Malformed Pieces

“Uh oh,” she said as she picked up the next tiny plastic piece. “This one won’t fit.” She dropped it into a growing pile of malformed pieces and picked up another one. “Perfect!”

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Usually the repetitive task of fitting the tiny pieces into their places on the sticky grid gave her mind a chance to relax as it daydreamed about problems and goals. But this time as she placed the well shaped piece carefully on the grid, a thought interrupted her wandering mind.

“When you don’t let God trim off your rough edges, you won’t be able to fit into His design as well. Not only won’t you fit within your boundaries, you will bother those around you.”

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She stopped to consider that. “It’s true we all have baggage we bring into our relationship with God, things from the past we hang on to even though we no longer need them just like this tiny piece still has a piece of its manufacturing process attached to it. And I know I fight each time He wants me to let go of something. Maybe there’s a bigger picture to Him wanting to trim me. Maybe sometimes it’s not so much about me as it is about His bigger picture,” she thought, freshly determined to be more cooperative the next time He starts trimming.

She got back to work, still musing on the importance of being trimmed. Then another thought entered. What about all those other pieces in that pile of malformed pieces. There’s more than one reason a piece can’t fit correctly on the grid.

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She picked up the black piece. Totally misshapen.

“Like when we refuse to let God do anything in us. We are still saved – still a piece – but pretty much useless in the design.” She thought about what she had been like when she entered her relationship with God, and she was very glad she wasn’t anything like that anymore. Transformed was a very real fact in her life, unlike that poor piece.

And the tan one?

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“Hmmm,” she thought about the two pieces clinging to each other for a few minutes. “My relationship with Jesus is a very personal one. When I walk with Him, I have to do it alone. It’s just me and Him. He wants me to cling to Him, not anything else. He can surround me with others just like each of these pieces are surrounded by other pieces, but I cannot insist on having someone in the same place I’m in. It just doesn’t work.”

She put the malformed pieces back into their pile and picked up the next perfect tiny plastic piece. As she placed into the design, she breathed a prayer.

“God, form me to fit the spot You have chosen for me. Help me to let go of what holds me back so that I can become part of Your big, amazing design.”

And her heart swelled with peace and contentment, knowing God heard her prayer.

 

(Disclaimer:  I am not promoting this brand of diamond painting. Actually, there’s another brand that I find superior to this one, but this was the only brand that had this specific design and so I went with it.)

Devastation or Beauty:  Where Does Your Mind Dwell?

As some of you know, my town was hit by Michael, a strong category 4 hurricane, (wind speed just 2 mph less than a category 5) in October. It’s been just over 2 months and devastation is still seen everywhere. Many businesses are still not reopened, and many of those will never reopen leaving many people jobless. Long lines and completely filled parking lots plague the few department and grocery stores that have opened. Contractors and their workers’ vehicles flood the streets so making a quick trip anywhere is no longer possible. Blue tarped roofs are seen everywhere as well as downed and broken trees, debris piles taller than the cars driving past them, and a multitude of damaged buildings. Some areas of town are still without electricity and internet. Many people who lost their homes either had to move away or are living in tents because there is no housing left. Schools have to share facilities since many schools were completely destroyed. There is not one building, one lot, or one person in our town untouched. Instead of concentrating on Christmas, many are exhausted from navigating insurance and contractor paperwork while trying to avoid the many scams that pop up in situations like this, jumping through FEMA hoops, or trying to find a job they can walk to since their cars were damaged along with their homes. Very few Christmas lights can be seen, and parents are desperately trying to seek ways to get some presents to their children. The more fortunate ones compete for the toys still available at Walmart, but many more don’t have the finances and have to stand in lines for many hours to get a chance to pick out some donated toys. Even worse, a good number of people have had to resort to begging strangers for help because they don’t have the transportation or health to even get to the toy distribution sites.

On the other hand…

After most volunteers and relief agencies have left, we are still being surprised with truck loads of toys, blankets, jackets, and other supplies arriving from people living in other towns near and far. More than a few Facebook groups have been created solely for the purpose of providing help to those who need it from insurance and contractor concerns to housing and shopping question. Quite a few people both local and distant have formed networks to ensure every legitimate need is taken care of to the best of their ability. Some people have opened their yards/land to house displaced people living in tents providing them safety, meals and hot showers. Many new friendships have been created and neighbors are watching out for each other now that fences no longer separate them. And the beauty of God’s creation can still be seen from the dazzling night sky (much clearer now since we have fewer street and commercial lights) and the breathtaking sunrises/sunsets (less trees = more view of the sky) to the delicate blooming flowers and the gorgeous beaches.

As I think about the people I’ve met and the people whose Facebook posts I’ve read, I wonder why so many are depressed and angry while many others are hopeful and encouraging. I don’t think in this case the answer can be found solely in their relationship or lack of relationship with God. It’s true that for many Christians, their faith is giving them the strength to keep moving forward. Yet I know just as many strong Christians who are depressed and hurting as non-Christians who are positive and optimistic. No, I think in this situation the answer might lie more in their heads than in their hearts. Where do their minds dwell? The devastation all around that is real and not going away any time soon? Or the beauty that is also real and not going away? Each is just as valid as the other. Yet for some reason it’s way easier to dwell in the devastation than to see past it to the beauty.

Maybe when we pray for people in devastated areas – not just here in Panama City but throughout the world – we could add a short sentence before our amen. It may not seem like much, but it might just make all the difference.

“Father, open their eyes to the beauty that is still around them.”

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Devastated pavilion surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation at St. Andrews State Park, Panama City Beach, FL, taken on 12/24/18 by Linda Schnepel

 

 

 

Dear Determined One (from Someone Who Loves You series)

Dear Determined One,

I see you there, no longer content with the limited view allowed by lying in your bed. I see you there, working so hard to sit up so that you can see a much larger part of your world.  You have learned that there is more in life than what you had once thought and you want to see it all. So you work on it day after day, never giving up even though you see little progress. What you don’t realize is that the progress happens inside first, hidden from everyone, even from yourself.  As you exercise, little by little, your inner self is strengthened and built up until one day you make it to that sitting position that you were so determined to achieve. And I will be there with everyone else celebrating your victory! Don’t give up, sweet girl. When it’s time, it will happen.

Always,

Someone who loves you

 

1 Timothy 4:8 Amplified Bible (AMP)

For physical training is of some value, but godliness (spiritual training) is of value in everything and in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.

 

Do you hear God speaking to you in these letters? If so, it’s no coincidence.  As I write to my new granddaughter, I can hear God speaking to me. And my prayer is that you can also hear Him speaking to you for He loves us even more than I love my granddaughter.

 

The Guys in the Yellow Shirts

She walked outside early that day to get a head start on the heat. There was a lot to do – way more than she or her husband was capable of doing in a day. And before long the temperature would be in the high 80’s making it even harder to work.

She looked at her yard.

 

Several large trees had been blown down, roots pulled up out of the ground leaving large holes. Other trees with broken trunks were lying across the sidewalk. A set of bare trees with broken branches were leaning towards their neighbor’s house. There were many large branches, wooden fence boards, and shingles scattered across the yard. And leaves everywhere!

She looked at her tools. One hand saw. One large pair of shears. One smaller hand shears for pruning. One wheelbarrow. A rake. And a shovel.

How in the world would these simple tools help them clear the huge mess? Sighing with resolve, she knew if she didn’t get started, the mess would only get worse as the grass grew to cover shingles and nails and other potentially dangerous things. She decided to start with the fence boards. They wouldn’t need any tools and she could drag them to the street. At least most of them. Some were still attached in large sections and would need to be cut into smaller pieces before she could move them.

As she dragged the fence pieces, her husband got the hand saw and began sawing the fallen branches into more manageable sizes, pulling them to the street and tossing them into a separate pile to cooperate with the city’s request to keep the debris sorted for easier removal later.

They worked in silence for about an hour, then her husband called to her. “Can you come help?”

“What do you need?” she called back as she stopped dragging a board to wipe the sweat from her face.

“Help me get the rest of this branch to the street.”

She carefully walked over to him, looked at the branch,

“You think we can move this?”

“I think so.”

“OK. Let’s try.”

They each got a good hand hold on the branch and began dragging it. Or at least attempted to. The branch was heavier than they thought and no matter how hard they strained, they could only move it an inch or two at a time.

“Could you use some help?” came a man’s voice from the direction of the street.

They looked up, startled, to see a man in a yellow shirt standing outside a car parked next to their growing pile of debris, smiling at them. On his shirt were the words “Helping Hands”.

“We sure could,” answered her husband. “Do you have a chain saw?”

“We have lots of chain saws.”

“We?”

“Yeah,” the man answered, pointing to a long line of cars behind his. “We’re all from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we’re here to help.”

She stared in disbelief. There must have been at least half a dozen cars and trucks, all filled with people in yellow shirts who were jumping out, picking up a variety of tools, and heading for her yard.

They quickly got to work sawing and dragging and chopping. She watched for a little while then went inside to hide her tears but continued to watch them work from an upstairs window. She was awed at their efficiency and cheerfulness as they worked.

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After awhile she rejoined her husband in the yard.

“This is a miracle,” he told her. “This is nothing short of a real miracle.”

She nodded agreement as the leader of the group brought over a slice of a tree.

 

“We like to leave a little something to the people we help,” he said as he handed them a slice of the large uprooted oak tree that used to stand in the middle of the yard.

Tears in their eyes, she and her husband explained how they had bought this oak tree when it was tiny and half dead from a hardware store and had enjoyed watching it grow over the years. She was surprised at how much comfort holding this small slice of the tree brought her.

Within an hour, her yard was clear of all the fences, branches and tree trunks they could manage. The leader approached them again. “Sorry we couldn’t do the set of leaning trees or the broken giant pine tree. You’ll probably need to hire a licensed contractor for those,” he apologized.

“No, no, no!” they said. “You don’t need to apologize! You’ve done enough! More than enough!”

A group photo was taken, hugs were exchanged, and then just as quickly as they had arrived, the group of yellow shirted angels left to look for another family to help.

There was still a lot of work to do such as picking up the shingles, searching for nails hidden in the grass, moving landscaping rocks and potted plants away from damaged gardens, and digging up few fence posts that had survived but without all the branches to work around, it would be so much easier and faster to get it done.

Tears slipping down her face, she thanked God for His love and care. She hadn’t asked Him for help with the yard, but He knew what they needed and provided it anyway.

What an amazing group of people!

What an amazing God!

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.

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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

Climbing the Mountain like a Turtle

She opened the front door and stepped outside. The bright sun caused her to squint as she closed the door behind her. It was hot – too hot to be outside. Good thing she was heading to her car instead of starting her dreaded daily walk around the neighborhood. She had only taken a step or two when something small caught her eye. A box turtle? What was a box turtle doing on her front patio? And this one appeared to be a baby! She stopped to watch it as she contemplated whether she needed to rescue it or not. Where would be a good place to relocate it? As she watched, it began to move quickly towards a nearby bush.

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The turtle, tired of the hot, rough sidewalk, hurried towards some shade she had glimpsed from across the patio.

I’m like this turtle, she thought. Sometimes my life is as uncomfortable as this hot, rough sidewalk, and all I want to do is cross over it to get to somewhere more comfortable.

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What’s this? She wasn’t expecting such a high barrier of large rocks. They hadn’t looked this big from the other side of the patio. Would she really have to climb these rocks?

Yep, she thought. Always something to block me from what I want. And it’s usually just as daunting as these rocks appear to this turtle.

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If she wanted to reach the shade, yes, she would have to climb these rocks. Resigned, she began climbing.

She thought of the mountains in her life. If she wanted a better marriage, if she wanted a healthier weight, if she wanted a cleaner house, if she wanted a closer relationship with her God, she would have to climb mountains to get to them. Mountains as high and hard and difficult as what the turtle was facing. Did she have the same determination as the turtle to start climbing?

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At first it was kind of easy. “This is not so bad,” she thought. But before long, she felt her balance shifting.

Isn’t that the truth, she thought. Mountains are always so deceiving. They start off easy, but soon, too soon, they have a way of throwing you off balance. Mountains are never that easy.

 

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Oh no! The weight of her shell was pulling her backwards. She was going to fall! In an attempt to stop the backwards momentum, she stretched out all she had, including her neck.

She thought of rock climbers. They never got off balance. Did they? Why not? So what made this turtle get off balance? It was the weight of what it carried on its back. That’s it! It’s the weight of my baggage that makes climbing mountains so hard, she thought excitedly. If I got rid of the baggage – stuff I drag with me from my past, stuff I refuse to let go of because I think I need it – I wouldn’t be losing my balance all the time. And whatever I left behind, God could replace. Right? But… she thought about the turtle shell. The turtle couldn’t just leave its shell behind, could it? The shell was too much a part of it. Just like there were some things she was incapable of leaving behind herself. She watched closely to see how the turtle was going to handle this problem, sensing it would also be an answer for her.

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It worked! She was no longer falling backwards, but she was also not moving forwards. She stretched out her neck even more, giving it everything she had.

Ahh, she thought. The turtle, although it couldn’t take off its shell, did have something with which to counter the balance problem. Its neck! It stuck out its neck! It let itself be vulnerable in order to try to save itself. Isn’t that what Jesus wants us to do – become vulnerable? To open our hearts to Him? To stick out necks, so to speak, in faith, towards others? To love others even when they don’t love us back? To give to those who ask even if it hurts?  But, she wondered, was it going to work?

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Yea! Her shell slowly righted itself and she was back on her feet. Should she go back? This climb was dangerous. She couldn’t have fallen off and landed on her back, not able to move. Besides, all she could see was the rock wall she was climbing. She couldn’t see over the top of those rocks. Was there really shade up there? Or had she just imagined it?

Relief and amazement flooded through her. The turtle was OK. It didn’t fall. It was safe. Or was it? Why wasn’t it moving? Did it change its mind? That’s what she usually did when the way got hard. Insecurities, questions, doubts, and fears all seemed to stop her from getting to the top each time. And each time she was stopped, she returned to the bottom where it was easier. Would the turtle do the same?

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She decided to trust her vision. The possible shade was worth the work and danger of this climb. Deciding to keep her neck out for balance, she began climbing once again.

Nope, the turtle didn’t give up. It knew what it had seen and it wanted it more than it wanted the ease of the sidewalk. That’s what I need to do, she thought. God gives me visions of what’s up there. I need to trust Him and just keep climbing no matter how hard it gets.

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Finally she could see her goal ahead of her. Yes! The shade was real! Excited now, she began to move a little faster.

She was surprised at the envy she felt as the turtle entered the shade. There was shade available in her own life. Promises God had given her. All she had to do was climb the mountain to get there. So why was she envious of a turtle? Maybe because that turtle was more committed than she was?  Maybe because that turtle had more faith than she did? Or maybe because the turtle wanted it more than she did? She knew this turtle had given her a lot to think about.

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She had done it! Here was the promised shade, where she could rest and maybe even catch something to eat. Was the climb worth it? Oh yeah!

Goodbye, little turtle, she thought as she walked away. Thank you for teaching me something I needed to learn today. Maybe someday I’ll make it to the top of one of my mountains just like you did.

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