Lenten Refections in Real Time - Day 6
Every year it happens. A day that there is magic in the air. Where my spirit lifts off. Where the breeze finds my face, I close my eyes and dare to say - Thanks to the great Divine for my being alive.
Today's that day. The first day that my soul feels the kiss of Spring. It happens every year like an unwatched clock. Always an unaware dance. Slips up on me.
This morning I popped into a cafe for a bite, to work a bit and meet a friend and talk Books and the upcoming Confessions Tour.
The old men were talking. Every city I've ever lived in or city I've traveled to internationally - has a spot, a cafe, a coffee shop, a corner - where the old men talk about the trouble in this world. How they'd deal the cards if the deck was theirs. How they'd call the shots. Tell 'em all where to go if it were up to them. They tell stories of where they've been and what's happened. And, I love to hear them tellin it.
This morning I sat at my table, opened my laptop as my ears picked up the end of a story.
"So, I sent it back," he said, "I told 'em - This one didn't stand up to a snake killin'! So they sent me a new watch." There is appreciative chuckles and do-tells.
I wanted to ask him to take it from the top. Start over. Tell me about the snake. Were you under the house? Down by the creek? Up a mountain? Were you protecting a woman or a baby or an old dog? Did you kill it like my Memaw when a tassle of barefoot kids were screaming as a water moccasin chased us hard and fast around that sand yard. She came down three times on his head with her cane pole and the power of a mad Memaw. Mashed snake head flat and picked him up with the end of the pole and slung his dead into the woods. Did you kill it like that? And just how did that watch get in the way? What did that snake do to stop time?
But I didn't ask. I let the old men talk. You can't interrupt a good tellin'. Not on your first stop anyway. If I was there ever day I might end up being the only woman at that table. Trading talk, slinging stories. But I'd try not to make it habit. The old- men - they gotta talk about tigers and hunts and being wild once upon a time. Once. upon. a time.
Today, good is raining down.
I overheard a woman talking on her phone.
"Uh, huh. Shut your mouth. No, she did not."
I stopped writing. Turned my ear toward her.
"When he said, what he said, what I told you he said, when he said it - there was lightning in the sky. Swear. Swear on my dirty pride."
Now, i made that last part up. The dirty pride. That part is all me. Cause words play off my tongue sometimes. I wrote her words down. But I can't find them.
Today it rained down good things.
The sunshine called me. I found Percy Warner like a creature homing. Like old cat, Jake. I'd been babysitting him for a year till my sister moved again. Then she picked him up and took him to the new neighborhood. Jake walked three days through the woods. Braved coyotes and wilderness to sashay right in the back door and say - , I've back and mean to stay.
The sunshine called me out of my routine, my to-do list, that kiss of Spring - it's some kind crazy intoxication. It is. Me, these old, black boots have wed to my feet. No walking clothes. I. did. not. care. I walked. In the mud. Climbed those stairs.
My favorite new addiction. Sara's playlist on Spotify. She named it, Bookstore Vibes. Bear, the Parnassus Books official baby lover and dog greeter is the Image.
I took Sara's playlist on a little walk. And watched the people running by in gear made to run by with. And people like me called from the cars, staring at the sky in wonder, wondering how they got out of the house, away from the screens, like waking up after hibernation. Sometimes, we find we are fully, strangely awake. The pieces of our life, clinking into place. Right where they belong.
I left the park and popped over to St. George's to invite them to the Confessions book party. (Have I told you the whole wide world is invited?) I ended up aimlessly wandering the back halls and because I am a Trinity Girl I found the chapel. This is a part of my silent world.
A friend recently told me - "Knowing you like I do, I was surprised by your book, Praying for Strangers."
This person knows me more as a bourbon drinking Southern writer. Surprise. Yeah, I get that. It surprises me, too. Not the doing. Not the praying. Not the strangers. Not the stories. It's the telling of it that surprises me. I keep my faith cards close to my chest. Or - did. And, now here comes Confessions blowing down the aisle. Here comes the truth and the Amen.
Today, good is raining down.
Trinity girl in the chapel. Lit a candle for my Mama cause today that was on my heart. Said a prayer. Started to back away but then - there are those other lights. Candles flickering in the dark. Lit by hands outstretched, reaching for something. Answers, faith, love, remembrance. I thought about them, too.
The Church bells ring out in the courtyard. From somewhere down the hall, little kindergarten kids march to a gather in a hall where soon bagpipes begin. I run my fingers over prayer beads. Read St. Patricks prayer. Let tears find me fare-the-well. Sometimes, my spirit lifts off, soars in spite of me. My arms rise to my side and I walk the stairs like a two year told, balancing between here and there, fearless and full of faith.
Johnny Swim sings, Ring the Bells.
Good is raining down.
Morning has broken. The rooster down the hill, crowing. More fervently today. More frequently. Morning has broken indeed, he says. Awake! Arise! The great night of the storm has passed. We are still here. On this hill. All is well and all shall be well and all is well.
The storm last night was a doozy. Wind blow, gusts roar, rain deluge. Tornado watches and threats. Worry, toil, trouble. Rescue Kevin was antsy because I brought him inside as the winds picked up, screaming and roaring up the valley and into the ridge, rolling up over us. He bounced, he barked. He picked up an old Christmas tree ornament he found in a corner and ran with it, the hook dangling from his mouth as I chased him saying, Give me that! Give me that right now! Then I put him out again and followed him to the edge of the porch where he bounded down stairs, turned and looked back at with me with a smile, saying - Let's play! It is wild tonight and we are free beasts to roam and roar back at the wind.
I said, the rains are starting dog. I'm going to bed. An hour later when the deluge hit, I got up again, opened the door and called. Toweled him off and declared lay down. He still pranced nervous until I got a blanket and went downstairs tried to sleep on the couch, be in the lower level close to the closet beneath the stairs. To the bed, to the couch I went. Then finally, to my bed in the dark, my head nestled in covers thinking maybe they alone could protect me.
This morning. I open my window. The clean, clear air. The rooster. The all clear sound. My thankfulness. The house has stood yet another storm. The storms I've faced down in life in the natural and in the human would fill a multitude of books. Some, I've simply just survived. I'm sure you, too. We are simple and same like this. We face our storms. Or we hide our heads beneath our blankets and pray for them to pass. But always, the clear morning air, the all is well sound relieves our soul.
This week - The taxman I had to meet. Downtown in Nashville. Clearing up some old business that wasn't mine to do but looks like now it is. I check in and take a seat. The office full to overflowing. Men, tired at midday. Tried from work and strife and troubles stared at their boots. Women waited, coupled whispered consolations and assurances. A man came in to make an appointment. But you can only make appointments by stepping out the door and calling a different number. He took some brochures, said ok. Then he turned to go. He was built like Santa with a beard and suspenders. He glanced around the room before he left and said, "Good Luck, Everybody," with a booming voice. A heartfelt hope. There was no sarcasm there. No frustration. A ripple of laugher rolled across the room. Then an echo of thank you, thank you, thank you. From everyones lips including mine. There was something special about it, about him. About that sincere moment where he cared what happened to the people waiting. He saw us all. He took us in. And, stepping outside whatever trouble he might be in, he offered a peaceful benediction. The room felt lighter when he left. Less concerned.
I have the oil lamp lit on my desk. I had readied everything in the storm. Prepared for our lights out moments. I trimmed the wick. It's amazing how the lamp burns more evenly when you do this. How much more light it casts when you wash the globe. Our souls must be like this. Our lives. Needing pruning, care, a little time and consideration.
This week - The Undercover Reader Posse began. (A nod to my Daddy's birthday, also this week and a great personal anniversary for me. To my Daddy's love of westerns. To me and sister loving to watch them with him.) Early readers will be riding shotgun with me as I finish this new novel and bring it home. This alliance is something brand new and fills me with the excitement and expectation that new births are filled with. Not just the novel but this early connection with readers and story lovers. You can read more about it here. (Or find in navigation bar if page changes)
Yesterday. I read in Flannery O'Connor's prayer journal published after her death. The prayers are filled with angst and love and longing. Sometimes, too intimate to touch. Like this -
"I am one of the weak. I am so weak that God has give me everything, all the tools, instructions for their use, even a good brain to use them with, a creative brain to make them immediate for others. God is feeding me and what I'm praying for is an appetite."
I've been that way before I can relate. Praying for abundance when my mouth is full of blessings.
This week - We continued the amazing Mastermind Writer Series with Session Two. 100 percent of the class decided to enroll again. To stay with it. To keep working on their writing with me in this small conference class group with one-on-one conference calls. This week I'm kicking off a new Fiction Writing Workshop series. For any who are interested you can find out more here. And look for updated posts on the coming fiction series Monday.
That rooster. Boy, is he proud this morning. Relieved and happy. I suspect he might crow all day.
I had planned to work this am so early on the novel. But the novel is a page turner, a mystery. Better to write in the midst of the stormy night beneath the covers. So, I'll turn my eyes to peaceful words and worlds. Kevin went back out at four after the big storm passed. But still the rains were there. This morning he heard me making coffee at 6:30 looked up at the window from outside. His resting now on the couch, milk bones in his belly. The night has passed, the day at hand, the all clear sound. He knows finally his watch is through and he can sleep.
I pray your week holds victory, peace and sustenance in all the ways you need it most.
Hey there. Just a few things on my mind.
I picked up a nail. Which led me to a tire store where I was looking for a patch. Well, if you pick up a nail and it's in a certain place where your tire is worn they can't patch it very well. Which means I gotta get a tire. Cause it's all wheel drive - I gotta get two rear tires. Since Daddy said you always have to buy 4 tires at a time looks like I'll be riding on some tread. Which comes in handy on these high speed rolly polly slippy slidey roads in Nashville.
March is trying to kick up some Spring around here but we've had a serious cold snap. Down to 20 degrees at night -
Shut your mouth.
No, Really. It's some crazy cold for those of us with thin skin. My sister calls me a lizard cause I used to lie in the sun on the beach for hours upon hours. It just charged my battery. I need the sun, need a rock and I'm relaxed.
Closest thing to it - building a fire in the fireplace and lying on the floor rotating myself. Big dog doesn't care for the heat but if I"m on the floor and he's laying next to me it's the best sleep he ever gets. He's got an old dog snore and I swear I could ride that snore to heaven. Its good to know that your company means so much. Just being nearby. You can't ask for more than that. Well you can - but why?
Got some new friends reading Saints, and Messenger, Mercy, and The Gin Girl and asking me why in the world I don't write music because I sure write novels like I write music. I said - okay. I'll write some music. So I have. It's Nashville after all. Seems like it by be a sin not to. At least around here.
Spring's setting in no matter how the cold turns. Summer is coming on. Porch time. Long nights. Fireflies. Shooting stars. In light of that, in spite of everything, it's still a good time to be alive.
What's happening in your neck of the world?
That's one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible to me. That short phrase. In the fullness of Time. And, this morning, still sleepy, needing to shower and be out the door in a few minutes and walk Big Dog and send a thousand emails, follow-ups, notes, call my mother . . .
You get it. The fullness of time seems like a luxury. Or something way, way, way over there that is absolutely unattainable. Yet, God promises that the fullness of time will arrive. That in the fullness of time the prophesy will be fulfilled. That in the fullness of time the child will arrive. That the seeds that God planted deep within us will come to fruition. If we follow, if we keep our minds and hearts focused on that star, our ears open to the Holy, our puffed up pride willing to climb that donkey - in the fullness of time - all will be well.
I have a Christmas tree that has been up but half decorated for days. Lights strung. A few strings of beads. And then - I kinda stopped. I think I've been waiting for a Christmas happiness to rain down on me that is my normal sort of happy, humming, It's a Wonderful Life decorate the tree, drink eggnog moment. It hasn't happened. I came in two nights ago, turned on the television so Big Dog would be happy and know that meant we were settling down and not moving. (He Likes the sound of the tv - it calms him.) And there begins It's a Wonderful Life and my tree decorations in the box at the foot of the tree.
I switched the channel.
Oddly enough - It was The Grinch that Stole Christmas. If it had been the cartoon I might have left it on but it was the movie and although I like the Jim Carey version, it just required more emotional commitment than I could give right then. So I didn't decorate the tree to either movie. Which was funny because I thought - oh, if only the right movie was on I'd get my Christmas hum on and get to work. But, nope. Didn't happen.
We've always loved the over the top goofiness of Christmas decorating at my house as a child. It was our Mother's favorite time of year so it became ours. She hummed Christmas Carole's as she decorated every tiny corner, mantle and room. Our house that was sometimes very Eyyore'ish became full of light and wonder in every room. It was a new season. Everything sparkled. And, for a little while - the magic of it all was everywhere.
We can't always force our hearts to be somewhere they are not. We can't always hum or be full of the winks and laughter of the Merry Season. The Americanized version of Christmas crazy that I adore. Tis the season to be jolly - ho. ho. ho.
I may pack my ornaments away this year. Allow my tree to be as oddly bare each morning as I feel. But I promise you, as night falls, as those lights become brighter in the growing darkness, I have great hope that in the silence of one peaceful tree-lit moment I will remember that in the fullness of time a child was born. That in the fullness of time the eternal story will unfold. And, that finally, all will indeed be well.
I pray you have crazy, inexplicably no reason for it peace in the middle of the season and that you trust that the truth of your unfolding story will be told in the fullness of God's time.
Historically, people have looked for someone, an event, or a thing (Lassie?) to deliver them from times of troubles. The troubles can be days or decades. They can be dark or something much more like Animal House where you might turn to a friend and ask that they deliver you home. Or in prayer to God - Deliver us fro Evil.
In the days of the New Testament there was a hope that deliverance was at hand. That a warrior or a king would come to fight the battle of oppression and deliver them from slavery to a system, a government, a people. One did. But sometimes our deliverance doesn't look a bit like we anticipated. Nor do the end results.
In a way that you might say, You call that deliverance? This is what it looks like on the other side of the river into the promised land? Looks like more dirt to me. Lots of sand. Sand, sand, and more sand. Matter of fact, now that I'm standing here . . . back there way over there looks better. I'll simply go back the way I came. But when you try, when I try, the river doesn't part. The door doesn't open. The road closes. Because we aren't meant to go back there. To the past or where we were. Even if the future doesn't look any more promising than a night in a stable. We're following a call. A spiritual instinct. But as a good friend of mine quotes, "Sister, it ain't easy."
Once upon a time I was walking on a deserted road. Just out walking. Enjoying the day and getting a little exercise and fresh air. When three mangy dogs came upon me. Skinny dogs. Not shop dogs, or cuddle dogs or dogs wearing sweaters. Not Big Dog my best, good buddy. Mangy, skinny, mean hungry dogs. I looked like dinner and they were dangerous. I've never been afraid of dogs in my life. Well, only once of some junkyard Rottweilers wearing spike collars but I baby talked them into a tail-wagging face licking frolic. These dogs would have been licking their chops discussing just how tasty I was before the baby talk settled.
I walked backwards, I grabbed a stick. They flanked me. Begin to inch closer, closing in. So, I prayed for deliverance, talking to God fervently making deals no doubt. And, also told Him that if he wanted to just send three bolts of lightning and smoke those dogs to ashes and dust right there on the spot I was all for it. Yes, I love dogs but you get in that situation and they may as well be three Velociraptors closing in.
There I am yelling my head off at God and I look up to see an old, old - OLD man come walking up out of the woods. He wore pants with suspenders and an old shirt, long grey beard, grey hair. Moved kinda silent like. No footsteps on leaves. Looked like some old miner from the Gold Rush days. Just like that. He stopped and looked at me at the edge of the road. I asked -
These your dogs?
He shook his head, No.
I'm just trying to get home - that's all.
He looked at me for a while that seemed like a long, slow time. Then he raised his long arm, sleeves rolled down to the wrist even though it was Summertime, pointed off Southward and said -
He backwoods talk that is Get on out of here. And suddenly all three dogs turned and ran like someone had poured scalded water on their backs. The man just looked at me again. Silent. Me saying Thank you, sir with a kind of quiet reverence. He nodded slightly to me and turned and walked back into the woods. I turned and walked back up the road. Dog-less. Heart-beating.
Later I shared that story around a few tables in that neck of North Florida. They said no old man lived down on that road.
Deliverance doesn't always look like what we expect but with hope, by faith, it arrives.
I pray during this Advent that whatever you may be carrying, whatever may be challenging you that you need a little boot up help with emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, or spiritually - you have the deliverance that is yours at just the right time.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.