Inside the Fence

end

“Can I tell you my story now?” he asked.

It is not really very likely that I will ever say no to this question.

It was an ordinary day at the office. He’d been fighting discouragement for a while. It’s hard, when you have total faith that this is what God is calling you to do and still the doors feel like they’re not only closed before you, but also locked. But he’d been praying and today God replied:

“Go to Cleburne airport tonight and stay until sunset.”

BUT WHY THOUGH. It wasn’t like he could fly tonight. There wouldn’t even be any airplanes for him to watch and wish he would be piloting them. What would be the point?

“Just go.”

Okay then. Whatever You say.

He called his wife to warn her that God had booked his evening, and invited her to go along. His enthusiasm levels about visiting a lifeless airport were not high, but at least they could have a date night. He didn’t think God would say three is a crowd tonight.

The airport disappointed his expectations. Not only were there two airplanes which took off and landed several times before flying away, there was a third which seemed inclined to stay the whole evening; taking off, flying the pattern he knew so well, landing, and then starting all over again.

They parked their car and sat on the hood to watch. But if you do not have the call to flight whispering in your veins, pulling your gaze ever skyward, you can only watch an airplane do the same thing again and again for so long. His wife’s eyes wandered, and she saw wildflowers growing in the field by the runway. Could they go and pick some?

“Just wait,” he said, “It’s not quite sunset yet.” And he hadn’t had any shining revelations. Yet.

He continued not having them while the sun dropped, and when it slipped behind the horizon, he gave up. Maybe he wasn’t meant to have any tonight. They had had a good evening. Maybe that was meant to be enough.

He took his wife out into the field, and while she was gathering her wildflowers, he looked up again to the place where, according to the pattern it had been flying, the airplane should have been. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t anywhere in the sky or on the earth either, as far as he could see.

“If I brought it here for you to watch, why would I keep it here after you stop looking?” God pointed out.

Oh, right. This evening had been God’s idea, not his.

“Thank You for the airplanes tonight.” And he turned back towards his wife.

God cleared His throat. “Ahem. Also. Where are you standing right now?”

In a field in the middle of a tiny airport?

“Remember how you used to stand outside the airport fences, watching, longing just to be on the other side? These closed doors you keep staring at? Yeah, there might be a few still before you. But what about the gates we’ve opened? Look around you, Craig. You are inside the fence.”

begin

Homeland

Some people have a homeland; a place that their heart calls most beautiful on earth, a place they always want to go back to. Some people have lived in one township for generations. For some people, the land they live on is part of them, in their blood. The circumference of their world may be small, but their roots run deep.

I have never been one of those people. I was born in Missouri, but I couldn’t take you to the first house I lived in. I have no memories of it. I was less than two years old when my family relocated to Colorado.

If I had a homeland, it would probably be Colorado. It’s a dry land, verging on desert, and the browns and blues of it are restful to my eyes as no other landscape is. We lived on mesas, and the nights sparkled with earth-stars in the valley and sky-stars in the heavens. This where I grew up. This is where I have my first misty memory: a swingset and sandbox and a small neighbor named Mary Esther, in front of a house which I don’t remember.

After that, there were four more houses which I do remember. The first, glamoured and distorted in my memories by the eyes of childhood, had windows stretching wide and an open loft where small Jenny got her head stuck between the log railing posts. The second was an old house with creaky floors and a honey-filled bee nest in the eaves, and after living in it for eight years, we were summarily removed from the dangers of faulty wiring, and, several weeks later, watched it pushed flat. The third, a modern house with clear glass showers and all hardwood or tile floors, was the home where I learned to know myself, where I became friends with my older sisters and saw them move away, where my doors were opened to freedom. The fourth house was built on the edge of the ‘dobe wilderness, had thick white walls and high, echoing ceilings, and belonged to one of my married sisters before it belonged to us. This was my last home in Colorado and my last home as my father’s daughter, for this was the house I left when I got married.

Arkansas was a new story for me, in more ways than one. From the beginning, everything was different. When you grow up somewhere, you grow into a niche without much effort. There was no niche for me in Arkansas. I was lost at first and clung to my books, the only unchanged thing I had left. But then I was given work to do and people to love, and that is really what I need from my niche. My first job was a half year of teaching two little boys with hair of sunshine and midnight, and I fell in love. My second was a secretary job where I found the work my brain enjoys and felt valued for it, and I fell in love again. And then I made friends of every sort: the passionate and candid sort, the sweet and open-hearted sort, the analytical and inciting sort. And though my inside life was still unlike what it had been, I found my new familiar and loved it.

Outwardly, the colors of my world had changed just as drastically. Arkansas is usually green, with so much vegetation that in some places the vine-plants devour the beautiful old trees. It is a damp land, often humid, and even my hair was different in that air. But Arkansas has a beauty that arid Colorado never gave me. In Arkansas, there are gray days, when clear pearl-drops fall for hours and evening brings a white mist, wrapping soft around the dark trees. In the morning, the sunrise burns scarlet through the fog and melts it into nothingness.

Close to the end of my time there, Arkansas became the place where I became my Father’s daughter. And it was home. I knew the people. I had a comfort zone, and I had the confidence to fly out of it, knowing I would be caught when I fell. When the day came that we decided it was time for us to leave, I was surprised by how entangled my heart had become in that place and those people. It hurt more than I’d expected to pull away.

Now, here is Texas. State number four. Big, crazy Texas. It’s only been a little over two weeks. We’re still mere acquaintances. At first, Texas was only southern winter: cold, cloudy, lots of tangled and brittle yellow grass, and just enough rain to keep the puddles in the lane from drying out. And the first week I felt even more displaced than I did in the beginning of my Arkansas days. But I see hope. Yesterday there was sunshine and wind, like a Colorado springtime. And there is potential for niche building: work for my hands, people for my heart. I had some friends here even before I arrived, and I think there might be more budding. I like the way the sun sets here, and I like the way the people make me want to become more.

Texas is flatter and warmer than my Colorado home. It is more dry and has less forest than my Arkansas home. But I think the sky is bigger here.

An Armful of Stories

There are stories written in the skin of my arms. The language is silent and perhaps only I can interpret it, but when I trace the lines I read a history of the most formative relationships in my first fifteen years: my daddy, my mother, my older sisters, and my self.

1)  A small brown dot about the size of a pinhead has been on my wrist for as long as I can remember. Before I was old enough to go to school, one of my sisters used it to teach me right from left. Some people made an L with their thumb and finger; but in looking for the mole on my right wrist, I never learned to see it as a flaw. It was a help, a reminder; and now it is a memory of my older sisters, without whom I would be ill-equipped to face the world. 

2)  On the inside of my right elbow there is a narrow, faintly silver crescent. I remember the day I got this scar, though I was quite a small girl – small enough to sit on the kitchen countertop while I helped my mother fry mushrooms. I slipped, on that evening, and fell hand-first into the pan of boiling oil. On the palm of my hand there blossomed a blister larger than my thumb, but my mother doctored it so well that there’s no sign of it today. The only scar I was left with is the curve where my arm hit the edge of the skillet. I seldom notice it now, but I was all of twenty years old before I could enjoy the taste of mushrooms. 

3)  Over the tops of my arms a hundred freckles are scattered – mementos of seven summers spent in the sun, running a mower for my daddy’s lawn care business. I was never a fan of outdoor work but I enjoyed working with my daddy, and despite the two years since spent in housewife-ing and teaching and office work, the freckles remain, a memory of the days when I worked to earn the position of my daddy’s right-hand girl. 

4)  On the soft insides of my forearms the fourth story is written in whisper-thin lines of fading white. Soon they will vanish, and I could choose to let their story vanish with them. I’ve never told it to anyone, this story of a lost teenage girl for whom alone was definitive, both as a blessing and a curse. Alone was the place where I became acquainted with myself, but alone was also the cage where no one could reach me. There were too many thoughts, too many emotions, too tightly locked inside of me, and somehow when my arms stung red in the dark, it soothed for a moment the deeper ache in my soul. Sometimes, still, when I am very tired and my thoughts press in too heavily, I miss the pain that felt like a balm. Last night was like that. But lost has become He saved me, and alone is now where I feel safest in Him. The skin on my wrists is transparent and the blood branching blue underneath is bought blood. Once created and once purchased is twice owned, and I have no right to turn it red.

There are stories written in the skin of my arms: stories of my sisters who taught me so much; stories of my mother, who was patient when I wanted to help and tenderly faithful when I was hurt; stories of weeks spent in the comfortable near silences of practiced understanding with my daddy; stories of fighting my battles alone, of losing and being lost, until the day I was found and I learned to surrender – not to the battles, but to the One who conquers all.

Storm Moments

image

These are moments

I wouldn’t trade for a world

Moments of coming home

A step ahead of the storm

Moments of running out to greet it

Moments of dancing

On mud

On grass

On raindrops

On wind

And he comes running too

And spins me through the wild dark of storm

And kisses me under the cold fall of sky

Not because he loves it like me

But because he loves me.

A Rained World

Image

Today I wander out

into the rained world

Looking for what?

I don’t know

But I am looking.

The colors are different

in a rained world

All shades of green

Orange deepening into brown

Gray and black and white and gray.

There is so much water

Little rivers

Small lakes

Tiny waterfalls

I come from a dryer land than this.

My spring daffodils hide their faces

Raindrops fell fiercely here

I lift one

Mud on its petals

Grime on satin

Still beautiful.

I walk a rain-sticky road

and stop to look at the other worlds

reflected in water pools

If I jumped

would I fall through?

A strange-shaped stump

Like the throne of some woodland elf-king

calls me from my safe lane.

Grass is tall under the trees

Thick with last year’s leaves

My hem turns cold against my ankles.

Back in the warmth of my house

My eyes are dark

My fingers, stiff

But I think I have found

what I was looking for.

A creation always reflects its creator

In rainwater I see His reflection

more clearly.

How Came You Here?

daffy

But why are you here?

Glowing in the town-lit darkness

far from your green-growing sisters.

Were you

a grubby, child-fisted gift?

But who would drop that?

Perhaps you were

a token of unwanted love

cast away.

Or maybe

one among many

discarded for your imperfections.

Or maybe

a young girl plucked you

held you

petals brushed against her cheek

yellow fastened in her hair

til distraction tossed you aside.

I don’t know

why you were left

in a Starbucks parking lot.

But for me

you are unexpected

and bruised

and beautiful.