Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Joy (05/18/06)
TITLE: A Waving Flag
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Abby believed she was an accident who appeared unexpectedly to parents unable to nurture their own hearts, let alone hers. The family legacy seemed to be one of empty longing. As a little girl, she denied this legacy with childish optimism borne of an unencumbered heart.
She learned faithfulness and abundance from daisies and day lilies growing in profusion across the road; hope from wild kittens hiding in the woodpile; beauty from diamonds of sunlight dancing on the lake. She welcomed such lessons and learned them well.
Young Abby did not realize these God-messages shaped her personality to mirror that of a high-spirited flag, waving freely in the wind at His instigation. Her heart overflowed with an identity rooted in expectancy.
Abby was a little child. She intuitively understood and experienced joy.
This would not always to be so.
Abby celebrated her tenth birthday with waning confidence. Family relationships threatened to deteriorate and die. She fell prey to disappointment and despair, and her flag-waving heart retreated behind a protective inner blockade.
Private mantras replayed over and over, defining her soul. Don’t have an opinion; expect pain; be polite but guarded; joy is for other people.
The years marched on and Abby forgot her perceptions of childhood to practice duty and responsibility – and survival. She remembered her parents’ instability as she faced her own overwhelming role in raising four children and running a small business. Then cancer struck an almost-lethal blow, leaving her demoralized and dizzy with fear.
One wintry Saturday Abby invited a friend to her house for coffee. “Hope? Is that what you need? Or is it…joy?” Julie asked from across the kitchen table.
Abby’s shoulders drooped. She tried to smile weakly, and yet felt foolish. Her life was blessed in many ways, and yet each hectic day threatened her adequacy. The calendar hanging on the wall - a maze of scribbled squares with no clear beginning or end - haunted her.
“I just wish I could be a kid again,” Abby replied with a sigh.
Julie hugged her warm coffee mug with both hands and stared into space with soft, thoughtful eyes. “Why do you say that?”
“I don’t want this to be a pity-party…but I’m lonely, Julie. I don’t connect with anyone…not really. I hear people talk about transparency, and being real….and yet I feel like I’m walking an uphill path – alone. When I was little, I found ways around the loneliness.”
Julie sniffed the fragrant steam wafting from her mug of Hazlenut Crème coffee while her eyes searched Abby’s. “You have the Lord, right?”
“Always…and yet even He seems distant. Like I don’t really communicate with Him.” Abby couldn’t look her friend in the eye. Instead, she stared at the rainbow painted on her coffee mug.
Julie’s careful words separated the moment like a sharp sword. “Do you want to live, or just survive…?” Julie paused and she carefully took a sip of coffee before continuing. “I’ve had to learn contentment when I’m in God’s presence Abby, no matter what else is going on. Be satisfied with Him! Just BE, and let Him BE. You don’t have to DO, just BE! He’s everything you need. Everything.”
Julie’s example of adult childlikeness always seemed a curiosity to Abby. Today, as always, Julie’s words were punctuated by her characteristic impish grin framed by frizzles of graying hair.
“Remember how you once told me you loved flags when you were a little girl?” Julie asked. She pushed her coffee mug aside and leaned across the table as if sharing a secret, while speaking in an almost-whisper. “Maybe, just maybe, you can imagine yourself as a bright red flag full of stars flying bolding above the Eternal King’s castle….” Julie’s eyes shone brightly.
“Yes.” Abby croaked in reply, and her eyes grew misty, “I wasn’t an accident after all, was I, Julie? Jesus knows who I really am…and what my life is all about…and maybe I CAN find joy in His presence….”
Julie scooted her chair across the wood floor toward Abby’s. “You belong to the King,” she stated with confidence. The chair legs squawked out loud and then came to a halt beside Abby. “You are His priceless treasure…and He desperately wants you to be filled with joy. The more you hang out with Him the more you will experience it…”
Abby’s head dropped and her tears splashed on Julie’s grotesquely misshapen, arthritic fingers just before they embraced her.
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