Desire

Recently, I’ve been pondering the beautiful word desire.

In my daily bible reading Genesis chapter 3:16

And her desire shall be towards her husband.

Stopped me in my tracks, and I read them over and over again.

I love the movement in those few words.

Desire shall be towards…

There is action.

It is not passive.

The word desire in Hebrew paints a beautiful picture to yearn, long, reach toward…

Now, I am single so why would I meditate on this verse? Not so I can long for marriage, or my singleness to end. Mentally I reframed it. I am a bride. A member of the Bride of Christ, and if I am how should the bride long for her heavenly Groom?

I started looking for things that desire, where did I find desire in my own life?

Desire, has hunger in it. Cooking curry on the stovetop I realized I was leaning into the smell, I was going towards a simple thing, curry. A taste, of desire.

Currently, I am living in a basement. There is a small shamrock plant that sits in a window that barely gets any light. However the small plant, desires the sun. It sits on the ledge patiently waiting for the sun to appear. At night when the sun disappears it tucks it three little leaves down so they look like mini umbrellas. But in the morning….

I am an early riser, currently I rising before or right along with the sun. The other morning, I pulled myself from my cozy blankets and walked into our living room the sky had a grey hint of dawn, not the hopeful blue, or the inspiring pink, just a hint of lightness in the sky…and the little leaves of the shamrock had started to unfold from their umbrella position to stretch towards the coming sun. I blinked. They are on the west side of the house, in a basement window well it is going to be hours…and yet their anticipation had already grown to reach towards the sun.

Conviction pricked at my heart. Am I waiting for my Lord, my heavenly Groom with that same anticipation. When I wake is He my first thought and delight. Do my toes curl in anticipation of prayer time and Bible reading.

Is my heart turned towards His? Do I long for the heartbeat of Heaven? What is His throbbing heartbeat, does it have an echoing refrain in my own soul?

Being a storyteller—my thoughts turned towards a narrative. What if the shamrock that longs for the sun turned it’s attention to other objects? What if it sat under a lamp? Yes, the lamp seems to have the same effect as the sun, but it doesn’t have the same nourishment. The plant would eventually die. What if the plant decided to uproot itself and chase a bright yellow ball? Yes, the ball is round like the sun, and it seems to have the same color but what would you call such a plant that chases after things besides the sun?

Now let me rephrase that.

What do we call a Christian who chases after something besides Christ?

If those objects had names such as worldly security, or lust—they are a false sun, and a false sun—brings death. Yet, how often does my heart turn towards other things than Christ?

One thing have I desired said the Psalmist.

One thing.

And that will I seek after.

To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life…

To what end?

To behold the beauty of my Lord and to enquire in His temple.

One thing.

Do I desire One thing?

Do I desire…Jesus?

The Healing Effects of ‘vid

Nearly two months ago…
I got ‘vid.
And by ‘vid, I mean IT
And by IT, I mean… C Ohhhhhhh v i d.
Honestly, I don’t even like saying it.

My sense of taste and smell disappeared right in the middle of dinner one night. That was fun. I had known, something was up, but I had been semi hoping, that it was it, semi hoping that it wasn’t. A mixed bag of the unknown, trusting for what was best.

When my test came back positive I was relieved and incredibly grateful.
1. I was able to quarantine without the risk of infecting ANYONE ELSE.
2. I got to spend a lot of time with Jesus.
3. It answered the whole “Are you getting the vaccine?” question…at least for now.
4. I couldn’t have asked for it at a better time truly I mean there is never a good time to get sick but I wasn’t planning on going anywhere, there were no tiny friendish events I was going to miss, God is just plain good at His timing.

Confession.
It was also harder than I anticipated. Quarantining physically alone was hard. Around day six I might have been curled up in a ball on my bed crying. Maybe, who knows….

However, it was also a time of healing, in a unique way. While it was bothersome to be physically alone and unable to really see anyone at all…the community around me shocked me to tears multiple times.

A few years ago I was a missionary in a foreign country and I was sick. Very sick, not once but twice, and while I wasn’t physically alone, I was emotionally abandoned by my fellow coworkers. Who were….missionaries with me. I won’t go into detail, but it was difficult and I came away from that situation doubting Christianity…if this was the way Christians would treat others, did I really want to be one? I trembled at the edge with that question tipping the scale back and forth wondering if I wanted to stay on this “merry-go-round.” I wanted Jesus but the rest of it?

With this sickness two people reached out to me and offered to bring meals to me, which I was very reluctant to accept, however as I found I was getting weaker as ‘vid progressed I realized that I needed help and I needed to be okay, saying “Yes, please, I need help.” (I am stubborn about asking for assistance. It’s not something I like to say. I’d rather just…not inconvenience anyone, and as I mentioned in my previous experience abroad, sometimes I doubt that even if asked, help will arrive.)

To be honest, I was blown away. It was so different, the love, prayers and so much more from the body of Christ around me…awed my fractured and mistrusting heart. People reached out to me and let me know they cared and I was in their prayers and I wept. In some ways, I didn’t know what to do with it, or almost how to accept their love and outpouring of concern. The contrast was so sharp from my previous experience…I am struggling to find the words I want to say. But, it touched a scar in my soul and brought a deep healing balm to it.

In Taiwan–once I had asked God where He was in all of the mess, and immediately, He showed me, I was in His lap with my head on His shoulder. I realized that was all I needed, and I clung to that.

This experience, I didn’t doubt where He was, I knew I was in His lap, wrapped in His arms. leaning on Him, but this time it wasn’t just Him. There was a shield wall of warriors around me battling on my behalf. To be loved, sheltered, and cherished by the body of Christ…was a gift…that…I don’t know if I have words for, but, I want to say, Thank you.

“You Look Like Taylor Swift!”

Her eyes grew large as I rolled up to the drive-thru of Starbucks, she was a sweet bouncy barista with simplistic tattoos, short brown hair tucked into a messy bun. She turned to get my payment and this dear sweet soul’s eyes lit up! “You look like Taylor Swift!”


It took me a moment to take in what she had said and figure out how to respond.

My neat bun was slipping into a disaster, my red heart glasses were perched on top of my head, and I was desperately hoping that my eyes weren’t puffy from the amount of crying that had been going on in the last 24 hours. I felt like a wreck, so a compliment was the last thing on my mind.
Fumbling for something to say, I think I managed “Aw! Thanks, I wish I could sing like her.”

She offered me a smile, and my coffee, I accepted both and returned the smile with “Thanks so much have a good rest of your day!”

Driving away, couldn’t help but mull over my response. Do I really want to be able to sing like TS? Not really, what would I do if I had a platform like that? Is that what I want people to look at me and say? Oh you look like…the world. There is nothing in TS’s life that I would like to imitate, so why am I flattered. And there was a sudden ache in my heart. And I realized what I really wanted. What I really want someone to be able to look at me and say. I want to live a life that when someone looks at my life they see One person.

Jesus.

You look like Jesus…

I want to resemble His heart, His passion, His pattern, to walk in His footsteps.

I want to be like Jesus.

So, dear reader, I leave you with the question…who do you want to look like?

Extramundane

That word appeared in my word of the day email.

Extramundane.

The definition that popped into my head ran along the lines of extraordinary boring, dull beyond measure, *yaaaaaaawwwwn* etc.

The definition, suprised me.

Now, I don’t know about you but I’ve always heard mundane used in a negative context. That task is so mundane (aka boring). You know just doing the mundane things to survive (aka my life is like a wrecking ball of boredom, laundry, dishes, diapers, cleaning….you name it there is nothing interesting here please move on so I don’t fall asleep just talking about my life.)

Mundane.

It sounds like Monday…a day the jury is out on.

But say it a few times. Mundane…MUNDANE, mundane. Mundane.mun…dane.

I know, you’re raising your eyebrow at me, wondering if I’ve gotten out of the loony bin. It might be my state bird, but I am not a loon. Just for clarification.

Mundane, according to Websters 1828 Dictionary is this: Belonging to the world; as mundane sphere; mundane space.

mundane (adj.) from etymolonine.com

mid-15c., mondeine, “of this world, worldly, terrestrial,” from Old French mondain “of this world, worldly, earthly, secular;” also “pure, clean; noble, generous” (12c.) and directly from Late Latin mundanus “belonging to the world” (as distinct from the Church), in classical Latin “a citizen of the world, cosmopolite,” from mundus “universe, world,” which is identical to mundus  “clean, elegant,” but the exact connection is uncertain and the etymology is unknown.

Interestingly enough…

antemundane (adj.) is….

“existing or happening before the creation of the world,” 1731; see ante- + mundane.

So any clue as to what extramundane might be?

extramundane

[ ek-struh-muhn-deyn, –muhn-deyn ] 

adjective

beyond our world or the material universe

It struck me.

People seem to think that being a Christian is a mundane thing…when in reality is far beyond–it is an extramundane thing. It is beyond this world, it is otherworldly. There is a preacher who when he’s asked where he’s from surprises his listeners by declaring he’s a citizen of the New Jerusalem.

How often am I caught in the mundanity of life, when I should be captivated by the “extramundanity” of my Jesus? The extraordinariness, and wonder of who He is, of what He has done, of what He has promised…of who He is.

Jesus is my extra, He’s out of this world incredible.

So, next time someone asks how life is going and you’re doing well, tell them it’s extramundane…and maybe you’ll; get to share exactly how of this world good God is.

This world is not my home, I am just a passing through…

This mundane is not my home, I am just a passing through my treasure is laid up beyond the extramundane…

Okay, okay, I’ll stop but you get the idea…right?

Life is about One thing.

Don’t get so caught up in the mundane you miss the extramundane life….

A Taste of Romance

Petals, stems, leaves, flowers, vases, water, scissors.

Arranging flowers.

There is something about flowers that can unlock the conversation of romance.

The conversation usually runs along the lines of things like…

What kind of flowers do you like? What flowers are romantic to you? What kind of wedding bouquet do you want?

I was cutting flowers with another single young lady and we talked about the lack of romance in our lives, the joys of singleness, and the delight of arranging flowers for others. As the years have gone by, I realize that my definition of romance has changed…though I am not even sure I was prepared for what came out of my mouth, but yet there is the deep sweet undertone of longing that I cannot deny.

Romance, as I’ve grown older, has never been the sappy gushy wishy-washy of a romance novel, it’s not Paris in spring, chocolates, outings with ambiance or a thousand other things…

That is not romance.

Restaurants with ambiance, boxes of chocolates for me to eat, and dozens of roses—is not the life or love I want.

Romance, is suffering.

To step forward and to sip from the same cup as the one we love, their joys their sorrows, their burdens their ups their downs the twirling whirlwind dance of life.

This—is romance.

Those words awakened me in a way that I cannot explain.

It whispered of the visions of romance that I have glimpsed of in the film: Free Burma Rangers, and the tantalizing ever so relatable stories of Brother Andrew in God’s Smuggler.

Suffering, is romance…

The answer of the armor bearer…to Jonathan…

Later that week, martyrs deaths were brought up on a screen.

As I looked at stoning, beheadings, clubbing’s, boiling oil—I wondered: Am I ready?

Do I quaver to step forward?

My heart cried Lord please make me ready. Make me fit, bring glory to Your kingdom…these deaths…I’ve read portions of the Foxes Book of Martyrs, in riveted awe, wonder and horror…but am I ready to walk in those shoes?

Then He brought back the words I said to the young lady.

Romance, is suffering.

Looking up afresh on that list, I realized it was the most romantic thing in the world. Those were beloved, they knew the love of Christ…

Lord may I love you so much, that any of those would be romance to my soul.

This cup I take, this unleavened bread I hold, it is a token of His covenant. Communion not a mere symbol of Christianity—but so much more. Through the word, I have a record of my Christ. With the Bible He spells out with His words and life, His promises of provision, the life that He will lead, the inheritance of the Father—it is all spelled out in the promises of Old Covenant, and they are all fulfilled in the New, and given me the wedding gift of His Holy Spirit to prepare my heart.

He has called me to Him, to be His bride.

There is no detail spared, no hidden lines.

In boldness and love, He calls so tenderly:

Arise my love, my fair one, take up your cross and follow me.

To be one with Him, is to drink of that cup.

To follow in His divine footsteps, it to partake of that life.

The sufferings and sorrows, the rejoicing and His hope.

He has taken the wrath of God, He has drunk from the divine cup.

The cup now stands on the table for me to drink, to share, to pledge, to partake of what He promises—His life, His sufferings—and should the occasion require it—to partake of His death.

So here I am, I will take, drink all of it.

Here I am…spend me.

Plugged in

image provided by pixabay

Starting the car, I grabbed the charger for my phone…

Then, I laughed at myself.

Minutes before it had been plugged in and charging…it was fully charged. I doubted that it had “uncharged” in the few minutes that it had taken me to walk downstairs, fill my water bottle, and walked to the car. Yet, here I was grabbing for something I didn’t need.

My reflex was to grab for the cord had become natural in my drive days before as the map app on my phone drained my battery like a fox holding a banquet in a hen house. Running to the small coffee shop that I knew the directions to certainly had no need of a map app or my phone being plugged in.

Then it struck me…

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. ~John 15:5

My heart needs to be turned towards Christ, the same way my hands were trained to plug in my un-eternal cell phone. I want to be hungry for Christ in that same way, to never be unattached from Christ, my life instict to be attached to Him, to cling to Him, to turn to Him, to look to Him as my life, my energy, my source, my joy, my love–my everything.

I wondered for a moment, how easily do I get my “charge” from Bible reading, fellowship, prayer, the slip onto battery saving mode and try to get on in my day without staying attached to Christ…who IS MY LIFE. There is no life outside of Christ…none whatsoever.

What are you plugged into? Where do you find life? How do you stay charged thoughout the day? Is Christ your life?

Pearls, Idols, and Jesus ~ Journal Jots

Apparently, I am into pulling out journal jots and making them entries. This one is not two years old, but it comes from late June this year…but it is still fresh and heavy on my heart a frequent meditation, I am a little hesitant to share because I know I do not live this yet but I crave it, I desire it…and I’ll stop explaining and just let you read it…

image courtesy of pixabay

A horseshoe-shaped driveway, poised lion statues, two-story brick house lengthy windows, cars…more than I imagined anyone needed to own lining a side driveaway.

I pulled up at the home of my employer and gawked double-checking the address. I was in the right place. Stepping out of the car and walking up the flower-laden steps to the double front doors. I knocked. The door was answered by the mother of my employer, she asked what I was there for and I answered. “To clean the ice machine.”

I’ll be honest that is not an answer I ever expected to give anyone answering the door, but there I was ready to clean a tiny ice cube making machine. She ushered me into the house. Vaulted ceilings, sweeping half-spiral staircase, lush rugs that were the kind I imagined in princess stories, elegant dining table, and chairs, sparkling chandeliers. At last, we reached my destination, the laundry room.

If you cut my room in half the widthwise, then put it end on end…the laundry room was the size of my bedroom. Wall, length closet space, two washers and dryers, dog beds, and other things including the countertop ice machine. (This is one of those luxury items I didn’t know was a thing! For years I was our icemaker then we updated to a fancy fridge that made it for us…) I spent 20 minutes cleaning the little machine and it was all set and ready to go making fresh ice for my then boss.

I let myself out of the house.

Tears started to gather in my eyes.

Jesus, why did I ever think any of this was important?

Years ago, I might have said a house like that was my dream, but time has changed that, and as I sat in my car wiping tears from my eyes, the realization hit me that I would rather have Jesus and live in a cardboard box than sell myself out for the riches of this world and have a house like that. (I am not promoting homelessness btw, houses are good, just in perspective but if you have to make a choice, go for the cardboard box.) I listened to them anxious and angry at work about this and that person losing them money, I watched them throw fits about people not listening to them, and allowing their wealth to vindicate their attitude towards others.

I slipped the car into gear and started to drive away…

A story from many years before started to drift through my mind…

A little girl for her birthday had been given money to spend on herself. She went to the dollar store and chose a faux pearl dress-up necklace. She loved the necklace, she loved it so much she wore it everywhere she went, swimming, dance lessons, church, the playground, the sandbox, on a picnic, day or night she could not bear to be separated from her new treasured pearl necklace. Now, you can easily imagine the condition of this dollar store necklace after a few weeks. The faux pearl veneer had mostly chipped off and some pearls had become entirely bald of their shimmer revealing their true bland plastic selves. But still, she cherished it. One evening her father came in to bid her goodnight and asked her a question.

“Will you give me your pearl necklace?”

“No!” was her reply.

“Okay, I love you, goodnight.” Kissing her on the forehead he left, a touch of sadness in his demeanor.

This troubled his daughter. Why would Daddy want my necklace? Why did that make him sad? Daddy is a boy, what would he do with my pearl necklace?

The senario repeated itself the next evening.

“Will you give me your pearl necklace?”

“No?!”

“I love you, goodnight.” Kissing her on the forehead he left with that same touch of sadness.

Now, I don’t remember if it was three days or a week, but at last, the little girl decided if Daddy wanted her pearl necklace–he should have it.

He came in to say goodnight.

She looked at him anxiously, would he ask the same question? Would he have her give up her treasured faux pearl necklace? What could he possibly do with it?

“Will you give me your pearl necklace?”

Sorrowfully, she took it off. “Daddy, if you want my pearl necklace. You can have it.” she placed it in his open hand. A smile spread across his face. He sat down beside her on the bed, tucking the faux pearl necklace into his pocket.

“Thank you, dear daughter, I have something I’ve wanted to give you, but I couldn’t until you gave me these.” he pulled out from his other pocket a velvet box. In it. A string of real pearls.

The story struck afresh cord in my heart. How many times have I clung to things that seem important, how much have I clung to idols in my heart, cherishing them above all else, above the treasure that God is? The best thing I can do is exchange the idols in my heart for more of Jesus. Replacing the treasures of this world stored up in my heart with Jesus. I started realizing even aspects of my future I’ve clung to…is idolatry in my heart.

Marriage, children, job, secure and certain future…how I’ve pictured my life.

I laughed with tears in my eyes, joy and sorrow, that sweet mixed cup. My life, is not my own, how did I think I could ever plan on living it? I’ve had my road map turned all upside down. My life is found in Jesus, my life should be full of Jesus, all I should want in life is Jesus. This world has nothing to offer me–it cannot give me Jesus.

Evidence Not Seen

Recently, for the third time in the last six months I listened to the story of Darlene Deibler Rose. This is one of the true stories, that you wish you could reach through pages and time and give them a hug. Darlene, feels like one of those Kindred Spirits, a big sister in Christ, whose feet I could sit at and learn from all day long.
There is a special kinship as I dive into these pages that strikes a deep cord within.
Part of it I believe is we come from similar regions, she mentions a city twenty minutes from where I live in her book, and I can see the Midwest mindset in the way she thinks and even talks sometimes. The same rapt wonder that she expresses as she arrives in a tropical climate, is the same I felt arriving in a subtropical Taiwan. Some of the sights and smells she relates…and I am a moment later in her shoes, smelling the same strange market places and sweet wonder of night blooming jasmine. I relate to the intense heat of the day with no air conditioning, and loving a people whose language I am learning…
While I have not stood on the soil of New Guinea, I have stood on soil occupied by the Japanese forces during WWII and seen the aftermath, many, many years later. I have walked through the bomb shelters, and the structures they left behind when they lost the war. In some places they have become beautified as a tourist attraction, the sharp agony of occupation softening the scar with balm of time and forgotten by those did not feel it’s crushing heel. But still in others—it has left an angry wound, flared and festered with the feeling of being forgotten…
Living in the aftermath of this story—and so many others, having sipped from the cups of history through reading, but this is a story that can earthquake the soul. 
This is one of those books I wish I had read earlier in life…especially before going to the mission field, but I passed up on reading the book for many years because my mom owned the VHS tapes of Darlene, as an enchanting, lovable, antiquated lady, giving her testimony seated in a chair against a dark blue background, the light casting a halo on her golden white hair; that was cut just like my Grandma. Many times I sat in rapt wonder watching the story of Darlene with my Mama….but somehow as she related her story, I missed something. Perhaps it was because I was young when we had the VHS 📼, and I myself had not felt the fires of life, nor drank from that bitter-sweet well of suffering, that I missed the beauty and golden treasures hidden in this book.
When it comes to trying to describe this book, words seem paltry and small, there is so much power delivered by Darlene’s pen as she walks us through the fires of her affliction, holding onto nothing but the hand of God. Her faith is eloquent in it’s simplicity, she bears her cross as she saw our Master bear His. She goes through a vast wilderness that would crush most into dust and ashes, as a light, shining into the monstrous darkness that claims to have her in it’s teeth. She held fast and did not waver, looking only, ever at the Savior. She was a good solider, who did not melt at persecution, did not give way in all the confusion. Her soul was not made of sweet sticky chocolate Christianity that melts at the moment heat is introduced to its life. Her soul, she was willing to let it be refined in the fire as gold, tried over and over and over again, until it reflected but one thing.
Her Lord.  

The Heart of an Armor Bearer

Today, as I was on Instagram, I came across the name Hamish. (Did you know that was still a name? It is! And it’s derived from James—don’t ask me how it got there, I am not Scottish.) But thoughts of renaming a character for a novel I’ve been reworking on for the last few years flashed through my mind. I started perusing my favorite name website and stumbled across the name Jonathan, and my heart warmed at the thought of that name, and how well it would actually fit my character. Then, my thoughts pattered back to something I had journaled in December of 2018, about Jonathan and his armor bearer, so I dusted off the cobwebs from this little entry and wanted share it with you.

Image provided by Pixabay 


1 Samuel 14:6-7
6 And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armor, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.
7 And His armor bearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.
I love the audacity of these two.
Strangely, what struck me first was not the faith of Jonathan, but the heart of his nameless armor bearer
Do all that is in thine hear, turn thee: behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.
Not, are you crazy, what are you thinking?
Simply, YES.
I love the confidence the audacity, the faithfulness, the echoes of Ruth’s vow to Naomi, the  Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: they people shall be my people, and they God my God: Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried: The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought be death part thee and me.
And almost a foretaste of the words of Mary would utter in Luke 1:38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. Acceptance and submission to what seems to be the impossible.
Do all that is in thin heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.
Reading this I wanted this to be the echo and anthem of my heart, I want to be an armor bearer. To say yes, I am here, where you go, I will go….
They could have died. The armor bearer knew that.
I particular love two words in this sentence. Turn thee.
I don’t know how this conversation happened. But in my minds eye, I see Jonathan as he walking away from looking over at the Philistine position and uttering these words in a desire to do something. Steel-like resolution has entered Jonathan, and he has one goal in mind. His armor bearer doesn’t hesitate. It’s almost as if his fist goes over his heart as he says: Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee (lets go back); behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.
He’s counted the cost.
He knows this could mean death, but he has Jonathan’s back. He’ll be at his side come sweet victory or violent death…there is no way the Philistine’s are going to take it easy on them and if they figure out that Jonathan is a prince…it escalates what the punishment could be, not only to him but his armor bearer.
Can we just glory in these words just for a moment?
Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.
Loyalty—I’ve had a weakness for it since I was a kid. Loyalty is one of my core threads of who I am, it’s the bottom line of the bread and butter of what I breathe. So, my heart thrills at these words of the armor bearer. His declaration boils down to this: what beats in your heart, beats in mine. I want to be that person, who comes beside someone with a vision and say here I am, I share it. I have your back, if it brings us victory or death, I am here, what beats in your heart beats in mine.
Jonathan. I love this man, David is incredible but Jonathan…I have a bit of a big soft spot for him. His audacity, his boldness, his faith, his confidence…the knowledge of his position. A son of Israel, son of the King, a thirst for what was right. He wasn’t after his own glory, honor, or anything else…he was after what belonged to Israel. His father would get credit for winning the war. What burned in his heart was righteousness and the faith to claim the promise.
In that he turned to his armor bearer and said Come, let us go over unto the garrison of our enemy, it may be that the Lord will work for us: for there is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.
Do all that is in thine heart…I am with the according to thy heart.
I love the Hebrew word for bearer. Nasa. Yes, It sounds a lot like N.A.S.A. which puts people in space…but is that not what we are supposed to do as Christians? To bear one another up, to rise above to push to utter achievement all for the honor and glory of God. Bearer, to bear one another up, to lift, to carry, to be stirred within to acts of courage and choices that honor and glorify One and One alone.
Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.
God, grant me the heart of an armor bearer.

Sneak Peek 3 When A Kingdom Calls

There are still a lot of changes in this book as I am sketching out some details, this first chapter is likely to change actually quite a bit but I can’t resist sharing it with you. Harper is for sure one of my new favorite characters.

H
arper sat in the bouncing carriage, trying to smooth out a wrinkle that has just appeared in her dress without much success. Then opening the small bag, she carried she pulled out the small mirror that her grandfather had given to her for her sixteenth birthday a month before. She smoothed back her hair and checked her complexion and smiled at herself, before tucking it away carefully, wishing she could see the generous grandfather whom she only knew through her mother’s stories.
I do wish I could fly. The carriage couldn’t go any faster, it would completely bounce her out of the seat, and she would be late to Lady Eugenia’s tea by about ten minutes. Acceptable, but barely, by Elusian standards who arrived usually half an hour before you truly wanted them to arrive. Then they would stand about lingering and gossiping about whatever until the appointed time…no. She was going to be very late.
If the sword master would ever just listen to me. I—he….Harper sighed again. She had loved swords and sword fighting as long as she could remember. The first time she had taken up the sword was at Lady Felecia’s birthday party when some rascal lord’s son had played a nasty trick on the birthday girl, and all of the girls had ran away screaming in complete terror. She had instantly taken the sword from an unsuspecting by standing lad and had smacked the most offending boy square across the head, causing him to howl.
Everyone had told her mother that she should be soundly scolded and severely punished for such an outrageous act by a girl. Instantly, she had been taken home without a slice of cake or single chocolate bonbon that had been promised in the throwing of candy.
Her mother’s silence during the long carriage ride made Harper terrified of what might happen at home. At last they arrived, and she followed her silent mother to the armory. Where her mother turned slowly around and then smiled softly.
“How did you know to hit him on the head?”
This question baffled Harper for a long moment. “I just did,” she answered at last, seeing her mother truly expected an answer.
Slowly her mother nodded. “Instinct perhaps? The first move that any student of the sword learns is to hit someone on the head and hit them well. Though I hope you don’t use that way to settle most of your arguments in the future…Harper, why didn’t you run away when the rest of the girls did?”
“It was wrong, and something must be done about it.”
Her mother’s smile widened, “You certainly have the blood of Falway in your veins. Tell me, would you like to learn how to fight with a sword?”
Harper couldn’t find the words to answer. This was far from what she was expecting in a punishment from her mother.
“You see Harper, I was your age when I began my sword lessons, every girl in Falway has at least basic lessons and I believe you are ready, if you want them.”
“Truly?”
“Yes,” said her mother sweetly.
“I want them! I want to learn how to use a sword.”
“Good, but Harper, don’t use your sword on every boy, all right?”
Harper nodded.
And so it had begun, nearly ten years ago, she had learned the use of the blade beneath her mother’s tutelage until the accident that and still the sword master never took her lessons seriously and went on and on talking about swords and the art of fighting instead of actually showing and practicing.
At last the carriage stopped
The door opened and Harper was ushered in and announced by the footman.
“I am glad you joined us at last,” said Eugenia standing up and giving a slight curtsy in way of greeting. “Please allow me to introduce the rest of our party, her highness the crown Princess Raine, and her younger sister Princess Elaine, and as you well know Lady Felicia, Lady Gloria, and Lady Celeste”
Harper felt a warm glow of embarrassment flushing into her cheeks as she dropped a low curtsy towards the princesses. “It is a privilege to be here, I apologize for my tardiness.”
The familiar haughty laugh of Gloria broke the brief silence. “I knew you would be late, what kept you this time? Your sword lessons again?”
Harper stayed in her curtsy, it was customary for a word of a ruler to release one from the position of reverence.
“You swordfight?” asked an elegant voice, who Harper couldn’t place.It must be her highness. Harper slowly rose and looked in the princess’ direction and answered as the bright spots on her cheeks grew brighter. “Indeed, I do. I find it a healthy pastime.”
“I wish I could sword fight, it looks dreadfully fun,” put in Princess Elaine.
Her older sister looked at her with skepticism. “Do you? I do believe you doing it, would be entertaining.”
Princess Elaine made a face that she didn’t appreciate her sister’s tone of voice.
Eugenia quickly changed the subject to the ever unawkward and thankfully unobjectable topic of the weather.
After tea, they walked through the extensive gardens of Lady Eugenia’s family grounds.
As the girls walked briskly Harper had no trouble keeping up but she noticed how Princess Elaine lingered behind, and as naturally as possible paused to examine the buds of a blooming flower and waited for Princess Elaine to catch up.
“What are looking at?”
Harper looked over her shoulder and smiled. “I think this flower is rather lovely, the shade of pink is just perfection. What do you think of it?”
“It’s a simpler rose than most,” observed the princess. “But the color is very lovely.”
“I love how it’s elegant but still dainty, and yet when it fully blooms you see its origins of the wild rose.”
Princess Elaine nodded and stepped closer to examine the flower, and carefully plucked one from the thorny stem.
“Shall we walk together? It seems we have fallen behind them a little,” suggested Harper.
“I don’t mind that we have fallen behind them, if you don’t. But we should follow lest they think we’ve completely disappeared from the earth,” said Princess Elaine turning towards the path again.
“Indeed, your highness I don’t mind at all,” said Harper falling a step behind Princess Elaine.
“They do babble a lot, don’t they?”
“They do, like birds, lovely and chattering”
Princess Elaine pressed her lips together tightly, words seemed on the tip of her tongue as she opened and then shut her mouth, then opened then closed her mouth with sigh.
“Is something on your mind your highness?”
“Hmm?” asked Princess Elaine with a backward glance.
“You seem as if there might be something…you might want to say?”
“Indeed, I am just wondering, curious…do people confide in you often?”
“A few, my mother, Eugenia, some of the servants, why your highness?”
Princess Elaine continued walking with a slight nod.
Harper watched as she walked slowly behind her. Wondering if she should bridge the silence between them as the young Princess seemed deep in meditation.
Princess Elaine halted abruptly. “Do you believe in the Bible?”
“Indeed, I do.”
“That is a comfort,” she answered and continued forward. “Do you think, that things that happened in the Bible still happen today?”
“What are you asking?”
“Like miracles, prophesies, and dreams and such?”
Harper thought for a moment. “I suppose, I’ve never given much thought to it I guess. I’ve learned about it the Bible, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across it in real life.”
“But do you think it could happen?”
“I don’t see why not.”
Princess Elaine nodded solemnly.
“Is something troubling you, your highness?”
“Just musing, I’ve been considering going into the convent you know.”
“I did not know.”
Princess Elaine laughed, Harper noticed the forced merry notes in her voice. “It is perhaps not common knowledge, but it is something I have considered.”
“And what about the holy life attracts you your highness? Do you have a fervor to serve our Lord?”
The princess smiled with a slight forcedness, “With my sister being the future, queen, I have very little taste for politics. Indeed, I should like to find a secluded life where I would not be a burden to anyone. I think being a nun, and serving the poor and needy might be a wise idea. In marriage, I would have little say, and very little power.”
“Do you wish for power?”
“No, I wish for none and I think perhaps the life of the nun would be the best way for me to ensure that I would lose none and yet gain none.”
“Very well thought your highness.”
“I am glad you agree with me. You’re a very comforting sort of person. Has anyone told you that before?”
“No, I don’t believe they have.”
“Well, you are. I hope we shall have opportunities to talk more in the future. But See, the other girls are beckoning for us to catch up. We should do so.”
Harper and Princess Elaine quickened their pace and soon arrived at the side of Princess Raine, and Ladies Euginia, Gloria, Celeste and Felicia.
“What were the two of you talking about?” questioned Princess Raine.
“The future and its unknowns and the church,” answered Princess Elaine.
Princess Raine gave her a pointed look that was looking for answers, and Harper understood the words of Princess Elaine more thoroughly. There was nothing comforting nor warm about Princess Raine, her manners were cold and austere. She smiled as she responded “Exactly so your highness. The future, and the Bible two subjects all young ladies should be concerned with.”
“Indeed so,” abruptly said Princess Raine, making a slight face before turning once again and continuing their walk, in silence.
Harper glanced down at Princess Elaine, who looked up to her with a hopeful smile. At last they returned to the house.
“Thank you for the lovely afternoon Eugenia, my sister and I had a lovely time, I am afraid it is time for us to return to the castle.”
“Thank you, your highnesses for being so gracious as to join me today. Know you are welcome at any time,” said Eugenia with a curtsy.
“Thank you,” smiled Princess Elaine and then turning to Harper she took her hand. “Thank you, we must talk again sometime.”
“Yes, I am available at any time your highness.”
Princess Elaine only smiled in response and followed her sister out of the door.
“Well, I must go it seems,” said Lady Gloria with a long sigh. “My mother has ordered the dress maker. With Princess Raine’s official coronation and engagement search commencing.”
Lady Felicia and Celeste also left in short order.
Eugunia grabbed her hand. “Please tell me you’re not running away too? I would like your company it’s been so long since we’ve chatted.”
“Nothing pressing as a dress maker or affairs of state and I left orders with the housekeeper before I left so I can stay.”
“How is your mother?”
“Doing well as expected. It’s been four years now since she’s been able to walk. It seems as if part of her has wasted away, but not her spirit. So that is good for all of us. She does what she can, and I fill in the rest.”
“You grew up faster than the rest of us I think. What were you and Princess Elaine talking about?”
“I am not exactly sure, she had some interesting questions, about the bible and then the future. She seems troubled.”
“Rumor has it that Princess Raine is very superstitious and anxious about coming to the throne. You know in so many other countries she’d be passed over and be sent away overseas to be married. I think she fears that someone will try and upset everything. You know she refused a letter of marriage from overseas. The King of Athena wanted to marry her, but of course neither of them could leave their thrones so she refused him. What a strange creature those people of Athena.”
“Athena! That barbaric country?” asked Harper surprised “I’ve heard the court is very sophisticated, but their war tactics are barbaric.”
“I’ve heard they even have a live show arena…were they go to watch people get killed!”
“I hear they only do it for criminals.”
“I would hate to be a criminal in that country, you stole a loaf of bread, we’ll feed you to a lion.”
“I don’t think they would be the cruel. How could people bear to go watch such a thing?”
“Barbarians.”
“I can’t quite believe it. You know how people tell stories.”
“I’ve heard tell of stories of their people and brutality. They are noble fighters I’ve heard tell.”
“Speaking of fighting,” said Eugenia. “Don’t you think perhaps it’s time you give you your sword fighting?”
“Why?”
“We are of age to be…considered women. And, most men…”
“Are you afraid men won’t find me desirable?”
“I don’t know, it’s just so strange for a girl, you know what I mean?”
“Perhaps but is the custom of my mother’s people.”
“But you are not in your mother’s land, and if you gave it up, it would give one less thing to Lady Gloria to prickle about, she can be such a nosy annoying gossip sometimes.”
“You want me to give it up because it nettles Lady Gloria?”
“I don’t know. If it were to have a purpose…but you’ll never need it. That is what husbands are for, unless you plan on being spinster.”
“No, I don’t wish to be a spinster.”
“Then consider giving it up?”
“Why?”
“Because I care about you, and the other girls talk about you so badly behind your back. I try to stand up for you but…”
“Do I make it difficult for you?”
“It’s just you are so lovely and accomplished, you could have so much influence but because your swordfight no one listens to you. You could do so many things, I just think it’s holding you back. Couldn’t you just be content with archery? We all do it as a pastime, but swords, they are just so…masculine.”
“Does my sword fighting make it truly awkward for you?”
“No, yes…I don’t know. We are the oldest and dearest of friends, I have always thought the sport was admirable in you, but we are nearly grown up, and is it not a bit of a childish thing? You’ve been fighting since you were eight.”
“But it is the tradition of my mother’s people…and for some reason I am very loathe to give it up.”
“Somehow I knew that would be your answer. Do you want to do some more shooting? I think I need to hit a few more targets before I get what Lady Gloria said out of my head.”
“I’d like that, I tell you though, sword fighting would be a better pastime for venting.”
“I’ll just take your word for that,” said Eugenia “Now come, let’s shoot some arrows.”
Harper lingered visiting with Lady Eugenia until it was nearly dinner, then went home and ate around the dinner table with her brothers and father, but she missed her mother’s presence.
It was twilight when she brought some of the flowers fresh from the garden to her mother’s room
“How are you my daughter? Ah! Those are lovely.”
“I am doing well,” she said sitting on the edge of her mother’s bed and laying the flowers across her mother’s lap.
“How was your afternoon.”
“Fair enough. Lady Eugenia is always kind and wonderful, but you know…some girls aren’t so nice. But I met the Princesses today.”
“Did you now? How were they?”
“I rather liked the young princess.”
“And the one to be queen?”
Harper made a face. “I suppose she’ll make a good queen. I mean…we could do worse. Perhaps it’s only the burden on her shoulders that makes her cold and distant. But the tea was lovely, Eugenia and I had a shooting competition, Eugenia won of course,”
“That is good to hear. But what is troubling you.”
“Troubling me?”
“Yes, it’s written all over your face.”
“Truly?”
“Yes, does it have to do with your sword lessons?”
“How do you know?”
“It seems you fret over it frequently, especially after a gathering like this. Do you want to give it up my darling?”
“Give it up? No…it’s just I wish…I wish the other girls would understand and not mock me for it. That and he sword master doesn’t seem too keen on his new pupil. and my brothers won’t duel with me for practice. I feel as if I am failing it all.
“Harper, are you proud of being able to use a sword?”
Harper pinched her lips together. “I think I would be prouder of it, if other girls did it, and if…I didn’t feel so odd. I love sword fighting, everything feels so lovely and right sometimes, but…”
“But what?”
Harper was silent for a long time. “It’s so different mother.”
Her mother smiled, “I understand. You want to fit in, but you also want to do what you love…and they are in conflict. Is that right?”
Harper nodded. “Life is full of choices like this my darling. I think you are learning this young. You are swimming upstream, and while all your other friends, lovely and sweet as they are, or are not, you can’t share this part of yourself with them. It makes you feel foreign, and different, and you already feel that way, because I am your mother. A woman born a merchant’s daughter, who fell in love with an Elusian noble. Some of the noble girls are very rude, right?”
Tears came to Harper’s eyes. Some of the things they had called her once upon a time. Half-blood, Merchant Maid, foreign freak, Lady money. They always had made her so angry, but her mother had told her time, and time again she could not reply to such mean children, even though she had a few names she would like to have called them if had been given the chance.
“People can be very mean sometimes, and it can be extraordinarily hard when you wish to be friends.”
“Was it hard for you mother?”
“I had it easier, you see all the girls in Falway received at least basic sword lessons.”
“Sometimes I wish to go to Falway. All the stories and books I’ve read about Falway. I think I would love it.”
Her mother smiled. “I wish you could go. The water is so blue, the mountains so tall and all the shades of green and blue and grey, capped with white snow, even in summer. It’s beautiful.”
There was a long silence as both mother and daughter thought over what they had been discussing.
“Be strong and courageous, and the Lord shall strengthen thy heart.”
“Do you really think I can be?”
“I think you already are. But there is still much to learn to grow to gather, your whole life long my dearest. Your mother loves you very much, I wish I could shelter you from all of this…but…”
“For a flower to grow it must drink from the storms of life and learn to use the heat to nourish and sustain itself even when the sun is cruel.”
Her mother smiled. “Yes, my darling. You’ve heard me say it often enough I see.”
“I grew up under your care.”
“And now you are blooming, you are a lovely young woman, and I am very proud of you. Time will be too soon for you to wed and run your own household. I wish I could have been more of a mother to you these past few years, but still you flourish.”
“You are everything and more that a daughter could wish for.”
“I am grateful to hear that.”
They chatted a little longer before her mother felt tired and Harper left her to rest.
With the rest of her evening to fill Harper went to the library and browsed the books. She selected one about animals in foreign countries and her favorite Falway tales book which her grandfather had sent one Christmas.