Small World

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I looked at the many people asleep on the plane and wished I could join them. At the JFK airport I’d taken melatonin in hopes that I could sleep through the hours over the Atlantic. That vain imagination was soon shattered as the stewardess woke me four times to ask if I needed a drink. You would think the glare I gave her the first time would have conveyed the message.

So there I was, arms crossed, staring down the hours. I was horribly uncomfortable and my knees ached like mad. My earphones had long since wigged out, just getting me midway through The Eagle, a story about a Roman soldier braving his way past Hadrian’s Wall to recover his father’s honor.

I turned my face toward the window. The sun faded over the ocean, kissing the periwinkle waves in departure and turning them the color of ink. Those still awake and fortunate enough to have a window seat abruptly closed the shades, thinking there was nothing left to see.

Annoyance furrowed my brow. There’s always something to see. Even the black empyrean has tales to tell . . . Had they left the shade open . . . The beginnings of stories started to come to me, none worth anything. I rubbed my hands over my face thinking jet lag was setting in early and softening my mind.

I’ve long had a suspicion that timing is everything and although we can’t always see it, God is in the details. So there I sat, looking for His hand in my circumstances. My thoughts turned to the movie I’d watched earlier. Why that movie? Why this flight? A soldier against all odds braves certain death just for the sake of honor . . . Hadrian’s Wall . . . a place I’m going to see on this trip . . . Hmmm . . .

Frustrated because nothing profound was coming to me, I got up and wandered down the isle, just to walk. I drew my arms in close, not wanting to disturb those who were sleeping. I scanned their faces as I passed, wondering what their individual stories held. This journey had taken me decades. Was it as important for them?

By a wall in the middle of the plane, I saw a place where I could stand. There, in the dim artificial light, I scanned the backs of seats and the hints of movement from the people. A silver haired woman came to stand beside me. We didn’t speak for a few moments, we just let the movement of the plane rock us, both lost in our own thoughts.

Finally, our tired smiles met. After a few minutes I found out that she lived less than a half hour where my husband grew up—the very place where Bianca, the heroine of my novel, is from. Small world, I thought, passing over the information with a polite nod. We both laughed when I mentioned Hickies, a greasy spoon hamburger joint with quite a local reputation.

We must have stood there for two hours, holding court above the sea. Drawn together for just an epiphany of time, she and I had found a strange and unlikely common bond. I was coming from Colorado. She had been visiting her daughter in Florida before she boarded the plane to JFK and then England. We both fell into a companionable silence.

The light began to change in the few open windows. The hope of reaching England was turning into a euphoria heightened by my lack of sleep. The woman smiled at me before she turned to go back to her seat.

Now standing alone, I breathed deep and leaned against the wall. People began to wake and reach for the window shades, flooding the cabin with bright white light. Suddenly, Matthew 28:20 came into my mind: “ . . . lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” I looked out at the carpet of clouds, a peace spreading over me like the burnished glow of the new day sun.

It was then that I felt God clearly in the details I’d been trying to sort. It was like He saw me working so hard to decode whatever cryptic message I thought was in The Eagle and that made Him smile. All right, He might have said. You want to know that I’m here. Let me show you. And I’ll give you a reference to Bianca, just for fun.

I firmly believe that God cares about the little things in our life. Writers in general tend to agonize over their stories, wanting to entertain but also to make a difference too. There, on the border of my destination, I had a feeling that I'd made a difference already. Because He had seen me. And that makes all the difference in the world.

Such Things As Dreams Are Made On

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I have a reoccurring dream. I open a door in this world and stumble into a manor house in the 1800s. I’ve time traveled. Everywhere I look I see things resplendent—the molding upon the ceiling, the carvings on the wood paneling, the oriental carpets. A clock ticks somewhere, beating out the sounds of a simpler time. I look down and notice I’m wearing a Victorian bustle dress, the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Even the air is different; it speaks of adventure and things yet to come. There’s another thing too, I know I have absolute freedom.

I’m alone in the house and explore for hours, finding secret passages that end in the library. I can’t help the smile that comes unbidden. The books that surround me smell of old leather and secrets. I only have to reach for one to know the answers I’ve longed for. Just as I extend my hand I notice something else—there’s an open window shrouded by a lace curtain. It lifts as the wind reaches for me. I stand mesmerized, watching the lace flip and roll like the sea. 

Finally, my gaze is drawn out further. Across the lawn, there’s a garden outside, full of color that blushes and glows. Hollyhocks sway with the voice of the wind. Foxglove bow their head in reverie. Between the trembling leaves of trees and the long late summer shadows, I see a man walking. His head is down, lost in his own thoughts. I narrow my eyes, trying to see if his burden is mine to bear.

Something is urgent now, something I can’t explain. I run through the house and push open another door. I’m in an ancient courtyard running toward a stone fountain filled with doves. My shoes echo on the cobblestones and the doves take flight, the sound of their wings like the greatest mystery.


I always wake up then. It’s one of my favorite dreams. One day perhaps I'll dream longer and get to see what’s on the other side of the courtyard.

In the background of my imagination there has always been things like this. Questions. Secrets yet to uncovered. A great adventure to be called into.  A place where my heart was desperately needed. These things linger in our childhoods, told to us in stories we’ve tried to forget. We’ve written them off as a child’s fancies. The monotony of the day steals our sense of wonder away. Duty and obligation replace what we once had—a sense of knowing that anything was possible. Sometimes these old things call to us in the quiet hours when our guard is down. There is something more, it whispers. More is possible. You were made for more . . .

I’m on a journey to rediscover this romance, this deeper thing. And when I say romance, I take the Victorian definition of the word. It’s not just the romance between a man and a woman, although that is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, our society has cheapened the word. True romance is a way of living—seeing colors in a more vibrant light, seeing relationships for what they could be and not what they are, walking through the day as if something needs to be discovered. As if something can be discovered. Enjoying the laughter of a child. Doing something ridiculous just because. Hearing deep longing in a piece of music. Crying at inopportune times and not caring who sees. Fighting for your family. Getting back to who you really are. Feeling truly alive.

For me, there’s something else too. For me, this romance involves getting to know the true personality of God, not just the one or two attributes that are talked about all the time. You see, most people don’t know the God of the Bible. Most people just go on opinions formed in hurt or fear. I’m learning how to listen, really listen, and am surprised at the many ways He’s calling me. The things that He’s saying are beautiful and passionate, tremendous, and wild. He’s comforting and funny, and sometimes jealous too.

I hope you’ll come along on this journey with me. Something amazing happened to me in June. I realized a lifelong dream and went to England, Scotland, and Wales. I decided to stop dreaming and start living. I’ve got a lot of stories from those nineteen days. Perhaps I'll share some of them on this blog.