Bella, part 8 – It Can’t Be!

No way! Bella couldn’t believe it. She had come outside to prove to Pastor Toby how wrong he was about the weather, but she was the one who was proven wrong,  Not only was it not raining, the sky was a beautiful deep blue and the sun was shining warmly.

She looked back and forth between Pastor Toby and the garden. Had it stopped raining while she had waited in the living room?

“Just a minute,” she told the pastor. She went back inside, through the living room, out the door, across the foyer, and opened the church doors. Rain poured down, just as it had when she arrived earlier. The sidewalk and street were still flooded. Evidently the rain had not stopped even for a few minutes.

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She closed the doors, confused. How could it be raining outside the front of the church but not the back? She made her way back through the foyer and house to where Pastor Toby, along with Jude, waited for her by the back door.

“OK,” she told them. “Is this a trick? It’s raining cats and dogs out front. Why isn’t it raining back here?”

“It never rains here,” Toby answered, shrugging.

“But how can that be? It’s like there’s some kind of magic dome over your backyard.”

“No, no magic here. Just life as it should be.”

“So what keeps the rain away?”  Wait. Could it be a force field? The only force fields she ever heard about were in the sci fi movies she watched. But her world hadn’t developed force fields this big yet, right? So then, if it really was a force field, it must be…

“Are you aliens?” she blurted out as she slowly backed away.

Jude broke into a deep laugh. “Well, it’s not how I would describe myself.”

Bella stared at him. It all made sense now! She was actually inside a space ship with holographic walls – like the holodeck on Star Trek – which explained why it looked much bigger on the inside than the outside. And these two beings – aliens – were data gathering or something. That’s why they were so interested in her. They were just doing their jobs.

All this also explained the fear she felt each time she was there. Her intuition was warning her that this was not real. Not normal. And most likely dangerous if these aliens decided to abduct her for additional research or something.

“I’ve got to go,” she said, still backing up. “Um, I just remembered something I had to do.”

“Wait,” Jude said. “It’s not what you’re thinking.”

What I’m thinking? Is he telepathic also? Bella turned and ran. She knew what happened to people who stayed around to talk with aliens. And she wasn’t going to let that happen to her.

 

Links to previous parts of this story:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really, part 1

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really, part 2

Bella, part 1- Heart VS Brain

Bella, part 2 – Distractions

Bella, part 3 – Overcoming Detours

Bella, part 4 – Questions

Bella, part 5 – Yellow and Blue Theory

Bella, part 6 – A Little Rain Won’t Hurt

Bella, part 7 – Singing, Water, and Other Surprises

Bella, part 7 –  Singing, Water, and Other Surprises

The tune was so sweet, yet seemed so powerful, like it was a living thing making its way deep inside her heart. What were the words? They  surely couldn’t be as powerful as that melody, could they?

She closed her eyes to better concentrate as she tried to make out the words in the song. She was listening so intently that she didn’t notice Jude return with her water. She jumped when he called her name.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said as he handed her the glass of water.

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“No, no. It’s not your fault. I’m sorry I wasn’t paying attention.”

“Oh, I thought you had dozed off or something,” he laughed. “What were you thinking about?”

“About that music.”

“Ah, yes, it’s pretty awesome. It seems to drift right down deep into your soul, doesn’t it?”

They both listened for a few minutes as the singing continued. Finally Bella asked, “Who is that?”

“A good friend. One I hope you’ll get to meet someday.”

“Why not today?”

“My dad and I have other plans for you right now. As soon as he gets here, he’ll tell you.”

Uh, oh. Plans for me? That sounds ominous, she thought. She looked at her water to mask her nervousness. Why does being there scare her so much? Especially since all she wants when she’s not there is to be there. Why does this have to be so strange? Maybe she should just leave before the pastor got in the room. She took a sip of the water as she thought of a graceful way to leave.

“Wow!” she gasped. “This is the best water I’ve ever tasted!”

“Thank you,” Jude answered. “Somehow I knew you’d like it.”

“What kind is it? Where can I get some more?”

“It’s from our well. So I guess that means the only place you can get it is here.” He smiled at her. “And there’s plenty so you can have as much as you want as often as you want it.”

She took another sip, She couldn’t believe how good she felt after drinking it. But then the doubts flooded in. Was it just a fluke? Maybe she had just been extra thirsty or something. Or maybe it was her nerves playing tricks on her. In any case, a second glass should show her that it was just ordinary water. She drained the glass, then holding it out to him, asked, “Can I have some more right now?”

“Sure thing!” Jude took the glass and left just as the pastor walked in.

“Hi Bella! Good to see you again!” Toby walked across the room towards Bella. “How are you doing?”

“I’m fine, thank you. How are you today?”

“Oh, I’m doing wonderfully well! Ready to take a walk? I know you had some questions the last time you were here that we never got to. We could go to the lake and talk about them if you want.”

Bella frowned up at him, puzzled. Walk? In the rain? She hadn’t brought any dry clothes with her. Surely he was kidding.

Ignoring her frown, he reached down to take her hand. “Let me help you up. Jude is going to meet us in the garden.”

Bella allowed him to pull her up and then followed him to the hallway. This had to be a joke. Jude would pop out of the kitchen and shout, “Got you!” any moment now.  And if, for some reason, this wasn’t a joke, and Pastor Toby really did want to take a walk in the rain, she would just refuse. She didn’t want to get wet, and the rain would end up being a distraction from the questions she wanted to ask.  They’d be able to focus better in the living room.

By the time they reached the back door, Jude had not popped out to surprise her. She stopped and said, “I don’t want to go outside. It’s raining and I don’t really want to get wet. Can’t we go back to the living room?”

“You won’t get wet,” he said as he opened the door and motioned her to go first.

“But it’s raining outside. And I know your garden doesn’t have a roof. I’ve been there, remember?”

“Trust me, you won’t get wet.”

She stared at him for a long moment, then, to prove him wrong, she stepped outside.

 

Links to previous parts of this story:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really, part 1

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really, part 2

Bella, part 1- Heart VS Brain

Bella, part 2 – Distractions

Bella, part 3 – Overcoming Detours

Bella, part 4 – Questions

Bella, part 5 – Yellow and Blue Theory

Bella, part 6 – A Little Rain Won’t Hurt

Bella, part 4 – Questions

They sat on the pier like they had done the last time. At first they were silent, drinking in the beauty that surrounded them.  The reflection of the sun danced on the blue water of the lake. Birds sang to each other, and a cool soft breeze wafted past them from time to time.

Eventually she became aware of the silence between them. She wondered if he was waiting for her to speak first. Maybe he was getting bored, but sneaking a glimpse of him out of the corner of her eye, she saw that he was looking around and seemed to be enjoying the peace as much as she was. She also saw something else in his face. Something like…  satisfaction? As if he was responsible for the beauty himself? No, that couldn’t be right. She must be seeing things. Nobody could create a place like this. Discover it? Yes. Nurture and care for it? Yes. But create it? No. A sly thought sneaked its way into her mind: maybe he thinks he’s God.

As if reading her thoughts, he said quietly, “God’s creation is amazing, wouldn’t you say?’

She sighed with relief. At least he’s not claiming to be God. That would be weird. Maybe even dangerous. She’d heard too many stories of the evil done by men with a god-complex. And she had no intention of becoming a victim of a cult – enslaved and intimidated into obedience.

“Something wrong?” he asked, looking at her with a twinkle in his eyes.

“Um, no. Why do you ask?”

“You sighed.”

“Oh, that.” She didn’t want to reveal her stupid suspicion so she tried to change the subject. “I love it here,” she said. “It’s heaven!”

“No, but close,” he chuckled. “Did you say you had some questions?”

“Yes, I do. Lots of them, actually.”

He laughed. “Most people do when they discover this place.”

“What exactly is this place?”

“Well, for me, it’s home. This is where my father and I live.”

“But, it doesn’t make sense. How can this place be here? We’re in a city. There’s not enough room in anyone’s yard to have all of this in it.”

“That’s true for houses and apartment buildings that were built after the city got big. But this place.” he motioned around him with his arm, “was here before the city grew. You could say the city grew around us.”

“That makes sense. But what still doesn’t make sense is how your home is so much bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside.”

“It’s kind of like an illusion. You know, tricks that fool the eyes. Illusions show that you can’t always believe your eyes.”

She nodded. She still didn’t understand the physics involved but she wanted more time to think about it before asking further questions.

“So, if this house, this land, was here before the city grew, then you must have grown up here.”

“It seems I’ve always been here, that’s true.

“And was your dad born here too?”

“No, he wasn’t.”

“When did he get here, then?’

“He’s been here so long, you could say he’s been here forever!” he laughed.

This is getting me nowhere, she thought. She changed the subject.

“Your dad is a pastor. That means he must know a lot about God. And you, being his son, must know a lot about God, too. Right?

“You could say that.”

“Does God really exist or is He just something someone dreamed up to comfort people?”

“Oh, God’s real, all right. No doubt about that.” IMG_20180520_222010004

“Well, if God is real, why do so many people act like He’s not?”

“Many people don’t know that He exists.”

“I mean, people who go to church. People who say they are Christians. Why do they act like God is not real?”

 

“That’s a good questions, I…”

“How’s it going out here?” called a voice as footsteps vibrated on the pier.

Jude and Bella both turned to see Pastor Toby waving as he walked towards them.

“Wonderful,” she answered.

“We’ve been enjoying the peace of this place,” Jude said. “And Bella has some pretty deep questions.”

“Awesome! I love answering questions. But first we have a date with a fresh hot-out-of-the-oven peach cobbler! And if you know anything about peach cobbler, it’s best eaten warm!”

“Mmm… sounds delicious!” Jude said as he stood up. He held out his hand to help Bella stand. “My mouth is already watering!”

Bella tried to hide her disappointment. As good as the cobbler sounded, she would have preferred to hear Jude’s answer to her question. But she didn’t want to hurt Pastor Toby’s feelings, so she smiled and headed back to the church with them. Maybe after eating some of the cobbler, they could get back to her question. She hadn’t realized until she asked it how much she needed to have her question answered. All she knew was that the growing pressure of not knowing was driving her nuts.

 

Links to previous parts of this story:

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really, part 1

I’m Not Hurt, Not Really, part 2

Bella, part 1- Heart VS Brain

Bella, part 2 – Distractions

Bella, part 3 – Overcoming Detours

 

Sometimes Muddy Water is a Good Thing

 

Emotions churned inside her as she bowed before the Lord in prayer.

“Jesus, I don’t know what’s happening inside me. It’s such a mess. And I don’t even know why. Everything seems to be going well right now – job, family, health. So why all this turmoil?”

“Just a little cleaning up.”

She frowned, not understanding. How can cleaning up make her feel bad? She thought about it for a while. What exactly WAS she feeling? So many emotions all mixed up inside her. Pain and confusion from her teen years that still plagued her. Doubts that she was actually hearing from God and that it wasn’t just her imagination, and fear that she would lead others wrong as she began speaking out for Him.  Depression that seemed to cling to her no matter how hard she tried to fight it.  Very low self-esteem, more like no self-esteem.  The list seemed endless. She struggled to put a name to it.

“Muddy water.”

Muddy water?

She thought of her small garden pond. She enjoyed going outside to sit by it each day and watch the fish swim around. The pond looked beautiful – clear shiny water with green flowering plants growing in and around it. From time to time she would add a little water to compensate for the water that had evaporated.

She remembered a time she had not gone outside to the pond for several weeks. When she had finally made it there, she had been dismayed to find the water level to be as low IMG_20180510_000206722as it was. So she had taken the hose and watched as the water refilled the pond. Almost immediately the clear water had gotten cloudy as the running water churned up the dirt that had settled at the bottom.  Within minutes she could see leaves and pine straw swirling around in the very muddy water. Yuck. She decided to keep the water flowing and as the water flowed over the top, it had taken the mud, leaves and pine straw with it until all that had remained was clear clean water. Her pond was beautiful again, only this time it wasn’t hiding a bunch of dirt and debris at the bottom.

She made the connection. She might look good on the outside, but deep inside her heart,  a lot of dirt and debris had settled over time. Jesus had turned on the hose in her heart, filling her to overflowing with living water!

Amazed at the way He helped her understand, she thanked Him for the work He was doing. It might not look so good at the moment, she thought, but when He gets done, my heart will be clean and clear and truly beautiful!

Too Much of a Good Thing

IMG_20180418_195632421It had only been a few days since her encounter with Jesus and she wanted to know everything there was to know about God and about being a Christian. She wanted Jesus to be pleased with her so she worked hard at learning what that entailed. For six months she read every book she could find on God, Jesus,  the Holy Spirit, and the Christian walk. They were all good books –  sermons and teachings and testimonies and autobiographies. She took notes and made lists.

And totally confused herself. Everybody seemed to have their own ideas and methods that worked for them. How in the world was she supposed to figure out how to please God and be a good Christian? She became stressed trying to figure it out, adding more and more to her daily and weekly to-do lists. And finding that they didn’t work for her like they did the people in the books.

Then she began to be convicted.

“Daughter, why don’t you just ask Me?”

She was looking everywhere, except towards God. He wanted her to ask HIM what she should do.

So she asked Him. “What do You want me to do? How can I please You?”

“You don’t have to do anything to please Me. You already do just by being My child.”

“But what about all those things I read about, the things people say I need to do?”

“Do you know why I let you read all those books these past months?”

“To confuse me?”

“No,” He laughed. “Not to confuse you, but to make you understand that I deal with everyone differently. What and how I work with other people is not the way I’ll work with you.”

“So You’ll tell me what to do and when? I can get rid of my to-do lists?”

“Yes.”

And she sighed with relief. Her Father was in charge of her spiritual life. All she had to do was listen. This new spiritual life was going to be amazing!

Caught in the Middle, a Continuation

A continuation of You Want to Be a What? and Wrestling with God (continued from You Want to be a What?)

They went on vacation with her family. A three week long vacation entailing well over 2,000 miles. Lots of miles with little to do than drive and talk. And sleep if you weren’t the one driving. Visiting relatives on both sides, answering questions… surely during this time God will make His plans clear for us, she thought. At least clarify things.

But she was wrong.

It just brought them closer. And yet, he kept talking about seminary.

So she came back from the trip just as confused as when she left.

She called on God again.IMG_20180420_123724358

“Lord, we need to talk again,” she said.

“What do you want to know?”

“I want to know about him.

“I already told you that.”

“When will he know?”

“When it’s time.”

“Why do you speak in riddles? Why aren’t you more informative?”

“It’s better this way.”

Exasperated, she gave up and they changed the subject.

 

The next time she drove to his house, she asked him about their relationship.

“You help me a lot,” he said. “Like a soothing ointment on my pain.”

“You mean the pain after your previous girlfriend left you?”

“Yes, that pain.”

That made her feel good. But then she thought what will happen when he doesn’t need me anymore?

So she asked him. “Is that all?’

“Well, our relationship is completely different than any I’ve ever had before. It’s lively and refreshing and perfect.”

“But you’re still going to be a priest?”

“I don’t know. I think so. I’m going to spend some time at a seminary next month. I should know after that.”

God had told her to relax and enjoy her time with him. But how could she with this hanging over their heads – her head? She felt like something was going on and she was caught in the middle. He says he probably will be a priest, God says he’s not going to be a priest. Who should she believe? What she could see? Or what she couldn’t see? If only her emotions weren’t so caught up in this dilemma.

to be continued, again…

You Want to Be a What?

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She looked at him with disbelief. Did he just say what she thought he had said?

“But what about us?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he answered. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

She wasn’t happy. More than that, she was hurt. After months of getting to know each other, they were inseparable. She spent most weekends with his family to be close to him. And, when he could, he traveled the hour distance to her house to surprise her. She had even begun thinking this might lead to marriage one day. And now this!

“It’s not like I’m leaving tomorrow,” he continued. “We can still spend time together.”

“Doing what? Are we allowed to even hold hands anymore?”

“I don’t know,” he repeated.

She tried to sort through all the feelings flowing through her. Hurt was way up there on the list, along with a feeling of betrayal. She had finally begun to open up to someone, and now God was taking him away from her.

“How do you know He’s really calling you to do this?” she asked him.

“I prayed about it with a friend. He saw me pulling at a white collar around my neck. I think that means God wants me to go to seminary, but not immediately. He wants me to relax first.”

“What does that even mean – relax first?”

“It means to not worry about it right now.”

“That may be fine with you, but what about me? How do I date a future priest? Do we hold hands? Kiss? That just seems wrong.”

“I don’t know. Let’s just take this one day at a time.”

They parted, neither of them happy, and both wrapped in their own thoughts.

All the way home she thought about what he had said. A priest? Him? Now? Was this some kind of game God was playing with their hearts? If it had been another girl that was threatening their relationship, she could fight. But fight God? How does anyone fight God?

“Lord,” she finally prayed, “I don’t know why You’re doing this. But I know you love us and want what’s best for us. So although I don’t understand, and really don’t like it, I will trust You.”

Trust is one thing, she thought. But the pain is another. And this pain isn’t going anywhere.

The following days were hard as she tried to wrap her head around what God may be doing and what her place in it was. It seemed mean for Him to bring them together, only to separate them. She struggled to maintain her trust in God through the waves of pain, betrayal, sadness, loss, confusion, and anger that flooded her.

A few nights later, as she cried her way through her prayers yet again, she sought a word from the Lord, something to comfort her or to give her hope. But she heard nothing.

“Fine, Lord,” she finally said. ” The most important thing is that You are pleased with me in all this so if this is what You want, then so be it.”

He smiled at her, understanding in His eyes.

“That doesn’t help,” she told Him. “I was really hoping that You’d say it was just a test, that I passed and I could have him back.”

He just continued smiling at her and she knew He knew what He was going to do and He wasn’t going to change His mind. And He wasn’t going to tell her either.

Well then, maybe she wasn’t ready to hear those plans. Maybe she didn’t want to hear those plans. Maybe she should just ignore this whole thing, pretend it didn’t happen and just keep on dating this might-be-a-priest guy. After all, he did say God had told him to relax. And God wasn’t telling her anything.

“OK, Lord,” she said. “I know You’re going to be amazing in all this, but if You won’t tell me anything, and he doesn’t feel we need to change anything at this point, then I’m going to keep dating him until You take him or say otherwise.”

And so she did. Or tried to.

to be continued