I crumpled the week-old sales flyer and touched a match to it. For a moment, the modelís face in an advertisement smiled at me before her blushing radiance blackened and curled into ash. I wondered briefly how long her all-day make-up would last if she were the one having to burn the debris from a cut-down tree.
I fed dry twigs and leaves to the fire, adding larger branches as the flames took hold.
Sitting on the tree stump, I watched the dancing ruffles of flame, smoke twirling and rising in the early morning stillness. As the green wood started to hiss and groan, so did my own murmuring thoughts, a sighing sibilance within that began to gather strength.
Where had gone the dreams Iíd had, for an normal life, a life in which I might beam my lip-glossed smile blissfully through each day, hanging out brilliant whites on the clothes line, confident that they outshone my neighboursí. I had planned to greet each crisis with graceful aplomb, whether it be the wrong coloured curtains arriving for the kitchen or the escalating cost of milk.
It was not to be. Instead, disease prowled and lurked. It stole time and treasure, diverting energy into survival instead of living, bleeding the life out of loving. The pleasures of mundane inconveniences and luxurious, routine days of domesticity didnít happen.
It seemed that time and time again, I had arrived at the front of the line, only to discover that God was out of hope and dreams, and the wicket was closed indefinitely.
The tree had been cut during winterís last snow, and now fledgling buds briefly unfurled in the heat, wilted, and turned to cinder; they hadnít been given a chance to thrive, just like my own dreams and hopes, stunted and dried up. I watched warily for wayward sparks that could ignite the nearby hillside, and knew my own heart was threatening to ignite in a blaze of discontent and disappointment. The wind blew acrid smoke into my face, and I breathed in the bitter fumes stubbornly, revelling in the pain, smoldering anger glowing within.
What kind of womanhood was this? What kind of life was it that had denied me an able-bodied husband and provider, and sent me out here to wield an axe and shovel instead? Why was I expected to wear the pants and the apron? This was not fulfillment.
I heaped more wood on the fire, tugging at the unwieldy branches, irritated with my own weakness. I snatched up small, dry stuff, throwing it on the fire with frustration. I felt something pierce my palm Ė a thorn Ė and I stopped to pull it out. Suddenly, the moment became suspended in time, hushed, silent.
I thought of other thorns. Of Anotherís palm.
Holiness surged from the cold ground and through my muddied rubber boots.
A Voice spoke from the flamesÖ my own burning bush.
You have demanded that I fulfill your dreams, dreams and aspirations that you have appropriated for yourself. I am the Giver of Dreams.
The wind shifted and my eyes stung, from the smoke or the sting of truth, I didnít know.
I want your willingness to fulfill My will. Itís not for Me to fulfill yours.
The flames became flames again, and the smoke returned to smoke.
The dreams and desires I had grasped so tightly were laid on the pyre in front of me, and I watched them scorch and swirl on the upward draft. In turn, I was engulfed in eddying smoke and saw myself rising as an offering to the Father, to do as He asked, not ministering in misery, but acting in love, choosing to live extraordinarily in my un-chosen ordinary life. A boxed mix promise of satisfaction guaranteed was not going to bring fulfillment, however much I might wish it to be so.
By dayís end, I smelled like something dead, and I realized that it was the cremated remains of my will. Soot rouged my cheeks, and my brow was anointed by a smudge of ash.
The late afternoon sun sank to the horizon, and a chill descended. I huddled on the stump, wrapping my arms around myself to keep warm as the fire died. Yet, the heart of the fire pulsated, and the embers beckoned.
Take the coal.
Here I am.
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