When Walking Gets Hard

Walking used to be easy. In fact, it was so easy, she pretty much bounced with each step. She loved to  listen to the birds and watch the  squirrels scurry about as she walked.

But after a long time, she noticed it was getting harder and harder to walk. She no longer had a bounce in her step. Each step took deliberate effort. It felt like she was walking into a strong wind. But there wasn’t any wind. Or like she was wading through deep water. But there was no flood.  So what was slowing her down, making her work so hard to keep her forward momentum? She had no idea. All she knew was that she had to keep moving if she wanted to make it back home.

Much more time passed, and she was still struggling. In fact, it was now so hard to move it took all her concentration. She had no interest in the birds or squirrels. Each step took every ounce of determination she had as she slowly forced it forward. She held her arms up in front of her as she bent forwards, hoping that by shifting her center of balance, she could get gravity to help move her forwards. But even her arms took effort to keep them in front of her.

Bent almost double now, sweat pouring from her body, she wondered if she should just quit. It would be so easy to stop moving. Staying in the same place wouldn’t be so bad, would it? It was nice here. She thought of her home. It was nicer than where she was, but was it really worth the effort? What if the effort cost her more than she had? What if she died trying to get home? What good would her home do her then? Maybe staying in this place was best after all.

She had just about stopped moving when she heard a whisper coming from deep within her. No, not quite a whisper. Just the hint of a voice, really. So quiet she almost missed it. “Keep going,” was all it said. But with the voice came a strong sense of longing to finish this walk and get home – a feeling that someone was watching and cheering her on. Not understanding but willing to trust it, she started moving again.

It took tremendous strength and even more willpower to take the next few steps. She was so tired, she could think of nothing except shuffling her feet forward one inch at a IMG_20181009_074336724time. But after a time, she realized she was getting stronger. She could see muscles in her arms and legs where previously there was only flab. And her feet were beginning to move a little easier. Instead of an inch, she was able to go several inches with each step. Then a whole foot at a time. It was like as she got stronger, whatever had a hold on her began to break off piece by piece. Soon she was able to straighten up and walk with her hands swinging by her sides again. Moving quickly now, she was delighted to see her home come into view.

As she turned into the driveway, she noticed she was once again bouncing with each step. Squirrels scampered around the nearby trees that lined the long driveway. And she heard a bird singing somewhere over her head.

Sighing with pleasure, she was so glad she had not given up. Yes, all that effort WAS worth it! She was home!

Bella – Epilogue 

Bella spent many days visiting the lake. No matter how often or what time she arrived, she would find God there. And no matter how many questions she asked, He always answered them patiently. Some answers were clear and easy to understand, others were a bit vaguer.

“Why did You tell me You were Pastor Toby when I first met You?”

“If I had told you I was God, what would you have done?”

She thought a moment, then laughed. “I’d have run as fast and as far as I could to get away from You.”

“That’s why. I meet people where they are. I reveal only what they are ready to hear.”

“What is this place? This church that seems bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside?”

“Kind of like spiritual life. From the outside, life with Me often seems small and contained when actually it’s very much the opposite.”

Bella nodded with understanding.

“And why does Your back yard look so different to me than it did to that lady who saw a forest?”

“Because each of you have a totally unique relationship with Me. What you see and experience is based on who you are and how I made you.”

“OK, I can get that. What I can’t understand is how this place can be two things at once. Or more likely thousands of things at once.”

“I’m not bound by your laws of physics. I’m beyond any law.”

“But… thousands??”

“I’m big,” He said with a shrug. “Thousands is nothing to Me.”

“So if You’re that big, how can You take notice of something as small as me?”

“Because of all the things I’ve created, I love you the most.”

Bella smiled. Amazing, she thought, that this God could love her this much. Little did she know how much her God really did love her. That would be revealed to her at another time, when she was ready. For now, she was content to sit His presence, soaking up His love, and learning all she could each day.

IMG_20181005_154104240

The End

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 6   9  10  11 12  13   14  15   16

17

Bella – part 18 Meltdown

Bella allowed the music to strengthen her as she reached for the garden door. Taking a deep breath, she slowly let it out trying to calm herself. She had to be clear headed when she found Pastor Toby. It wouldn’t do her any good if she was too scared to say what she wanted, what she needed to say. She took another deep breath, held it, and opened the door.

At first all she saw was the flowers and plants he tended. A mixture of disappointment and relief surged through her. Maybe he wasn’t here after all. But then she saw something move at the end of the row and heard a very quiet chuckle. Pastor Toby! Had he seen her? As if he had heard her thoughts, he called out, “Hi, Bella! So glad you’re here. Come look what I found today.”

Bella walked up to him and looked where he pointed. Next to a tiny, empty chrysalis was IMG_20181005_154120386a brand new butterfly. Wings still drying, the beautiful turquoise and black insect rested on a leaf. Bella stared at the tiny creature, tears filling her eyes as her heart seemed to grow too big to contain. What was going on? She had seen plenty of butterflies before, but none had affected her as this one was doing. If she wasn’t careful, she was going to lose herself in the flood of feelings rising in her.

She tore her eyes from the butterfly and looked at Pastor Toby. “I need to ask you something,” she said.

“I know,” he said, smiling at her. “Let’s do this.”

Now that the moment was here, she didn’t know exactly how to start. Should she be blunt or lead into it more slowly? Not being one to beat around the bush, she asked, “Are you human?”

“Nope,” he answered looking at her with a hint of joyful expectation.

She found looking into his eyes to be as emotional as looking at the butterfly. Tears beginning to stream down her face, she tried to turn away. She did NOT want to cry. She didn’t like to cry and avoided it at all costs. So why was she crying now? It didn’t make any sense. Was he doing something to her? She could hear the music from inside the house getting louder and seemingly to swirl around her. There was something in that music. Something that seemed to reach deep inside her. That’s it! Maybe he was brainwashing her through the music! But the harder she tried to turn away, the more the tears came. She had to do something – anything – to break this.. this… mind control.

“Um… can we go to the lake?” she asked him. “We can talk on the way.” That would get her away from the music, as well as give her a reason to not make eye contact and a chance to regain her composure.

“Sure, whatever makes you feel more comfortable.” He turned and gestured towards the lake, inviting her to take the first step.

Released from his gaze, she started walking quickly towards the lake, hurrying to get out of reach of the music. She noticed he matched her pace, staying right by her side.

“So, you’re not human?” she asked as they walked.

“No, I’m not.”

“Are you here to capture this planet?”

“If by capture you mean take control, yes. I do plan to take control one day.”

Surprised to not only get direct answers for a change, but to be told right out that he planned on taking control, she was speechless. But only for a minute.

“Why?” she burst out. “Why take our planet when you have your own?”

“This is my planet. I’ll just be taking back control of it.”

“Your planet? You used to have control? When did you lose it? How?”

“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you someday. But I think you have a more important question to ask me, don’t you.”

She had to admit he was right. As curious as she was about the control issue, it was a distraction from what she really wanted to know.

“What are you going to do to us? To me?”

“Nothing you don’t want done. But I want to heal you of so many injuries you’ve suffered in your life. I want to make your life better. And I want you to live with me forever.”

“But what if I don’t want to live with you forever?”

“I will never force you. It’s totally our choice.”

“And what if I told you I was going to warn everyone about you? What if I talked to reporters about your plans?”

“That would be awesome!”

Taken aback, totally not expecting that answer, she stopped and looked at him. “You don’t care if I tell the whole world about you?”

“No. In fact, I wish you would. I wish all my children would.”

“Aren’t you afraid of military attacking you and forcing you to leave?”

“No, they can’t do any more than what I allow them. And I’m not going anywhere. I have many people yet to save here.”

“But you’re just one alien. Wait, is Jude… of course he is. So there are only two of you aliens. Against a whole army. And you don’t feel threatened?”

“Nope.”

Bella continued walking, trying to make sense of all this. None of her scenarios had even come close to this. Why wasn’t he threatened? Did he think he was more powerful than an entire army? Evidently he did. What kind of alien could be this powerful? A whole ship load of them might feel invincible, but just one or two?

And why did she still feel the song swirling throughout her inner being? She couldn’t really hear it with her ears anymore, but it was like her very soul was reaching out and soaking it in. Her heart felt open and raw, seeking his touch, his presence. And she felt a sense of longing growing in her – longing to be with him no matter where he went. To be with him forever. Just the thought of losing him should the military kill him created a pain so deep she couldn’t bear it. Tears began streaming down her face again as she turned to him.

“What kind of alien are you?”

“Alien?” He laughed. “I never said I was an alien.”

“But you said…”

“I said I wasn’t human.”

“Then… who are you?”

“I’m God.”

“God? Like God-in-the-bible God?”

“I am.”

Just two simple words, but it was enough. All the confusion fled her mind as if a bright light was turned on. For a moment she saw clearly who she stood before. This was the almighty, all powerful God! The Creator of the heavens and the earth! This was GOD!

She fell face down before Him, sobbing and feeling so insignificant and dirty. She was nothing compared to Him.

“Oh, God, I am so sorry. Please forgive me for all my evil thoughts against you.”

“You’re forgiven,” He immediately responded with a voice so gentle and loving that she dared to look up. Then it hit her. This was also the One who had made her – and loved her – and only wanted her love in return. As she looked into His eyes, she felt His love for her totally engulf her. Her heart swelled until she thought it would burst. And she knew beyond a doubt, that there was nowhere she’d rather be than here in His presence. Forever.

“I love You,” she told Him. “I want to be with You forever. I never want to be separated from You even for a moment.”

“That’s totally possible,” He answered. “All you have to do is invite me inside your heart. My Spirit will come and set up dwelling there. And we will never ever be apart again.”

“Yes! Yes! Please come into my heart!”

“Done!” He face lit up with joy so brightly He seemed to glow! Yet she had no trouble seeing His hand reach down to raise her up. Standing next to Him, tears drying on her cheeks, she couldn’t resist hugging Him. As her arms wrapped around Him, His joy enveloped her until she felt like she would burst if she didn’t start dancing or something. So she did! She danced all the way to the pier with Him dancing right beside her. Breathless, she sat down and turned to Him.

“I have some questions…” she began.

And He laughed.

 

 

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 6   9  10  11 12  13   14  15   16    17

Bella – part 17 Today is the Day

Bella woke with a start. She had a strong sense that there was something dangerous she needed to do. Something important. What was it?

And then she remembered.

Today was the day she would confront Pastor Toby. Was she ready?

Heart thumping loudly in her chest, she got up and went into the bathroom. Staring at her reflection in the mirror, she wondered if she was brave enough to go through with it. Or was it being stupid? Maybe she should just forget about it and accept it like everyone else seemed to have done.

No! She had already been through this and the decision had been made. She would go confront him today no matter how bad it might turn out. She thought about the possibilities as she got dressed.

  1. He was an alien and would feel threatened by her knowledge and she would end up imprisoned somewhere in that weird church.
  2. He was an alien but would deny it and she would be dismissed as having a great imagination.
  3. He wasn’t an alien and would laugh at Andy’s joke on her and she’d end up a fool.
  4. He wasn’t an alien and he’d seriously question her sanity and she’d end up in a mental hospital.

She didn’t like any of those scenarios so she created one more, one she hoped would happen: He was an alien and her threat to take what she knew to the media would be enough to make him pack up his church and leave the planet. Without the secrecy, there was no point in him being here to observe anymore. And she might actually come out of this a hero.

Bolstered by the thought of saving the world, she took one last glance in the mirror, saluted herself, then left her apartment.

She was surprised to see how empty the sidewalks were. Being early morning, she’d have assumed at least there would be many people heading to work. “I wonder where everyone is,” she mumbled. It felt weird to have the sidewalk all to herself and she hurried the few blocks to the church.

As she walked, a tiny voice inside her whispered, “What about his love for you?”  She had forgotten about that. She let herself remember how accepting he was, how loved she felt in his presence. And how much she longed to spend more time with him. Then another thought filled her mind. She only felt that way because he used some kind of alien technology on people to brainwash them feel that way. It wasn’t real. Shaking her head, she pushed aside all thoughts except the one about confronting him.

When she got there, she found the church door open, as if waiting for her arrival. She squared her shoulders and marched through the entrance, across the foyer, and up to Pastor Toby’s door.

Again, she found the door already open. “What’s going on here?” she wondered, eyes IMG_20181005_154132429darting around. Was everyone hiding? Did they know what she was about to do and wanted to watch the show? Not seeing anyone, she cautiously entered the living room.

Now what, she thought. Do I wait for him or Jude to arrive, or do I go looking for him?

As she stood there, just inside the door, she heard singing. It was a different song, but the same singer. No doubt about that.

Not knowing what to do, she listened to the soul-stirring music coming from somewhere down the hall. Although she couldn’t understand the lyrics, she felt drawn by the melody, like it was calling her and making her feel safe. And courageous. Like it was encouraging her to do what she had come to do.

Taking a deep breath, she crossed the room and entered the hallway. Where should she look first? The kitchen?  Isn’t that where Pastor Toby spends a lot of his time? And it was breakfast time so where else would he be? The garden, maybe? Since the kitchen was on the way to the garden, she decided to try it first.

But when she got to the kitchen, it was empty. Not even food cooking on the stove. Maybe he’s not up yet, she thought. Maybe I should just go.

But the soft sound of a song from that sweet unseen singer drifted into her mind, and she was filled with the sense that something exciting was about to happen if only she kept looking.

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 6   9  10  11 12  13   14  15   16

Bella, part 16  The Deserted Island, the Insect, and the Lion, Oh My

As her breathing calmed, so did her mind.

“Ok,” she said to herself. “You wanted to know the truth. Well, now you know it. What are you going to do about it?”

“Hide,” herself answered.

“Forever?”

“Maybe.”

“That won’t work. Eventually you… I… will need to eat.”

“I’ll call take-out.”

“And how will you pay for it when you lose your job for not going to work?”

“Umm… OK… you have a point. So what are you going to do?”

She thought about that for a long time.

“I think I need to go back to the church and confront Pastor Toby. See what he has to say. Maybe Andy was just pulling my leg.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea? What if he won’t let you leave?”

She thought about that before answering, “I’ll just have to take my chances. What else can I do? Ignore the whole thing?”

“Why not?”

“Because I can’t. Not any more than I could ignore hearing something buzzing around my head. I have to know so I can protect myself. Or at least know enough to come up with a plan.”

“You can protect yourself without going back. Just hide out here.”

“We just went through this. I can’t hide out here forever. I need more information so I’ll know exactly what I’m protecting myself from. Besides, what if this whole thing is a joke? Then if I did like you say – hide out here – it would be for nothing. And so would any plan I come up with. So I HAVE to go back. To make sure. And to find out more.”

“OK. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Bella shook her head. Conversations in her head were nothing new to her, but this one had really felt like two people. Was she schizo now? It didn’t matter. Pastor Toby was real even if the voice in her head wasn’t.

Bella got up and went to her desk. It might be good to start keeping a journal. Just in case. She dug out an old notebook from the bottom drawer, tore out the used pages she didn’t need any more, then wrote the date at the top of the first clean page.

She began writing.

Tomorrow may be the last day of my life. At least life as I know it. Am I really going to do this? Confront Pastor Toby? Make him admit he’s an alien? Demand to know his plans for me? What will he do? Send me to his home planet? Keep me captive in his weird home? Kill me?

If anyone reads this after I’m gone, please be careful. Aliens are real. They are here. And they are dangerous. Pastor Toby is one of them. Don’t try to confront him by yourself. Call the police. No, call the National Guard. Or the FBI. Anyone with lots of firepower. Just don’t go there alone or you may end up like me.

Bella put down her pen, yawned, and looked at the time. 3:07 PM. Still early enough to get in a short nap before dinner. She yawned again. Why was she so tired? It was getting very hard to keep her eyes open. She stumbled to her room and climbed into her bed, and was asleep before her head hit the pillow.

She had a series of dreams. In one, she found herself on a deserted island. Dangerous IMG_20180929_084745719sounds coming from the jungle behind her, sharks and jellyfish in the water in front of her kept her from any attempt to escape. She spent her time pacing up and down the beach, trying to decide which way she wanted to die – facing the unknown dangers in the jungle or the known dangers in the water. Then a boat appeared. She knew the water was too shallow for the boat to reach the beach. Yet she also knew if she could get to the boat, she would be saved. If only she could muster up enough courage to face the jellyfish and sharks that might be close by.

In another dream, she was holding a can of bug spray and hunting a huge, dangerous looking insect that someone had warned her about. But when she found it, it turned out to be so tiny it was no threat to her at all.

In yet another dream, she was being chased by a hungry lion. The faster she ran from it, the closer it got to her. After running for what felt like forever, she couldn’t run any more. Resigned to her death, she turned to face the lion, expecting it to leap on her and sink its fangs deep into her throat. But instead of attacking, the lion began licking her as if she were one if its cubs.

When Bella woke, it was dark. Disorientated, sweaty and still shaking from her dreams, she turned on the lamp to check the time. 11:25? Wow, she thought. She really had been tired. Must be the result of the internal struggle she’s been going through ever since that first day when she ran into the church to escape the pushy lady. She wondered what would have happened had she not chosen the church that day. What if she had just let the lady help her? Probably her life would have gone back to normal. Her sad, lonely normal life. She certainly wouldn’t be thinking about confronting an alien, right?

Should she try to go back to sleep? No, that wouldn’t work. She was too wound up from here dreams. Maybe she would feel better if she ate something. Bella slid out of bed and went to the kitchen. She popped two slices of bread into the toaster and some leftover spaghetti into the microwave. Then she went to her desk to turn on her computer. Wanting something light to help dispel the residual uneasiness from her dreams, she searched for a comedy on Netflix. She chose an episode of Cheers which had always been able to make her laugh just as she heard the microwave beep. She returned a few minutes later with her plate of warm spaghetti and cheesy garlic toast, settled in front of her computer, and began to eat. Familiar food and entertainment brought comfort to her body and mind and she felt herself relaxing. Good, she thought. At least if I’m going to die tomorrow, I going to enjoy the last night of my life.

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 6   9  10  11 12  13   14  15

Bella – Part 12 Apologies

“I’m OK. Really,” Amanda tried to convince the man holding her arm while trying to pull away from him.

He let go of her and said. “I know you’re upset. I can see it in your face. Want to go to Waffle House and talk?”

Amanda looked from him to the Waffle House a couple of blocks away then back at him.

“We can walk. By the way, I’m Andy. I’m one of the assistant pastors here.”

“Nice to meet you,” Bella said politely, hiding her surprise. This  young guy was an assistant pastor?

“So?” he asked as he motioned towards Waffle House.

“OK, I guess so.”

“Great!”

As they walked past several closed stores, he apologized for the bulletin lady’s behavior.IMG_20180807_180712883

“She’s not always like that.” He said with a twinkle in his eyes. “Sometimes she’s worse. She must like you.”

Amanda smiled as she gave him a sideways glance.

“Worse? I guess it’s a good thing she likes me then.”

He laughed.

He seemed warm and genuinely concerned about her just like Pastor Toby and Jude. But was he really an assistant pastor? He didn’t look any older than her, which seemed kind of young to be a pastor already.

“Is this your first visit to our church?” he asked.

“No, I’ve been here before but not when there was this many people. This was my first service.”

“Did you enjoy it?”

“The service, yes, I did. But…”  She stopped. It wasn’t her place to criticize the people in his church but the difference between what she had experienced in Pastor Toby’s living room, and what she had experienced in the lobby was drastic.

“It’s not important.”

“Sure it is. If it matters to you, it matters to me.”

“What? Is that a slogan you saw written somewhere?”

“Actually, it’s kind of in our church’s mission statement.”

“Do the church members know that?”

“Ah, Mrs. Tanell’s behavior.”

“Not just hers”

“What happened?”

“I’d rather not talk…” she began but he stopped her.

“It’s OK if you don’t want to, but I’ve found that talking usually helps.” He smiled at her. “And I’d really like to know what people think when they visit us.”

“Well, it’s just the people seemed to be… opposite of Pastor Toby.”

“How so?”

“Pastor Toby is so nice. I always feel like he wants me here.  But when I was in the lobby, it was so crowded and most people seemed to be too busy with each other to notice me. And each time I did get noticed, it turned out badly.”

“I don’t know. I think tripping me turned out rather nice.” His eyes twinkled again. “At least it did for me.”

She smiled back. “I wish they had all turned out that way.”

“So, what happened that turned out badly?”

Bella didn’t know how to answer that without revealing how stupid she had been. Had she really asked Amanda if she was being led by an alien? Of course Amanda would have thought that ludicrous. Aliens didn’t really exist, did they? And if, by some long stretch, they did, and, if Toby really was an alien, he’d probably not want anyone else to know. Either way, Bella’s question would have sounded totally bizarre, and she wasn’t about to repeat that mistake with Andy.

“Well,” she hedged. “I had some questions and there was a lady who offered to answer them. We were talking over coffee, and then… she had to leave. And I think… I’m pretty sure… she was talking about me to some other people in the kitchen. I heard them laughing.”

“What makes you think it was about you?”

“I don’t know. Just a feeling.”

“Maybe it wasn’t about you at all. But I’m sorry you thought it was. That must have embarrassed you.”

Bella nodded. “I did feel bad. And when I tried to leave I kept bumping into people, who weren’t too happy about it.”

“People can be a bit self-absorbed at times. They often don’t realize what they’re doing. But I apologize for them, too.”

“That’s OK. It’s not your fault.”

“So,” he said as he held the Waffle House door open for her, “do you still have questions?”

“Well, actually, I do.” Bella entered the restaurant, looked around, then pointed towards a booth nearest the door. “How about that booth?”

“Fine with me. I like booths.”

They sat down opposite each other, gave their drink orders to the waitress, then studied their menus.

“Order whatever you want,” Andy said. “My treat.”

Bella looked up surprised. “You don’t have to.”

“No, I don’t. But I want to.” He smiled at her. “By the way, what do I call you?”

“Bella,” she said.

“Nice name,” he said, still smiling. “Do you know what it means?”

“Yeah, it’s Spanish. It means beautiful.”

“Which fits you well. But it’s also Hebrew and means devoted to God.”

“Which doesn’t fit me at all. I don’t know if I really believe in God. I’m certainly not devoted to Him.”

“At the moment, but that can change.”

Bella eyed him. He didn’t ask her here to try to convert her, did he? That would make this brunch awkward as she had no intention of going down that road. Her questions were about Pastor Toby, Jude, and this church. Not about God.

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 6   9  10  11 

Bella – part 11 Humiliation

“Strange? Like what?” Amanda looked at Bella as she sipped on her coffee in the church lobby.

“Like… they… aren’t like other people. Like… maybe… they’re not from here.”

“Well, Pastor Toby and Jude have been here longer than I have so I can’t speak on where they might be from. But I do agree that they aren’t like other people.”

“How so?”

“They’re nicer. They’re good all the time. Everyone else I know have times when they’re selfish or maybe do something that hurts someone else. But Toby and Jude never do. They are always supportive, loving, and kind no matter what I say or what I do.”

“Sounds too good to be true,” muttered Bella.

“You would think so, but in the ten years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen them be anything but good.”

“Haven’t you wondered about their background? Where they came from?”

“Sure, sometimes, when I first joined this church. I asked a few people and got a few crazy answers, but mostly I was told they had always been here. And after talking with them, I came to believe that also.”

“What were some of the crazy answers you got?”

Amanda looked curiously at Bella. “Why do you ask?”

Bella thought about pretending it wasn’t so important, that she was just curious. But she decided to be upfront.

“They just seem out of this world. Like they’re not only not from here, but they aren’t from anywhere near here. Like they are from a whole other world.”

“Ah, yes. They do say things sometimes that is so opposite to what we hear all around us. And their values are very different. I can see how you might think that And maybe you’re right. Maybe they are from another world. But they’re here now, and that’s all that matters to me.”

“So, you’re saying they might be aliens?”

“Maybe, but they don’t have any accents or anything that would suggest which country.”

“No,” Bella said slowly. “Not another country. Another world. Another planet.”

Amanda stared at her and then burst out laughing. “Who put you up to this? Was it Robert? Robert is always kidding me about my love for sci fi.” She looked around, still laughing. “Robert! Where are you?”

Bella, feeling foolish and not wanting to involve anyone else in this, forced a laugh and said, “Um, no. I don’t even know Robert. It’s just me and my stupid sense of humor. Sorry.”

“Oh, no problem. I needed a good laugh.” Amanda stood up. “It was a pleasure meeting you. Let me know if you have any other… questions.” Still laughing, Amanda waved and headed to the kitchen.

Bella got up and thought about finding someone else to talk to when she heard a burst of laughter come from the kitchen. Amanda! She must have told everyone about their conversation. Humiliated, Bella looked around for the nearest exit door, then quickly joined the people who were headed that way.

“Hey, watch where you’re going!” growled a voice. She looked up just in time to avoid bumping into a man who was carrying a toddler.

“Sorry,” she said. She veered away from him and ran into a lady who was handing out IMG_20180804_082909664bulletins. The bulletins went flying, causing the lady to yell out.

“Sorry,” Bella said again, embarrassed. As she bent over to help gather them back up, she heard a loud grunt as someone tripped over her and landed with a crash.

“What are you doing?” cried the lady with the bulletins. “Stand up. You’re in the way.”

“I was trying to help you pick up the papers.”

“I don’t need your help.” She frowned and pointed to the door. “I can handle this. You just go ahead and leave.”

As Bella, eyes filling with tears, hurried through the door, she heard a voice behind her.  “Aw, don’t be so rough on her. She didn’t mean to trip me. It was my own fault for not watching where I was going.”

Bella slowed a bit and chanced a glance behind her. A man was speaking to the bulletin lady as he got back on his feet, but his eyes were on Bella.

“Wait up,” he called when they made eye contact.

She waited for him on the other side of the door. “Are you OK?,” she began as soon as he caught up. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to trip you.”

“I’m fine. I’m more worried about you. I didn’t want you to leave upset.” he said, taking her arm and directing her to the side of the large number of people streaming through the doors.

“Thanks, but I’m fine. Have a great day.” Relieved that he hadn’t gotten hurt, Amanda tried to leave. She felt humiliated and confused, and needed time to think which she always did best when alone. But the guy holding her arm wasn’t letting go.

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Bella, part 10 – What Forest?

An hour later, Bella joined the other people heading to the lobby. The service had been way different than anything she could have imagined and she was still filled with that golden goodness that had filled the air as Pastor Toby talked. Funny, she couldn’t recall anything that he had said but it didn’t matter. Just being there was what counted.

“Can I help you?” asked an older woman. “You look kind of lost.”

“Are the services always like this?” Bella asked her.

“Well, yes and no. Each service is different in many ways but they are all filled with Pastor Toby’s special touch. He’s pretty wonderful, isn’t he?” The lady smiled at Bella. “Hi, my name is Amanda. Is this your first time here?”

“Bella. Nice to meet you.” Bella answered politely. “Yes, this is my first service.”

“Welcome! I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them. And if I can’t, I can find someone who can.”

“Actually, I do have questions.”

“Let’s get some coffee and we can sit over there at that table.”

“Sounds good,” Bella smiled. Coffee did sound good but getting some answers sounded even better.

After getting their coffee and settling down, Amanda said, “OK, what do you want to IMG_20180730_170130302know?”

“How long have you been coming here?”

“Oh, hmmm, let me think.” Amanda took a sip of her coffee. “I guess it’s been about ten years now.”

“So you know Pastor Toby pretty well, then?”

“Sure. He’s friendly and totally approachable. Why?”

“He just seems to be too good. And a bit mysterious.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, for one, he seems to love me even though he doesn’t’ know me. And he’s very interested in whatever I say.”

“Yes, he does love everyone. I don’t know why. It’s like he can’t help it. And he is a great listener.”

“So he’s not just pretending?”

“Nope. That’s one thing he never does. He never pretends. He’s always honest with us.”

“What about his son, Jude?”

“He’s just like his father. He’s also a great problem solver. Talking with him always seems to help when I have a problem, or even just a decision I have to make. His insight is amazing.”

“Have you been in their backyard?”

“Sure.”

“Don’t you think it’s kind of strange?”

“No, why should I?”

“Because it’s so big. Way bigger than it looks from the outside.”

“That’s part of the magic of this place…”

Bella cut in quickly. “So there IS magic here?”

Amanda laughed. “No, not magic like magic tricks and trickery. I mean magic as in out of the ordinary, beyond words. Like if I said I had a magical time with my family on our last vacation.”

“Oh. OK. I get it. So how is the backyard so big? All those wild flowers. And a lake! How is that even possible?”

“They do have a lot of flowers in their greenhouse, but no lake. At least I haven’t seen one. But maybe it’s on the other side of the forest, where I haven’t been yet.”

“Forest?”

“Yes, it’s pretty amazing. I’m glad Pastor Toby didn’t cut down the trees when this church was built. His little forest is my favorite place to come when I’m feeling down.”

“Forest?” Bella asked again. “But there’s no forest back there. There’s only the garden, a large field of flowers, and a lake.”

“You must be mistaken. I’ve never seen anything but the forest.”

Bella stared at her. Were they talking about the same back yard? Just how big was this place? Then she thought about a holodeck again. And again it began to make sense. Different programs for different people. She could buy that, if only she could buy the whole alien thing.

“Amanda,” Bella began slowly. “Have you ever noticed anything… strange… about Pastor Toby or Jude?”

 

Bella stories:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really Part 1 Part 2

Bella part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Dear Brave One, (from Someone Who Loves You Series)

IMG_20180706_075145407 (2)

Dear Brave One,

It’s so hard to watch you hurt as you struggle to grow. Your face all red and grimacing reveals the battle going on inside you. Your body is fighting to get rid of the things that don’t belong in there. Be strong, Little One, and let them go. I know it hurts sometimes but you don’t need them.  And you will feel so much better once they are gone. Can you feel my hand on your back, supporting and encouraging you? Probably not, but that’s OK. I’m here whether you know it or not. I’m not going anywhere.

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

These letters have double meaning. On the surface they are letters I’m writing to my new granddaughter. But deeper down I hear God telling us the same things.  As you reread them, replace the greeting with your own name, and the closure with God’s name – and get to know the great love God has for you!

The Swing

“I was so close,” she thought with disappointment as gravity pulled her away. “Why can’t I just stay here where things are so much clearer? Why am I always pulled away?”

Helplessly she watched the sky grow further away, then disappear as the angle of her IMG_20180719_144815604body changed. Her vision now was filled with overshadowing trees, prickly bushes, weed-invested grass, and dirt crawling with bugs – the everyday mixture of good and bad she was very familiar with. Although she could no longer feel as if she was part of the glorious sky, she could still get a glimpse of it if she looked up. But the land around her was interesting in its own way and thoughts of it slowly crowded out the sky from her mind.

She didn’t get to stay there very long. She was pulled back up, this time backwards where all she could see was the ground receding from her. The dark, flat view that filled her eyes replaced the memory of the wide open blue sky and began to make her question if that blue sky even existed. “Did I just imagine it?” she wondered. “I can’t see blue sky anywhere around here. It must have been just wishful thinking.” However, in spite of the sad feeling that accompanied that thought, she was surprised how the distance provided her a new perspective on what she thought she knew so well. Like how little those bugs really were, and how the weeds seem to disappear into the greenness of the grass.

Just when she accepted her new vision, it changed.

“Arhh!” she screamed as she fell facedown towards the ground. “Not again!” Visions of smashing into the ground filled her mind with anxiety. As the ground loomed larger and larger in her sight, she just knew this time there was no way she was going to come out of this unhurt. With hands clenching on tight, she closed her eyes and began to pray.

But when the impact didn’t happen, she took a peek through one eye and saw she was not going down anymore. She was moving sideways and missing every obstacle. “Whew”, she said to herself. “I don’t know how, but I made it again.” Relief flooded her and she drew in deep breath and relaxed as her familiar world surrounded her yet again. Then in her peripheral vision, she got a glimpse of blueness above her and something in her spirit stirred. Looking up she was reminded of the things she had seen before and a longing rose up in her. How could she make her way back up there? And if she did, could she get high enough to stay there? She strived to push herself upwards but that didn’t help, and neither did wildly kicking her feet. Eventually she gave up.

Before long, though, she noticed everything began to seem brighter and she got increasingly frequent glimpses of the blueness above her. Her angle continued to change until all she could see was the bright blue sky and awesome white clouds. And once again everything seemed so peaceful and clear to her and she wanted to stay there forever.

But of course she couldn’t, and gravity pulled her back down again and she started the cycle all over.

“Wow, that was amazing!” she said as the ride stopped and she got off.

“Swinging like this has its ups and downs,” she thought. “Just like my Christian life. Sometimes I get so close to God and seem to understand everything so much clearer, but then that feeling fades away as days go by and I find my vision limited to what I can see down here.”

Then she had another thought. “There is one big difference. This swing may always come back down, but one day, I’m going to make it up into that spiritual sky and never come down!”