Paths of Our Choosing

Abuse Survivor, bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, doubt, Faith, freedom, grandchildren, Peace, Redemption, testimony, Vulnerability, wisdom, wonder

“When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I’m remembering just now, my grandmother took us all walking. The cousin weekend retreat always included a walk on the curvy clay road.

How had it not realized the resemblance until now…the deep ditches covered in growth, the ditches we’d jump in and stand still like statues until the old truck passed by?

My grandmother commanding, “Hit the Ditch”.

How we remember becomes how we see.

I’m reading two new books, one fiction the other non. One discovered and one recommended, “Sugar Birds” by Cheryl Bostrom and “Your Stories Don’t Define You” by Sarah Elkins.

Barely into either, I am learning.

Ideas like telling your story to and through others and the power of memories we give ourselves permission to explore more deeply, building a better story.

When my granddaughter and I walk, we sing a little song about staying safely in the middle and we’ve made a game of jumping over roots instead of getting tangled.

Yet, when I walk alone, the neighborhood walking trail or the sharp turn on the busy road, I’m less cautious, in a way a stubborn walker.

The trail is disrupted by large old roots. I walk swiftly and keep on even though on a few occurrences the toe of my shoe butts up against the thick branch and I catch myself from falling face first.

It occurs to me it’s a stubborn resilience, this choice.

It occurs to me now I choose the dangerous path because I’ve decided it’s still my assignment to not be defeated by it.

Later, I’ll walk the trail and I’ll will myself off the broken up paved path and step aside to walk a few steps on the soft grass.

I can give myself permission to choose softer, I can decide to be welcome there, the place of choosing easy over hard, peace in regards to my past instead of handicap.

Be well today.

Enjoy your new path.

Tasting Mercy

bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, eating disorder, Faith, freedom, hope, mercy, Peace, Redemption, Salvation, Stillness, testimony, Vulnerability, wisdom, writing

Remember when you refused to say “diet”, instead lifestyle or good choices for my health? Maybe you’ve counted calories, drank smooshed up vegetables in a pretty glass, restricted cream and sugar in your coffee.

All in an effort to be well, to be satisfied with yourself, body and soul.

Yesterday, I gazed at the casserole dish of cheesy baked spaghetti my daughter made. I remembered the day I would’ve gone for thirds, if by myself eat the rest of it.

I let the memory help me, I let it fade into the shadows. I left it there.

I woke up early unnecessarily today. I prayed beside my bed that God would help me keep learning, keep listening, keep strengthening my spiritual health.

I see the word prompt for today is “taste”. Rather than think of passages like kind words being sweeter than honey or tasting and seeing that the goodness of the Lord is good.

I rested for a few minutes, soaking up a passage I never tire of,

The passage about the woman who’d been hemorrhaging for twelve years and had gone broke trying to get well, to find a solution to her blood saturated clothing.

The crowd was thick. She could get close to Jesus without being noticed. She did. She touched the hem of his robe and instantly everything changed. She got well.

Jesus knew it. Knew she was there. Knew she was desperate and called her out from her chosen obscurity, her hope to keep herself secret.

“When the woman realized she couldn’t hide any longer, she came and fell trembling at Jesus’ feet. Before the entire crowd she declared, “I was desperate to touch you, Jesus, for I knew if I could just touch even the fringe of your garment I would be healed.”
‭‭Luke‬ ‭8:47‬ ‭TPT‬‬

All eyes and ears were on her then, Jesus didn’t just heal her, He gave her the voice to invite healing for others.

I haven’t thought of it this way until today.

Others see and hear us. See how we’ve changed and keep seeking to be healed.

On Sunday (isn’t Sunday always okay tomorrow I start the diet day?) I considered doing Whole30 again.

The diet that restricts certain foods as a way for you to learn what is specifically not good for you is work. It takes effort, makes you feel like a brave fighter or a competitive something or other.

But, there’s no cheese allowed, no cream in my coffee, no chocolate, no red wine, no bread, no sugar, no peanut butter (!!!). The “no” list is long.

Earlier this week, I embraced a friend in a funeral home. I didn’t expect to hear her words through tears. I just know they surprised me, sweetly and certainly she spoke.

“I’m gonna need you.” she said before I spoke a word. On the way to this visitation I almost decided against I decided I’d offer myself as a person to call.

I’d tell her “If you run out of friends to call or no one’s available, you can always call me.”

You see, we know each other but not dining together or visiting each other’s home sort of friends.

Her greeting me with “I’m gonna need you.” surprised me and then it didn’t.

This thing called blogging, posting what God tells me on Instagram, this sharing of sitting on the sofa sketches at night, this creative thing God so graciously made me to do.

It has an audience of listeners, seekers, “needers” like me.

It’s just me being vulnerably, being honestly me.

My “sermons to self” sometimes become hopeful words for others, I suppose.

I pray this anyway.

So, on this chilly quiet morning, I make myself breakfast. I don’t skip it thinking I’ll eat later. I am intentional with starting the day filled with possibilities and errands well.

I take the English muffin top and toss it. I like the bread, but I just choose the bottom. I add sharp cheddar to the egg white and turkey sausage and let the broiler make it bubbly. I add a dollop of cherry preserves to balance the savory. I place it on the pretty china.

I sit and enjoy it.

Like I told my friend who is grieving and I continue to tell others and myself,

“Take it easy on yourself.”

Offer as much mercy you’ve shown others to yourself.

Cease striving, seek wellness.

Be humble when convicted, but don’t punish yourself, don’t let bitter regret or self-hate simmer.

Continue and believe.

Believe you’re fearfully and wonderfully made and so fully known and loved.

Be well. It is well.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Thank you for sustaining me Lord, for keeping me well, for reminding me of what harms and what helps me, what makes me a beautiful offering, a vessel to pour out new life, love and listening. Thank you for showing me gently what limits my abilities, takes me from your Spirit. I am listening. I am learning. Thank you. Because of your mercy, Amen

More Than Pretty Words

bravery, confidence, courage, Faith, family, freedom, grace, mercy, Peace, Prayer, Redemption, rest, Salvation, surrender, testimony, Trust, Vulnerability, waiting, wisdom, writing

It occurred to me as I thought of today’s prompt, “trust”, that so many of the words we use may be less powerful, more pretty, even cliche.

Trust is a word I write every morning, some days God follows with a bold period and often underlined.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭3:5‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Trust.

I start the day with this written commitment. Still, some days it’s nothing more than a pleasant hope, a halfhearted decision to remember God is my Father and I am His child.

I can trust Him.

Even if trusting humanly is a challenge for me, an established avoidance or cynical pattern.

I can decide to trust God.

Words like trust, faith, redemption, and salvation are powerful and unchanging words.

They are the fruit of our Creator’s character and intent for us.

They are God’s covenant.

“Promise”, another word we hold loosely when we consider it from human experience, is just as valuable, a weighty word.

Today, I will trust God. I will know and cherish words like trust, faith, mercy, grace, freedom, salvation, healing, and peace.

I’ll embrace these words tightly, held and certain like a child being cradled in the strong arms of a parent.

“I am carrying you.” God

He keeps His promises.

He gives joy, trust, patience.

We’re not able on our own to sustain these.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:22‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Such A Faith

Abuse Survivor, contentment, courage, doubt, Faith, freedom, hope, memoir, Peace, Prayer, Redemption, rest, Trust, Vulnerability, waiting
Hope

My gaze focused on the tall bare branched tree, old and ash colored amongst the others still holding green.

It reminded me of hope and holding on, of being planted in just the place that the morning sun illuminates it. We walked together in rain jackets, pockets crammed with acorns and fallen leaves, feet bare because of spontaneity.

The rain sounds led to a prayer stance she copied. I smiled.

Peace. Sweet peace.

On the way to church on Sunday, a memory came. No reason, not a song or a scene that stirred up the scary long ago vivid memory.

Of a time marked by alone in a sort of wilderness, marked by events that changed the imprint of my brain. Changed and erased my sense of safety on most days.

I’m afraid altered workings of my brain forever.

I wonder.

Today, that fear of forever seems accurate. Powerful nightmares for no apparent reason woke me at 6:00 and then finished their working as I drifted in and out of their fearful overtaking until 8:00.

I journaled them, looking for the seeds that started the nighttime stories, the coal that fueled the frightening furnace.

I made sense of it in a way and then asked God if nightmares would always be my battle, if I’d ever be able to be effortlessly hopeful and free.

Matthew and Mark recorded two versions of the boy brought to the disciples and Jesus by his desperate father. I imagine the father was wondering if his son would ever be well, if he’d be overtaken by muteness and seizures forever.

Jesus answers questions firmly and with a tone of importance and perhaps, impatience with them all.

He tells the disciples your faith must be increased and he tells the father you must rid yourself of unbelief.

“And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭17:20‬ ‭KJV‬‬

“Jesus said to him, “What do you mean ‘if’? If you are able to believe, all things are possible to the believer.”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭9:23‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Then he tells them, you must have faith and most of all your prayer must be a committed, confident and consistent kind of prayer.

“And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭9:28-29‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I gathered my journal and pens, other books and put them away for today. I sat with my coffee and my kitten.

Quietly, not at all condemning, the answer to whether my past trauma would always lead to debilitating nightmares and have power over me in my sleep came.

Yes, if you will hold fast to the faith seed I gave you, nurture it with prayer and commitment and allow the growth, you will be better, less held in the horror of past trauma.

I believe

If you will decide to believe. If you will have faith in your healing equal to the measure of me, your powerful Heavenly Father.

You will continue to be better.

The passage in Mark 9 has held my interest for a couple of months. I see the father, I see the disciples who’d just returned from the Mt. of Transfiguration with Jesus.

They’d been witness to God saying this is my Son.

“And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.”
‭‭Mark‬ ‭9:7-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Still, their faith was small, Jesus told them as they asked why they weren’t able to heal the boy.

“He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭17:20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I find comfort in knowing belief wasn’t easy for them, having faith that made no sense must have also been a challenge.

I like the tone Jesus had with them…sort of you asked and I’m telling you. You need more faith, you need less unbelief, doubt and dread and more abandoned belief in me.

I sit now with the answer to the question I asked an hour ago, a note to God as a prayer.

Yes, you are well and you will be even more well as you ask for my help. Ask me to help your unbelief.

Is there something you’re sure you’ll never be fully free from? This side of heaven may always include our hardships, horrors and disabilities.

Ask God to bring you relief and to increase your faith, decrease your unbelief.

Perfection is not necessary in this pursuit. Recognition of its power and of your need are more important.

Turn your face towards heaven.

We were not made to carry burdens alone. Talk to God and a friend or counselor. Find someone who will believe alongside you.

Continue and believe.

Possible Hope

Abuse Survivor, confidence, contentment, courage, Forgiveness, freedom, hope, memoir, mercy, Prayer, Salvation, surrender, Vulnerability, wonder

“He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed and received my sight.”
‭‭John‬ ‭9:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Growing

Two passages have held my interest in August, my writing sparse because of a desperate longing to correctly understand one and to linger in the hope of the other. Plus, my brain’s been a bit fuzzy, like a dull swirling of what next.

Anyone else?

The passage about the man blind from childhood whose parents were interrogated by the Pharisees about the cause and the remedy has captivated me.

“His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind.”
‭‭John‬ ‭9:20‬ ‭ESV

The other is the passage that contains the words to “carry your cross” used often in sermons or songs. It always intrigues me. More so now because I believe I’ve been believing it wrongly.

“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:38‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Once I heard a woman sing a song she wrote about her cross. Her voice was strong as she began and then wilted in weepiness towards the end. The lyrics told of her personal battles, her depression. These burdens she told us she had decided were her’s to carry, they were “her cross”.

I caught myself now thinking, “albatross”.

Mercy

I remember how hopeless it left me, her disclosure, and how I pondered the weight I’d be expected to lay across one shoulder for the rest of my life.

I’d be bent permanently by the burden of my traumas.

If my past was my cross I’d be like the aged and decrepit beggar on a back street barely carrying on.

Oh.

The road I often travel passes by the County jail. Men and women are leaving to walk towards town with paperwork in hand or they’re sitting at the exit, heads bent towards their laps, hoping soon their ride will be there.

I pray.

“Change their life for better, God, today.”

Last week, a young man I guessed to be in his late twenties stood on the corner waiting. He was dressed in clothes that didn’t seem to match a night spent in jail. He stood and then paced and I watched in my rear view mirror until watching was no longer possible.

I noticed something different. I sensed his deep contemplation and so I opened my hand to heaven and prayed, “Lord, let today be his turnaround day. Be near him in a new way.”

When Jesus passed the man who’d been blind from birth, the disciples asked him, whose fault is this?

Is he blind as a punishment for his wrongs or is he blind and it’s his parents’ fault?

Jesus told them no, it is because God wants others to see the possibility of hope, of healing.

“Jesus answered, “Neither. It happened to him so that you could watch him experience God’s miracle.”
‭‭John‬ ‭9:3‬ ‭TPT‬‬

And I See

Now I see.

“The healed man replied, “I have no idea what kind of man he is. All I know is that I was blind and now I can see for the first time in my life!”
‭‭John‬ ‭9:25‬ ‭TPT‬‬

And now I see, the cross I carry is not the cross of my past wrongs or wrongs done towards me. My cross is not a burdensome visible and invisible reminder of what Jesus healed me of and from.

My cross is the very cross Jesus died on, the sacrifice of surrender to His Father’s plan, the hope of eternity for all of us who would say like the blind man.

It was “the man called Jesus”. (John 9:11)

Who said , I can’t comprehend it all, I just know what I experienced and I won’t debate with anyone on how or why or if.

I’ll carry on healed and I’ll carry the cross that made possible my healing, the good shepherd’s brutal cross.

I will follow.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
‭‭John‬ ‭10:11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I most likely won’t know what happens in the lives of the prisoners who’ve been set free.

I know hope is possible.

Healing is a moment away for any and everyone. Jesus is still near and miracles are still the evidence and purpose of the cross, the cross waiting for us to carry in exchange for every weighty sin, shame or trauma.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:1‬ ‭ESV

Continue and believe.

Pray the same prayer for others today.

Your Eyes Will Tell

Children’s Books, confidence, contentment, courage, Faith, Forgiveness, freedom, grace, hope, Peace, rest, Salvation, Stillness, Trust, waiting, wisdom, wonder
Mercy Every Moment

In the summer months, my husband questions my robe with pajamas.

I tell him I love it, I just like to wear it. I feel pulled together.

Before daylight, I’ve left home, left it hanging with soft pajamas on the hook.

Monday morning morning views are back. The sunrise to the right of me leads me on. I turn to see it developing, the new and glorious day.

The road towards small town has me meeting headlights and remembering a time the lights sparked caution.

Remembering today that’s better, the lights, the road, the earliness of day.

Everything an adjustment bringing acceptance.

This time last year I wrote a book I thought was for children.

It was God’s promise posed in a way of “maybe she’ll get it this way” kind of thing.

I matter to God.

You matter to God no matter what.

You’re seen, known and loved.

When I worked with women trying to decide whether to believe life was worth living and whether they could change life stealing patterns,

I’d say,

“Look in the mirror, look for more than a minute, you’ll be able to see how you’re doing.”

I’m not talking full length that helps you decide if you can walk on the beach without your shorts or whether the pants are too tight from behind, whether the dress fits good or is too matronly.

No, just the bathroom mirror.

Wash your face and gaze. Consider the condition of your soul through the look in your eyes.

You’ll see. You will know.

Look again, again and again.

Check yourself.

Are you wearing your righteousness? Are you dressed in the covenant of peace?

Your eyes will know and they will tell you so.

You’ll see restoration, you’ll be excited to keep seeing it.

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Become friends with the morning mirror. Carry on. Remember how yesterday was different.

Your faith more certain, your chasing misplaced trust became an acceptance of it.

A robe embraced you, rested on your shoulders and covered your questions,

The robe of righteousness, the blanket of salvation.

Continue and believe.

Be faithful in your belief.

Faithfulness is God’s character and that same character is in you.

“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭23:3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Something Small

Angels, Art, bravery, Children, contentment, courage, curiousity, Faith, freedom, hope, Peace, Prayer, rest, Vulnerability, waiting, wonder

“By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere.” Elisabeth Elliot

Morning Glories

I felt Fall wispy through the bordering trees on Monday morning.

August saying change is coming, change is coming, the kind that causes retrospect in the realization.

Small and sweet, the change.

God’s Hand
The Strangest Bloom
Early Color

The morning rain on Tuesday made the road a soft and sandy cushion under our feet.

We measured our bare feet and talked about the shape of them.

Walked towards the corner and remembered being brave and careful.

We stood still and saw the sunflower aurora against the blue sky border.

We climbed the little hill, twice the height of the two year old.

I’m thinking now of how careful she was, careful and brave.

I told her she was brave to climb the little hill to touch the flowers.

Told her I was brave too.

Later, I approached the room where I paint.

Brushes left soaking in murky water, a week’s worth of blue paint tinted water spilled as I chastised myself for being undisciplined, unsuccessful, “un” driven.

Cleaned up the mess and sat for a minute to add color to an acceptable but unfinished canvas.

Swirls, shapes, layers became a subtle oyster shell.

I left it, pleased in the satisfaction of enough.

A small thing.

Not a burden.

Rest for my soul.

Considered adding to the waiting in process angelic canvas.

Finish it. Share it, wait for the likes and notice.

No, not today.

Tonight, I chose small.

Gentle with myself.

Brave in small ways.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What are you carrying?

“Even angels must find their wings too heavy sometimes.” Helen Van Slyke

“Praise ‘n Worship” (prints available, comment to purchase)

I’ve missed the part about the shared yoke with Jesus being easy to carry, being light.

But, now I see, now I sense it.

It’s something so small.

So small and easy to miss.

Continue and believe.

Passion and Habit

bravery, confidence, contentment, courage, doubt, Faith, Forgiveness, freedom, grace, hope, mercy, Peace, Prayer, rest, Stillness, Trust, Vulnerability, wisdom

God keeps His promises.

I read or heard the other day, a warning, don’t let your “quiet time” just be an empty habit or a trendy phrase. I thought about my mornings, my most treasured time of all, of waking up early just to be quiet and alone with God. I’m needy in that regard. I’m needy in a lot of ways.

I need this “need thee every hour” commitment.

I returned to one verse that feels like proof of God really knowing the me I am lately. The Passion translation of the Psalms is tender, brave and honest. I grab ahold of the words, hold them close.

“You keep every promise you’ve ever made to me! Since your love for me is constant and endless, I ask you, Lord, to finish every good thing that you’ve begun in me!”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭138:8‬ ‭TPT‬‬

I’ve long loved Psalm 139 and now I’m fixed on 138 too. Psalm 116 has a header “I’m saved.” I’ve been loving this too because most of all lately, I’m resting in the sweet reality of God’s love of me. Notice, I said “of” not for. God loves me, loves you.

“So now I live with the confidence that there is nothing in the universe with the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m convinced that his love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels, or dark rulers in the heavens. There is nothing in our present or future circumstances that can weaken his love.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:38‬ ‭TPT‬‬

So, I’ll keep waking every morning God keeps me able. I’ll read. Not always everything and not always the same book or Bible. But, I’ll be quiet because I can’t make it on my own. I need to be reminded.

No one ever cared for me like Jesus. There’s no greater promise of unwavering love. To love others well, I need the reminder that I am loved. I need it every hour, every day,

every evening, every morning.

You are loved.

Continue and believe.

A Short Story I Suppose

Abuse Survivor, Art, bravery, daughters, Faith, family, fear, freedom, grace, heaven, hope, kindness, love, memoir, mercy, painting, Peace, Redemption, Stillness, Vulnerability, waiting, wisdom, wonder, writing

Iris, Art, and Earl

“Blue Ribbon Girl”

   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.