Writing, Rain, and Rollercoasters

God set the tone for tonight, cuing a warm, gentle rain just as I sat down on my front porch – a rhythmic percussion section, every so often punctuated by solos of doors closing or tires sloshing.  I was totally rejected today; well, technically, we, as in Charming and me, were rejected, but the email rejection clearly cited the problem: me.

Just look back over that hook.  I give you setting details interwoven with precise punctuation choices to introduce and link.  As I write, you can picture me on my white wicker loveseat on a front porch framed by carefully maintained garden beds I made two years ago.  Maybe you can see the white house with the red door engulfed in pink, Japanese magnolia blossoms, the bigger picture.  Perched at my laptop, red wine to my right, writing my way to sanity as I’ve done the last 111 Tuesday nights.

I express myself well in writing, to put it succinctly (which I rarely do, preferring instead to flesh out the details that support our oneness, yours and mine, in the shared experiences in loss, grief, and fear).  That was the only check in the positive column for Laura Joy in a counselor’s office on Sunday afternoon.  It had been in the works for some time.  We’re both incredibly analytical in our own right (and my own write), and Charming had suggested we give couple’s counseling a shot.

Our discussions about timing and the future are no longer sequels, just layered imitations of the previous conversation, progress indiscernible at times.  I want always and forever with him.  He wants to want it with me.  He needs more of it, yet my personal timeline is dominated by a maternal instinct and biological kitchen timer obnoxiously counting down my fertile days.

In our first session this weekend, we met with a Christian therapist who clued into the fear behind my angry outbursts.  If I lose my cool on a Sunday morning getting ready for church at Charming’s for example, the anger stems from the lack of order in living out of a suitcase every other weekend because we’re still just dating, and the anger evidences the underlying fear that I’ll keep doing this, month after month, and it could end.  Suitcases aren’t permanent.  Time is running out.

The session didn’t go well for me.  I’m a firm believer that you need the right counselor for the people and purpose at hand.  Though I sensed she wasn’t a great fit for me, I thought perhaps couple’s counseling might just be different.  Or maybe Christian counseling was different.  At several points during the hour, I longed for Dr. Bogin’s direct questions.  His were like chopsticks.  Hers were like razor blades.  His lacked judgment.  Hers were loaded with cloaked implications.

Today, she let us know that she would not continue to work with us.  Perhaps she’d taken my rejection to her suggestion we do individual sessions without Charming personally.  In her break-up email, the therapist stated, “For Laura [sic] the all-encompassing desire to be a wife and mother has become difficult for her to manage without anger and resentment it appears.”

And?  Is this not what I’ve been fleshing out here the past 111 Tuesday nights?  I can see her inability to pick up on my preferred name and at least two missing commas.  I know writing.  She knows people.  In our first hour, I was able to articulate exactly what issues I bring to the table.  Our faults, hers grammatically and mine emotionally, are equally glaringly obvious to the other.

She doesn’t know about Dr. Bogin or our year and a half in that little psychologist’s office in Syracuse.  She doesn’t know that God used him to work miracles in my life and my brother’s.  She doesn’t know that I am fiercely loyal to him, and that he died recently, and that I can’t imagine bearing my soul to anyone the way I had with him.  No, instead, I write.  Dr. Bogin agreed during our last face-to-face in his backyard during a summer visit that what I do here, on Tuesday nights, is a continuation of what we used to do together.

He molded me, taught me to fish… pick your metaphor.  He was the right counselor for the purpose at hand.  Here, I take the thing I least want the world to know about and grapple with it, on paper, taking it all apart in analogies and metaphors.  She effectually scoffed at my suggestion that these 314, single spaced, 1-inch margined pages of the unapologetic, unedited, unpredictable, authentic journey of a single woman in her thirties wasn’t working.  That Dr. Bogin’s method, probing at truth to arrive at self-revelation, wasn’t effective.

Take tonight, for instance.  I read the email just a few hours ago.  My gym mentor was out with an injury today, so I hadn’t really processed it.  As private as Charming is, I’m sure he hoped the counseling wouldn’t come up tonight, but I also know he knows me well enough to see the potential benefit for us both if I try to flesh this out on my own.  The woman suggested someone else who would be willing to meet with us on the weekends, and by this point, I’m advising myself that we should follow through and find the right person for the right people for the specific purpose.

In my English classes, we’re analyzing song lyrics as poetry again.  We identified the metaphor in “Life is a Highway”, proceeding to uncover the rest of the analogy.  What is the writer saying about life by comparing it to a highway?  What examples does he give?  They understand that we use metaphors to help people connect with and relate to the concept we’re expressing.  They understand that the presence of rain affects the tone of a story.

Rain changes things.  It changes plans.  This rain was soothing when I began writing a page ago, but now it’s loud and steady, covering my neighbor’s conversation on the front porch next door.  I don’t suspect I’ll be mowing the lawn tomorrow.  However, it seems God adjusted the tone just as I prepared to turn the page back to Saturday, before the notorious counseling session, the day reclaiming my spring break wish to ride rollercoasters at Busch Gardens.

It started off cool, cloudy, and comfortable (carefully alliterated). We experienced the thrills of Tempesto, Apollo’s Chariot, and Battering Ram.  We trekked nearly the whole park, waiting for a show in Oktoberfest.  Then, there was Verbolten.  As we exited the ride, Charming searched unsuccessfully for his phone.   It was somewhere behind us with the thrills of the ups and downs we’d intentionally ridden.  It’s like I told my six year old nephew: When you ride rollercoasters, you get scared on purpose, and that’s a different kind of fear.  That kind makes you laugh not lash out in anger.

With instructions on reporting the phone lost, we set out for the lost and found.  The sky open down poured, at just that moment.  It reflected how I would feel if it had been my phone that was lost, though Charming remained cool and collected.  He’s a military officer.  He’s mastered navigating in the storm.  Despite the lost phone and a rained-out Busch Gardens day, I could count on him to calm my anxiety even as my GPS broke and we had to find our way home in the heavy rain.  The timing was right though.  It was time to go home.

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We left behind intentional fear and its thrills to prepare for the next day exploring our more tragic ones and their consequences.  At dinner that night, we talked about how my angry outbursts affect others.  I immediately remembered my librarian friend, Mama Melissa, back in Nashville so many years ago trying to explain the same thing.   There are already so many ups and downs and twists and turns in life that nobody wants an added dose of my temper to rustle their feathers.

For some, life is a highway.  For me it’s a day at Busch Gardens where the weather turns from good to bad, and the tone shifts from hopeful to frustrated, and the thrills we seek sometimes have consequences like things lost.  Sometimes, the lines are short and the waiting seems effortless.  Sometimes, the wait keeps you from getting in line at all.  Sometimes, the rides shut down and you’re not sure how long to wait it out.

A day at Busch Gardens is as much about timing as it is about thrills.  What we’re able to experience and when is influenced by external factors beyond our control.  I expect the ups and downs.  I’m not afraid of those.  I’m afraid the timing won’t be right, that our metaphorical day at Busch Gardens will come to a wet, early conclusion.

If I were sitting in Dr. Bogin’s loveseat instead of mine, I’d be saying aloud right about now, “So, really, it’s about timing.”  I already knew that my “all-encompassing desire to be a wife and a mother” leave me susceptible to anger and resentment.  I fight them in my writing.  I fight them in my prayers.  There’s something to focus on, besides those negative byproducts, a latent root brought to blossom in an extended analogy, in my writing.

It’s about timing and a willingness to wait.  I might now wait an hour for Mach Tower, but I’d stick it out even longer to get on the new coaster, InvadR.  I can’t always trust that the timing will be right, but I still love a day at Busch Gardens.  And I still love Charming.  He overrides the weather’s setting cues with his steadiness in the storm.

Even as the rain soothes away the initial sting of that rejection email, now nearly forgotten, I hope we find a counselor like Dr. Bogin, the right one, who will help us work through the timing issues together while I continue to flesh out the ups and downs of my biological timer through Writer’s Growth.

The Life I Didn’t Expect

Driving up to DC last Friday, I had resolved to ignore the timeline tensions and enjoy Easter weekend with Charming.  We’d attended the Saturday night vigil and Sunday services at Restoration Anglican last year, and I was really excited to return.  Though I’d miss watching the twins hunt for colored eggs, holidays mean a chance to see Charming’s family, even his grandma Lois.

After fighting nearly four hours in miserable traffic, I was comforted by a warm night perfect for a walk, hand in hand, in Alexandria.  As Charming led the way to our destination, I reminisced on the places we were passing by, like our first brunch spot that closed down.  I think I fell in love with Old Town and Charming, both, over the past year and a half.  We’d made some incredible memories there, roughly every other weekend.

Relationship talks tabled for the time being, we opted instead for a table for two beside a wood-burning pizza oven.  On Saturday morning, all was right with the world.  Mother Nature told me I could finally wear a sundress and flip flops, in which I’d walk with Charming down to Bruegger’s for breakfast sandwiches to eat down at the Waterfront.

There were no obligations until the vigil at 8:30 pm in Arlington.  It felt a bit like summer.  It felt a bit like old times.  I smiled.  A lot.  I admired the children we passed along the way, strolling the river, stopping to watch the planes, and was able to silence the cries of longing.  I reminded myself to be grateful we were walking unhindered by responsibly. My sisters-in-law could envy my lack of attachments as much as I desire offspring to welcomely hinder me.

On the way home, we stopped in for an impromptu tour of the Carlyle House.  Mom had told me about the show Mercy Street, set in the hotel that used to be on the front lawn.  There was so much history.  Major players in the Civil War had slept in those beds.  They’d been men of purpose.

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In the afternoon, we watched Netflix and made a Blue Apron meal.  It was then, when we were sitting still, without a care in the world, that I was most aware of the restlessness in my bones.  What were we doing?  Before the fixation on beating the biological clock , we’d carried out different versions of our own Hallmark movies every weekend in Old Town.  It was good.  And I was happy.  And I smiled a lot.

But unlike the war generals intent on loosening England’s grip on the colonies, history won’t name me.  Apart from typical teenage delusions of grandeur, I didn’t want to be famous.  I felt that my purpose was to be a mother.  I picked a career that would pair well with balancing a family.  Cuddling with Charming after a picture-perfect day in a sundress, I ignored the restlessness.  I chose to be contented despite the nagging lack of purpose.

The service that night did not disappoint.  The candle lit choruses, the liturgical recitations, and the scripture readings soothed the psyche, prompting the synapses to fire as God intended, righting my mind like a ship in a storm, reminding me of my place, of His sovereignty and His power.  I was at peace, and it felt right to be at peace in that pew with Charming’s hand finding mine.

Then the lights came on, and Pastor Hanke introduced a woman named Connally Gilliam who would deliver the homily.    I listened respectfully, admiring her vibrancy and wit.  I suspected she might be a writer at the way she carefully crafted her words, and I’d soon discover she was.  As Connally began to recount a series of tragedies in her adult life, I wished for the candle light again to hide my tears.

She’d experienced a range of losses, unexpected and unthinkable.  With each admission, she furthered her message, but I didn’t hear anything after she spoke of that relationship she had that finally seemed like the right one, at that critical time at the end of her child bearing years… that didn’t work out.  I didn’t want to hold Charming’s hand anymore.  He might just be that man in my story.

The realization was chilling.  The peace I’d experienced moments ago, the peace achieved only by aligning heart and mind on God’s provisions, on His sovereignty and sufficiency, it evaporated, leaving a vulnerable, powerless me exposed.

I wanted to control the narrative with him.  When I reflect on the beautiful story of redemption and second chances, on the thread of hope woven through it, it makes sense to me that we’d have a happy ending.  But in that pew, with Connally’s beauty, charisma, and intelligence leaving all to wonder how she wasn’t snatched up long ago, the backdrop of the empty tomb on the screen solidified a reality that’s a fear and a dangerous hope at the same time.

Connally is living my worst fear, that God’s purpose for my life isn’t going to be motherhood after three decades of intentional training, from dressing dolls to teaching sixteen-year-olds.  I looked her up, of course, only to discover that she’d authored the book, Revelations of a Single Woman: loving the life I didn’t expect.

Okay, so from the title and a few lines in her sermon, I could conclude that, like me, Connally expected to get married and have family someday.  I could conclude that she was still single.  I couldn’t begin to understand how she could possibly love that life; nevertheless, I just ordered a copy, and Amazon Prime should give me answers in two business days.

If only answers from God had tracking information.  I suppose peace of mind comes through other methods.  Like prayer.

The next morning, though the sanctuary felt brighter inside, as if to match the day and its celebration, the words of King Solomon echoed through the same pews: “All is vanity.”  Ecclesiastes 1 seemed an odd pairing for the resurrection of Jesus, but Pastor Hanke interwove the two in a sermon entitled, “Does Life Have a Purpose?”

I could imagine myself living there in Cherrydale, walking my children to church, but that didn’t comfort me.   I read along in my Bible.  “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” That was it!  The restlessness while watching Netflix during a good day in a sundress.  It wasn’t because I’m not fulfilling my assumed future purpose of being a wife and a mother.

It’s the subtle awareness, a distinctively different nagging that exists just below the realm of contentment.  It’s the question Leo Tolstoy posed in A Confession, asking, “Is there any meaning which the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?”  That resonated with me in my vulnerable state, trying to ignore the singer on stage subconsciously rubbing her very pregnant belly.

We need purpose, in our lives and in our relationships.  It keeps the ship upright.  Paster Hanke succinctly concluded that our purpose is to know God, use the gifts He’s given, and anticipate the life after this.  There’s a bit of dangerous hope in there, too.

I want God to make meaning of my life.  I don’t want to live as if all is vanity, trapped in the kind of nihilistic bondage that the cross destroyed.  Maybe God will grant me the desires of my heart… or maybe I’ll be writing a sequel to Connally’s book in a decade.  It’s scary to think Charming might be “that” man in my story, and it’s equally comforting to know there’s no power in my pen, that the story has been written, that it is inherently good, and I’ll see that someday.

Do I believe that life has a purpose?  Definitively, yes.  While it’s still a bit hazy what mine is, I think the restlessness I try so hard to silence is simply my soul waiting for a higher calling without any shipping notification options.

Losing the Why? Game

“Auntie La La, you got a boo boo?” Katarina greeted me tonight with a concerned series of toddler phrases as she pointed to my knees and proceeded to give each a healing kiss.  I hadn’t noticed the array of tiny cuts until her genuine burst of compassion.  This was the first time I lost at Kat’s new Why? game.  I truly didn’t know.

Why did I have cuts on my knees?  Had there been only one unexpected task involving intense manual labor in the past week, it would have been easy to pin-point.  Spring break ran away from me on Thursday night, or perhaps it was carried off by the windstorm that shattered my patio table.  With only a few days left before hitting the ground running until graduation, it was that “one more thing” to add to my to do list that crashed my internal computer.

My neighbor knocked on my door looking for his bucket that had blown away, gently asking me if I’d been out back before breaking the news apologetically.  My friend Angel and I bought matching tables for our back yards two summers ago, just before the twins’ first birthday party.  In fact, that’s the only time I can picture friends and family gathered under the umbrella, eating and swatting at flies.  I’d hoped for more memories for that table.

Tables can be replaced though, so pushing aside the sentimental value of the table and the irrational preoccupation with this inanimate object’s inability to achieve a full life, I had to also look past the broken pieces of the butterfly candle globes from my high school graduation party.  The theme had been, “Spread your wings and fly, our precious butterfly.”  I can still picture my mom poised before the desktop computer in the den, designing the invitations and banners.  That saying was her prayer for me.

In years to come, she’d morph my butterfly co-identity into a symbol of new life.  I’d spread my wings, I’d flown, and I’d crashed in storms not unlike the freak one to hit my yard last week.  Eventually, I came to see the wisdom in the verse Mom would reference in phone conversations, “He makes all things new, Laura Joy.”  Staring out the open back door from my kitchen at the shattered glass and porcelain, nothing new remained.

Not even the rest of my seedlings.  Earlier that evening, my friend texted me a little warning to cover my newly planted seedlings as it was going to dip into the thirties.  I deduced she’d read my blog post last week, and no doubt, the seasoned gardener that she is, was hoping to save me from my inexperience.  She won’t plant yet.  There are too many cold nights ahead.  I should have known better, but I still had half of my seedlings ready in pods, so I could replant in a few weeks without losing anything, really.  It would be okay.

Friday morning, I awoke with plans to finish the last of my grading and clean the house.  The broken table had all but crushed my spirits the night before, so I’d opted to leave the back door closed and save that clean up party for another day.  I fixed some tea to sooth my allergy-raw sore throat and thought to move the laundry to the dryer before I started on essays.  The basin was still full of water.  I ran it again.  It cycled until spin, then stopped and refused to drain.

It’s broken once before, and I fixed it after one Youtube video.  I’d knock this out, then get back to my to do list… and as I pulled the unit away from the wall, I knocked over a bottle of beer I’d been saving for a friend.  Perhaps that’s when I got the cuts Katarina discovered, picking up the shattered pieces and cleaning up dirty, brown beer-water mixed with whatever’s gathered under the washing machine and portable dishwasher over the past two and a half years.

Two hours and ten Youtube videos later, I’d ruled out every problem capable of being diagnosed.  This broken washer-dryer combo superseded every responsibility pre-ordained for this day.  I was consumed by the need to fix it, and Mom found a way of consoling me by funding a Craigslist replacement.  Charming would be there Saturday to help with the moving truck.  It wasn’t how I wanted to spend the last weekend of spring break, but this was happening.

By Friday afternoon, I put the kitchen back in proper order.  I had a plan to fix that problem the next day, so I stepped outside to check out the one in the vegetable garden.  I’d been warned, but it was too late.  Half the planted seedlings had died overnight.  As I turned my back on the garden, I walked purposefully toward the table where the rest of the seedlings has been awaiting planting.  In the light of day, the shattered pieces of glass shimmered and sparkled like a glitter fairy had visited instead of a windstorm.  They bounced off the fractured pods of dirt that used to contain markers.  These plants were all dead, too, mixed in amongst the glass and porcelain.

A table where there should have held a family grilling out in the summer nights.  A candle globe that used to mean I would be successful, that came to mean there was new life for me yet.  Tiny little plants that I started from seed, life snuffed out before they could ever dream of a harvest.  So much lost in a wind storm.  It was just too much.

A deflated ball doesn’t bounce.  The allergies, the table, the seedlings, the washing machine, the unfinished to do list… each took my attention, and with it, my air.  Little by little.  I wasn’t resilient.  I was defeated, emptied, and I couldn’t bounce back.  Even with Charming here the next day to help me out with the old and in with the new, I was miserable.  Rational or not, perhaps I’ve been spending too much time in Old Testament prophesies lately, but I was questioning what I’d done to lose God’s favor.  Like little Katarina, I was asking, “Why, God?”

By yesterday, my gym mentor Chuck told me I needed a change in perspective.  He sent me to Fort Monroe beach to take a walk after our workout.  I settled in on an outcropping of deserted rocks just as the sun was setting.  I could not see a single seedling, but rather a foreground of rock and foliage encompassed by a vast expanse of sea and sky where I was suddenly as small as I should be again.

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And there, amidst the changing tides, God breathed into the silence and filled me up again.  I thought of the things I’d lost in the week before.  Within an hour of putting the old washer and table frame on the curb, a couple of men loaded them effortlessly into a truck and carried them away.  Metal scraps must be worth something to them.  I remembered putting the trunks of the old oak tree on the same spot two years ago and seeing them hauled off to be used for firewood, or perhaps something else if someone had the right tools.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, they say.  I’ve seen how man can take broken things and give them new purpose.  Sitting atop the dunes, watching a full moon rise across the water, feeling the cool breeze intensify without the sun to mask it, I saw things as they were.  They were small, but they were also symbols, like the butterfly, of God’s ability to make all things new.

My spring break misery, I suspect, had far less to do with the tangible things that were breaking than with my own personal failings.  It was easier to focus my energy on fixing the problems I could see and do something about than the unnerving quiet of a vacation that gave me too much time to imagine the life I think I’m supposed to have at thirty-four.

I was grasping at straws for control in the chaos.  When I stopped trying, when I escaped from the busyness and the noise and the to do list, when I sat still with a full view of God’s inspired, inspiring creation, I could only laugh at my futile attempts to control anything at all.  The surface of the water shimmered like the broken pieces of glass I gathered in the yard on my hands and knees… ahh, that’s why I have those cuts, Katarina.

Not even three years old, Kat wants to know the “why?” behind everything.  I think it’s human nature.  I wanted to know why all these unfortunate things were happening to me.  I asked God why, too, but He didn’t play the game.  Instead, He reminded me of His ability to turn my trash into a treasure.

Only God can make shattered glass brilliant, glistening in the sun like the waves of the ocean.  The glass, the ocean, me… all in His full view.

Bones, Seeds, and Me

The hospital seems distant now, two weeks after my brother’s admittance.  Spring break offers a time of healing for all of us, even as my twin nieces play doctor to their recovering father at home.  It’s good to have Mom around P.J.’s table too, especially now that he’s hesitantly venturing on to solid foods.  And while he heals from his bleeding ulcer, I heal from a wound rather self-inflicted.

The mountains of the last two weeks were a distraction from any other obstacle on the horizon.  Those evenings and planning blocks I spent on the surgical floor instead of grading persuasive essays pushed them over to Spring Break’s To Do list.  I forgot to complete my post-conference evaluation form for my principal.  I’d been processing the death of my psychologist, Dr. Bogin, intending to send my post about him to his wife perhaps as some encouragement.  That’s on this week’s To Do List, too.

Cinderella made an appearance again to my students last week at their fairy tale celebration, but I’d never bothered ordering her glass slippers.  I donned the costume, but my heart wasn’t in it this year.  The kids loved her visit, and they kept trying to make me break character, but for those three blocks they gave me enough energy to give them a clever Cinderella while they shared their team fairy tales.

In their unit post-evaluations, many students upheld that what they most loved about writing fairy tales was that anything was possible.  Their characters could have the magical powers they only wish they had themselves.  Good always overcomes evil.  Talking animals help heroes on their quests.  Morals like beauty is more than skin deep or true love conquers all give them all hope, faith, and unwavering trust in the governing power of fairy tales – anything is possible.

For the last year and a half, I’ve been writing a fairy tale myself.  I’m the protagonist, of course, adventuring on a quest to secure my treasure and achieve my personal destiny.  My leading man is Charming who entered the scene where this tale begins, after my fruitless summer of online dating which found me giving up on the prospect of love altogether to focus on my career.

Having remembered him as a cute collegiate back in my Wheaton College days, I was surprised and somewhat pleased to see a Facebook message in my inbox two Septembers ago citing that he’d resonated with a few of my blog posts, could relate to some of my experiences, and wanted to meet for coffee and conversation.  Soon after, in the annals of my blog, he became Charming.  Much of my weekly writing nights thereafter catalogued a romance reminiscent of a Hallmark movie.

Or a fairy tale.  Where anything was possible.  We’ve attended military balls, taken a cruise to the Bahamas, road tripped to Wheaton, enjoyed countless nights in Old Town Alexandria, and shared holidays with our families.   At a time where I’d abandoned my quest for a family of my own, Charming’s arrival opened the floodgates of hope, faith, and trust.  When a colleague called me “wildly optimistic” last year, it surprised me.

She was right.  I had started writing a different story.  These weekly blogs are my therapy, a time to reflect, reevaluate, and redirect.  I’d processed the heartbreaks and losses of my divorce, the season of shame in its wake, the betrayal of a boyfriend after it, and the struggles of starting over in my thirties.  What my kids loved about fairy tales I loved about the story I was writing with Charming.  Sure, he was always a step behind, always hesitant, always pulling on the reigns, but I was enchanted.  Anything was possible.  Love could conquer all.

After all, Charming met every item on my “Uncompromisable Qualities for a Future Mate” list.  I thought.  Until we had our first relationship defining talk in which he noted there was one item that didn’t describe him: ready for a wife and family.  And a year ago, our relationship continued on quite well after that admission.  Long story short, I turned thirty-four, and that changed.

The vacancy in my life where children of my own should be, the numbing silence inside my little rented house, the complete inability to change my circumstances without artificial insemination, the incessant tick-tick-tick of my biological clock warning me that I’m running out of time… I’m not sure when it happened, exactly, but I stopped writing a fairy tale.  Before P.J. was hospitalized, Charming and I were coming off a near-break-up weekend where we were supposed to be thinking and praying, then we’d talk.  That had to wait until Spring Break, too.

So this weekend, I drove up to DC for a few days with Charming.  We walked around Old Town, hitting our favorite dinner and brunch spots.  We talked about everything but us.  Saturday afternoon, before his sister’s birthday party, I broached the topic.  Nothing had changed.  Until he’s 1000% sure, we’re not moving forward.  He’s not.  So do I keep waiting?  How long do you wait for someone if you believe they are your true love?  Or maybe I need to reevaluate if he is, in fact, my true love.

Regardless, the conversation bottomed out quickly.  My emotions took over.  It was April 1st.  There was no hope or faith or trust remaining from the fairy tale celebration at school just twenty-four hours earlier.  I convinced myself that Charming was the biggest April Fool’s joke I’d ever played on myself.  I hurled revealing strings of words at him in the mental fog of my frustration that I never intended to say aloud.

After a couple of hours of this, I called Chuck, my gym mentor, and I asked him to speak to Charming.  While they talked, I stepped outside and thought about all the ways in which this was clearly an April Fool’s joke.  Who was I kidding?  Did I think I could write a blog of redemption and speak life into reality?  Believing Charming would be my husband one day did not make him my husband at all.

We paused our discussion and celebrated his sister’s birthday the rest of the evening, unclear whether we were still a couple at all.  Chuck texted me a scripture.  It was Ezekiel 37, one of those obscure prophesies I’d heard before but never given much attention to.  While Charming ate birthday cake with his family, I googled biblical commentaries on the Valley of Dry Bones.

Hope and faith and trust are not new.  The Israelites had them, lost them, regained them.  Biblical history is filled with alternating periods of faithfulness and doubt, loyalty and wandering.  When Ezekiel is given this vision, the Israelites were in captivity, and this analogy is a response to the people’s cry, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are clean cut-off” (v. 11).  One site I found told me to imagine The Lion King’s elephant graveyard.

I understood why Chuck would share this passage with me.  That’s exactly where I was, though with perhaps far less cause than the Israelites.  Charming asked me to stay for church the next day where the featured Old Testament passage was Ezekiel 37.  Seriously, I don’t remember studying this passage before.  I thought Lauren Daigle’s “Come Alive” song was inspired by David and the Psalms.  Two days in a row?  Chuck said it should be my prophesy, but I didn’t really understand it.

Not until today.  Not until I’d toiled in my gardens for seven hours, thinking and working, on my knees.  I’d decided to double the size of my vegetable garden, and it was far more labor intensive than I’d realized.  No one told the roots that the tree they belonged to had died two years ago.  I cut into the grass, shoveling, raking, hoeing, and tilling.  The roots were a formidable foe.

Then I remembered the pick ax Chuck left on my back steps last week.  I wielded it with power.  It was incredibly effective.  The silver head chopped through the roots, ripping them out.  I’d swing it up over my head, then swiftly down into the ground, and finally back through the soil.  I could fling a whole cubic feet of grass and soil onto what will be the watermelon hill soon enough.  I thought about how the pick ax was my weapon of choice in arguments with Charming, too, that I’ve got more power in words than I do my upper body, and when I swing that pick ax with him, I do some damage.  How effective is it there?

When I decided to start from seedlings a few weeks ago, I wondered if the seeds would grow.  Can these seeds live?  I sowed them.  I watered them.  Today, I finally planted them in the vegetable garden.  As I transplanted the seedlings, I had to wonder again: can these seedlings live?  It was a similar question that Ezekiel had asked God in his vision: Can these bones live?

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And, I see it’s the question I have with Charming, too.  Can this relationship live?  And when we talking about living, Ezekiel’s prophesying about taking back the Holy Lands.  That’s not surviving; that’s thriving.  God tells him to prophesy over the dry bones, to tell them to come alive.  Ezekiel does this, and the bones take formation, develop flesh and skin, and finally, breath enters their bodies and the bones stand up as a great army.  It was to symbolize the Israelites would be revived, despite having lost their hope.  They would be restored, resurrected like these dry bones.

In seven hours in the garden, I could be a very minor prophet, speaking life into these plants simply by following laws of nature.  I honored the timing, the light requirements, the water needs, the soil depth, the distance apart.  I wielded the pick ax and secured my treasure, finishing both the vegetable gardens and flower beds in a single day. I can anticipate growth and expect a harvest.  My gardens were resurrected today.  If only the outcomes were so clear and visible with Charming.

I could be dry bones or bones covered by flesh and skin.  Neither is particularly appealing, though borrowing Ezekiel’s analogy for myself seems fitting.  I’m not really living.  And if I’m not really living, then once again, I’ve abandoned that quest for my own personal treasure, the fulfillment of my personal legacy… a family of my own.

Charming can’t breathe life into me.  He’s not the answer.  I want to see a growth in my life like the harvest in my back yard is sure to produce.  Can these bones live?  My bones?  I hope Charming and I find a happy ending someday in that fairy tale I was writing, but this story is about me.  In Ezekiel’s vision, he recognizes the supernatural potential for the valley of dry bones to be resurrected.  Working in the garden, thinking as I worked the soil, I saw how similar it was to a fairy tale.  In the garden, anything is possible, too.

It was a long day, planting and thinking, daring to hope again for a resurrection of my own.  Before I sat down to write tonight, I looked back in my journal on my notes about Ezekiel’s vision.  Inscribed by its designer, at the top of my penned words, stood a Bible verse I hadn’t noticed in my dry bones, hazy cloud.  It was Mathew 19:26: “With God, all things are possible.”

Sounds a lot like a fairy tale, doesn’t it?