Between Faith and a Hard Place

02-20 Steeple

I recently found myself at a crossroads of sorts; sandwiched between my faith and a desire for freedom from my circumstances.  For many crushing weeks, I’ve wrestled with the rub of choices (mistakes) I’ve made. I’m coming to terms with my life being an “is what it is” situation, for now. I don’t see hope when I look forward, but I’m trying to have faith that God has more planned for me than what I can see. Some days it’s harder to have faith than others, but I take each day as it comes.

In the depths of all-consuming darkness, I came to a realization: rather than focus on what’s missing or what should be, I need to turn my attention to what I already am. It occurred to me that I’ve never depended on anyone to provide me with happiness, so why would I allow someone to steal it from me and disrupt my inner peace? My answer: I shouldn’t- and I have to change this.

I have obligations to keep.  Most of the time, the weight is too much to bear and I want to just sleep, but I can’t allow this to immobilize me any longer.  I can’t let my future to be so burdened by past mistakes that today is lost. In this moment, I see my life is worth more than that. Tomorrow, I may be snared once again by the trap of what isn’t, but I will try to refocus and remind myself that my success/failure is not dependent on only one aspect of my life.

I’m still surrounded by uncertainty, but if my state of mind holds, I hope to return to more regular writing – once a week for now. Thanks again to all the wonderful people (both online and in person) who have encouraged, prayed and otherwise helped me during this low period in my life. You are special to me :)

Stone-Faced (Fiction) & Emilio Pasquale Photo

Photo by Emilio Pasquale
Photo by Emilio Pasquale (story that follows, by me!)

Becca Morris stretched in the chaise lounge on the patio of the courtyard, her back to the main building. Five women in various states of dishevelment sat cross-legged in the middle of the grassy lawn, chins up, eyes closed with hands resting on their knees. They chanted in unison, following the instructor’s lead. She’d read about this; some sort of meditation class that promised to help them train their inner spirits and balance chakras or something like that. Whatever, she thought with an eye roll.

Her gaze traveled between the yoga group and the winged creature statues sitting atop the eight pillars surrounding the courtyard. An ominous feeling blanketed her spirit. She sensed that ethereal chants wouldn’t be enough to save her.

“Becca Morris,” the lady wearing a beige lab coat called out. “You have a visitor!”

Becca leaned to her left and craned her neck to see behind her. She couldn’t see the woman, but didn’t care to try harder. “Right here,” she called out, waving her hand. She returned to her monitoring of the courtyard. She could tell by the wafting scent of apple blossoms that her friend, Danielle, had just sat in the lounge chair next to her.

“So, how are you doing?”

She shrugged. “Other than the fact I don’t belong here, I guess I’m fine.”

Danielle clasped her hands. “You had quite an episode, I hear.”

“An episode.” Becca snorted. “Is that what they call it?”

Her friend leaned back in the chair and released an exaggerated exhale. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”

Becca kept her attention fixed on the perimeter, surveying the winged stone guardians. “I saw them in my peripheral vision. They were taking over Mount Ord. I had to stop them.”

“Who?”

“The rocks moved up the mountain, so I pulled my car over and watched. That’s when I realized they weren’t just rocks; they were creatures with hump-backs, almost like turtles. Some of them walked on two legs, others on four–” Becca halted her words and jerked her head to the right. She squinted her eyes, barely breathing as she focused. “That one moved!” She pointed to the winged creature atop a pillar to her right.

Danielle followed Becca’s gaze and finger point. She didn’t detect any change. She looked back at her friend. “I don’t know what’s going on with you.   They said you were arrested while tossing rocks off the mountain onto the highway.”

“They can’t congregate. They plan to take over the world.”

“You don’t think that sounds crazy?”

Becca’s gaze continued to rove from statue to statue. “They think so, which is why I’m here.”

“This is serious!” Danielle rubbed her forehead. “After your evaluation, they’re taking you to jail. Destruction of property, resisting arrest, assaulting an officer, and a bunch of other things I don’t remember.”

“Won’t matter. They’ll have taken over by then.”

“The statues?”

“It’s gone,” Becca whispered.

Danielle lifted her chin to look at the pillars. She gasped when she noticed the pillar to their right was indeed empty – the winged creature no longer posed with wings lifted.

“Do you believe me now?”

“I-I don’t know what to think.”

Becca jumped from her chair, then lifted it over her head and hurled it to the ground. She kept smashing the chair until she was able to break off the longest support pole. She gripped it in her hands and ran across the courtyard.

“Where are you going?”

Becca didn’t answer. She swung the pole at the pillars and winged statues, sending shards of plaster raining down. Two men burst out of the building and tackled her. She fought back, but they managed to wrestle the pole from her and pin her to the ground.

“She’s had another episode. We’ll need to medicate her, so you should go,” the woman in the beige lab coat said with her hand on Danielle’s arm.

Danielle nodded and let the woman lead her through the double doors into the building. She glanced over her shoulder one more time and saw one of the men removing a syringe from her friend’s arm. Becca barely moved. The woman pulled Danielle’s elbow and ushered her toward the exit.

Becca’s eyes widened as two winged creatures circled above. In her mind, she pointed and screamed, but her arm remained limp and her voice couldn’t overcome the injection’s effects.

With powerful talons, four of the winged creatures grasped the shirts of the two doctors hovering over her and dragged them away. Groggy from the sedative, she couldn’t tell if the same creatures came for her, or if it was another set, but she felt the breeze on her back as she ascended.

***          ***          ***

Becca’s eyelids fluttered open and then squeezed shut against the bright light. She reached her hands to cover her eyes, but they didn’t move. Restraints around her wrists dug into her skin. She flexed her leg muscles, but discovered her ankles were bound as well. Starting to panic, she tried to scream but only a timid moan escaped. As her eyes became accustomed to the light, she looked around her. Dozens of tables arranged in rows filled the room. A groan came from the table next to her. Becca strained to glimpse the person and their gazes locked. She gasped when she saw stone where skin should be. A perfectly chiseled face stared back at her, eyes unblinking. Frightened, she jerked her head to the left. Another stone face. She looked at her arms and grew numb with disbelief when she saw her skin marbled with stone.

A turtle-like stone figure moved down the row toward her. The steps clomped on the concrete floor and echoed in the cavernous room.

“Where am I?” Her words were unintelligible to her own ears.

The figure stopped and squeezed Becca’s leg then ran its stony limb along her forehead, making a scraping sound. Stone on stone, she thought. Panic rose in her chest.

Metamorphosis room.

The idea cut through her anxiety, and she realized it must have been a telepathically transmitted response to her question. “Why?”

Start with the heart

then conquer the mind;

when the body is stone

the time is right.

“What’s that mean?”

The stone figure continued down the row, checking each subject, leaving the question to evaporate, unanswered. The footsteps grew distant and then the double-doors closed with a jarring clang.

Becca’s thoughts stalled and her body grew rigid. The restraints around her wrists and ankles snapped and the table tilted, sliding her to her feet. As if in a trance, she shuffled toward the double-doors.

It’s time.

 ~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

Thanks to Emilio Pasquale for providing the photo as inspiration for this story.  If you  haven’t checked out his photography blog, you should!

Inspiration:  The photo was the obvious inspiration.  I started two other stories, but grew bored with them early on.  Finally, I came up with the story during a drive to Phoenix.  I caught sight of a boulder on the side of a mountain, and at the angle, it almost looked like it was moving  up the mountain.  That’s when I got the idea to write a story about stone-like creatures taking over the world.  I know my mind isn’t right, but let’s just go with it. okay? :)

Stepping Aside

01-20 Hallway_Door-Monticello

Every morning, I let our dogs outside. Every morning, our 16-year-old Yorkie Poo barks when she’s ready to come in. Every morning, I open the door, but she just stands there staring at me. I try to call her inside and get her to move because I know what’s coming.  I hear collar tags jingling and rapid footsteps barreling toward the door. Then, it happens: our Golden Retriever tramples the small dog as she tears into the house. Every day, the Yorkie Poo gets up and looks a little dazed like she’s trying to figure out what just happened; then she will come inside.

As an outsider (who happens to be warm and cozy standing inside,) it’s obvious to see that if she either walked in when the door opened or moved aside, she wouldn’t get stepped on.  This got me thinking about how I sometimes get stuck in the routine of doing the same thing and expecting different results, whether it be dealing with people at work, home, or even my own behavior and reactions to things.

When I feel the frustration of enduring repeated offenses, I need to remember to pause and look at the situation differently. There just might be a solution as obvious as stepping away from an open door.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

It’s been a while since I’ve written fiction, but on Thursday, I will post a story inspired by another one of Emilio Pasquale’s fabulous photos.  I hope you’ll come back and check it out – he certainly gave me a challenge this time :)

A Tale of Two Houses

Every year, the kids beg me to buy those gingerbread house kits. Every year, I give in. It’s like I forget about the huge mess they make. Or, maybe I think the joy they get from decorating the houses outweighs the annoyance of sweeping up bits of candy for weeks afterward.

Yeah, I definitely forget about the mess :razz:

A couple days before Christmas, the kids got out their kits (I learned years ago that they could not build one house together.) I was working, so it was a great excuse to stay out of their project. I like things tidy, so my presence would’ve put a damper on their fun anyway (I think my younger son had more frosting on his jeans than his house.)

My older son (he’s 12) presented his masterpiece, complete with candy cane arch and candy walkway. The showoff even made a guest house out of regular graham crackers:

01-07 Gingerbread1

My eight-year-old son was frustrated that his house wouldn’t stay ‘glued’ together. I heard his aggravation, but he didn’t ask me for help, so I stayed away. When he did come get me to look at his creation, he presented it as a “gingerbread house in a tornado”:

01-07 Gingerbread2

I found this interesting, because it seems as we get older, we tend to color inside the lines, so to speak. I like my younger son’s creative spin (haha, spin… tornado… never mind) because it reminds me that things don’t have to be perfect to be visually interesting.

This is a reminder that once in a while, I should take the opportunity to toss the rules and let my creativity just happen.

Being A Good Friend Is Hard

Sometimes a good friend can see what we don't...
Sometimes a good friend sees what we don’t…

Good friends can often see our blind spots.  It takes courage to tell us stuff we don’t want to hear, but they are there to comfort us when life is rough.

Recently a friend shared an observation which she’d kept to herself for years. What she said kind of hurt, but I wish she’d spoken up sooner. As I thought about obsessed over it more, I cycled through the possible motivations for silence and sharing. It could be a desire to not sway my choices (though decisions made on inaccurate observations are inherently flawed.) It could be that she doubted the strength of our friendship (sometimes when told something we don’t want to acknowledge, we lash out.) Maybe she kept her silence until she thought I could handle the truth. It could be a combination of these, and other factors. I try not to dwell on the reasons I cannot know, and instead, appreciate the fact she finally did speak up.

Sometimes life feels like a corn maze.  The greater design of my life is a mystery to me. I’m so focused on the day-to-day that I can’t see anything beyond the space my feet occupy.  Actually, I tend to see what I want to and rationalize the rest. That’s where a good friend can be invaluable.

Offering superficial approval, passive agreement, and placating compliments is easy. Being a good friend is hard.

My hope is that we can all have a good friend- and be a good friend to someone.