and rested her bare feet in the soft cool dirt-like sand. Her husband would be home eventually; but she wasn’t worried, not afraid.
She made a choice today when she could have chosen another way. She could have chosen rebellion, a trip to Tybee, and come what may. She surely did consider it. She could have chosen pity pouting in the discount aisle and she could have chosen to be a fighter for her freedom. Instead, she chose to gently open her own door. Iris was daydreaming when she heard the familiar sound of him coming around the corner. She thought to get herself together, to hurry back in, stand waiting in the kitchen in a wifely way. She stayed still, she waited. He pulled into the driveway and turned to look her way, puzzled for sure, he smiled, and then he shook his head. He walked over to see her and asked, “How was your day?” Before she could answer he told her he was sorry, that he knew she wanted him to go to town today. She smiled and asked about his day, about where he had been. He answered with a grin, told her he drove towards the river then came back to check the pond dam, decided to see the plot of land where the fancy houses would be, and ended up back at his brother’s, just sitting around mostly. She told him supper was about ready and that she had just wanted some air. She reached for her shoes, brushed the sand from her feet, and headed back in. He walked beside her, straight with no sign of stagger and he reached for her hand. She did not know what to make of it, she allowed it, she accepted him then. As they stepped towards the porch, she saw the makeshift easel, she remembered the painting. He opened the door and held it for her, and he turned, and he saw it and said nary a word. Supper was different because he kept on being different and when it was done, he pushed his plate to the table’s center and got up out of his chair.
She watched as he stepped towards the porch; listened as he stepped back towards her. He carried the piece of wood made into an easel and tenderly placed it with its still moist colors on the sill of the window that looked out towards the field. Then he shifted it left a little before saying, “That’s somethin’ else! A real pretty paintin’ Iris, why don’t you make another one for here.” She stood up from the table and met him in the middle and she knew in her heart, everything would change from here, her independent streak not broken against her will, but gently set free and blended, the color returning to her story.
Twice I saw the man with the cross. Once on the southern part of town, the busy places, the reckless and impatient drivers, the scurrying about grocery shoppers in the days before Easter Sunday.
Then again downtown, on the northern side, blocks from the pretty shops, the sidewalk strollers, he was at an intersection.
The first time, he walked with the wooden cross, a display of his allegiance. He carried the beams joined together and he’d decorated the center with Easter colored florals. I seem to remember he himself was dressed in a jacket and was intentionally put together in a way that seemed to be his best.
At an intersection, two days later, he stood next to a bicycle. The bike, the big cross and this man.
I’d never seen him before.
I waited at the light and glanced to my left. Waiting as well to cross was a man in shorts, unshaven and gazing down at his work-boot clad feet, a faded backpack slipping down from his shoulder.
I didn’t recognize him either. In my years of homeless work I’d seen many like these two, just not them. I thought of their condition, I assumed mental illness and addiction.
I woke with regret over that supposed reason for their condition, their behavior and decision.
I drove downtown and across town yesterday hoping to see one or both.
The Book of Mark’s introduction in the back of my Bible tells me that the writer is possibly anonymous, theological experts say he wrote his gospel based on Peter’s teaching. I love the tone in Mark’s words. I’m certain I would have been fixed on the words of Peter preaching too.
I read Mark’s description of John the Baptist and I immediately thought of the man on the bike with the flower adorned cross.
“Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.”Mark 1:6-7 ESV
John the Baptist, the son of Elizabeth, the unborn child who was moved by the presence of Jesus while in his mother’s womb.
It was his purpose to go first and then point to the one others like me should follow.
Maybe the man with the cross and the man crossing the intersection began a conversation as I drove home.
Maybe the assumed “crazy” countenance of the one honoring Jesus that day led to questions and then to answers.
Maybe the one I assumed would speak of Jesus was all wrong, maybe the man without the cross was the giver.
Maybe the man worn and weary, walking alone from somewhere had a story to tell.
Maybe the two shared their affection for Jesus.
Andrew Peterson has a voice of comfort, a call to consider love and understanding in most of his songs. Honestly, he beckons us to understand ourselves and then better understand others.
This song, this morning beckons me to consider the ways I don’t understand Jesus’ love for me and then to decide it’s not for me to understand completely, only to accept and believe it.
“And even in the days when I was young There seemed to be a song beyond the silence The feeling in my bones was much too strong To just deny it. I can’t deny this. I’ve been seized by the power of a great affection Seized by the power of a great affection.” Andrew Peterson
I took time to listen this morning, the song Pandora plays for me often. I remembered telling my first real boss that I chose to work in careers that helped others because of a little girl decision. I remembered being certain that I understood the burdens of other children and as a little girl, I knew I’d be called to help them.
I had no idea back then, that was Jesus calling me tenderly towards today, the notice of other tender hearts, the prayers for people as I see them on the street or downcast in the grocery aisle. The sharing of a book filled with birds for children that closes with the assurance of Jesus.
Not just for children.
I hadn’t thought of that shy little girl that I was for a very long time until I listened.
I see God in the sky. This evening, the view was varied. There was strength. There was jubilant fullness. There was wide expanse with layered color.
I longed to be stronger because of seeing.
But, not so much. Not this evening.
If I’m honest.
My thoughts are likely controversial. I’ll be called selfish. It may be an opinion of many that it’s not such a big request, to require my face is masked.
I used to so very much enjoy outings, no particular reason trips to Target or to little shops or the art center, even the library.
Now, I’d rather not go.
I know not everyone else feels the same.
Today, my granddaughter not once but twice or more, looked into my eyes and smiled and she pulled my mask away from my face so she could kiss me on the lips.
At first, I thought, so sweet and then, I thought,
So odd. So very odd that someone who loves her so is “masked up” as if in disguise.
Thankfully, smart little baby wasn’t having it, she wanted to see her grandma.
A heavy weight bearing down, so very sick of all of this.
I walk with music.
The clouds are humongous.
The heron flies away the minute I walk by. To my right the sky is spattered sunset orange and to my right the fat clouds have a foundation almost purple.
And I hear a song called “Job’s” and I truly want to be comforted.
I’m sorry to say, I continue to wonder.
How long will my granddaughter see her grandma wearing a mask?
How long will we all be afraid and conformed to fearing even more every single moment.
How long until we trust our Sovereign God who made us fearfully and wonderfully and numbered our very moments…how long must we wait until our faith in His knowing of us gives us the courage to be free, unmasked and trusting the timing, the living, the hope…
To live without hiding, to live unmasked?
Fear will grow, keep growing until we are confident and trusting in the God that Job knew, the God we are all being beckoned to consider.
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2 ESV