Piglet Meets Joshua and God…But No Hittites

PigletAlan Alexander Milne understood people very well—I think. He died in 1956, two years before I was born. But the Winnie-the-Pooh stories and characters are still one of my favorites. C.S. Lewis said,  “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” So true. I just finished reading A Wrinkle in Time for the four millionth time—still love it. Just like Miss L’Engle, A.A. Milne created characters with which we can all identify– even though they are animals.

For example, I closely identify with Piglet. He’s a bit insecure, kind, accepting, but tremulous about the world at large. He likes friends like Winnie-the-Pooh because WTP is kindhearted and a bit unsophisticated about the world, but willing to brave bees for what he loves: honey. He also likes having Tigger around, though Tigger is quite dangerous. He helps Piglet become a bit more adventurous. I think he is glad that Owl is around because Owl is the voice of pragmatism. I’m very like Piglet. I even have friends that are combinations of Pooh, Tigger, and Owl: sassy, kind, and brave. I need to be around brave people because I’m a bundle of fear.

 

What in the world are you so afraid of, Cindy Lou? (And yes, I am a Cindy Lou.) Shall we make a list? (These are in random order—I’m nervous about chronology because I could place something in the wrong order and have to rethink the whole list.)

  1. Fleas
  2. Tornado warnings
  3. Walmart
  4. Driving to strange places by myself.
  5. Failure
  6. Big dogs unless they are very furry.
  7. Live fish.
  8. Knives in the hands of killers (haven’t met any but the thought terrifies me)
  9. Failure
  10. Dying
  11. Phone calls (everyone texts me these days—if the phone rings then something bad or upsetting has probably happened and then I’ll worry and be afraid for the person who calls—usually one of my grown children)
  12. Filling out financial forms
  13. Gluten
  14. Waking up in the morning unsure if my body is going to be sick all day (thus going gluten-free)
  15. Family members dying. Sure we all will have to do it, but nonetheless, it’s hard. It’s scary. It’s grief. Soul-numbing grief.
  16. Tyrannosaurus Rex—what if we COULD use dinosaur DNA and make a T-Rex?
  17. Drones. I don’t want to hear drones instead of birds during my morning walks. No drones.
  18. Snakes, of course.
  19. Swimming in the ocean because there is no bottom. No there’s not. Really.
  20. Growing old and getting dementia and barking at my grandkids.
  21. Trailer houses.
  22. Moving to a new place at 56 years old
  23. Failing to make an A in every one of my remaining five Master’s classes. (Currently 4.0 after five).
  24. Disappointing my parents and my children.
  25. Disappointing my hubster.
  26. Disappointing my new pug puppy that I pick up on Wednesday. Her name is Zoey with one “o” though I love Zooey Dechanel. She’s more of a single “o” type of pug.
  27. Falling in public. I do that periodically. Last time was in Seattle right on the main drag by Pikes Place Market. There was a stumble (I was looking up at the sky as I’m prone to do), then a moment of panic, then acceptance as I hit the gravel with bare knees and naked hands. People stopped to see if I was ok. Hubster grabbed hold of my arm and didn’t let go for several hours.
  28. Confrontation. I am not smart enough about politics to debate policy. I don’t want to be put in a position to defend myself because I don’t know why I can’t just have an opinion without people confronting it. Thus Facebook is scary.
  29. Buzzfeed tests on Facebook. The Moose is my spirit animal? Really? I mean, I don’t believe in spirit animals and I’m part Cherokee so that should be right up my Native American alley.
  30. God. Or lack there of. Wait. I’m a Christ-follower so that isn’t a good thing to throw out into the world. Ok. I’m 99.9% sure that God exists and that Jesus was his only son and that Heaven exists. I’m banking my life on it. Really. If I live my whole life serving Jesus and living as He tells me to in His Bible and then I die and there’s nothing—I’m ok with that. It’s been worth it.

 

Ah oh! #30 caught the eye of God. There will be a discussion over this. After all, I just finished listening to Rick McKinley from Imago Dei in Portland during my morning ramble (they have an app for that!), and he was discussion Joshua and the whole “be bold and courageous” repetition. As a “Piglet” this is not my strong suit.

God: Cindy Lou, so you are only 99.9% sure that I know you and you know me?

Me: Maybe. . . I mean if we were actually having this conversation out loud with you sitting in the chair next to my computer, then maybe I’d be 100% sure.

God: I get that. In fact, I get that a lot. Have been getting that a lot for quite awhile. Nothing new under the sun as Solomon so beautifully expressed.

Me: I’m sorry. Humans aren’t good at the whole faith thing. Did you know they made a movie about Noah? Oh wait, you’re omniscient. That’s another thing I have a hard time with.

God: Yes, I saw them working on Noah. I’ve seen the film. They left me out. Good entertainment as long as you don’t think it’s actually what happened. Hollywood. Charlton Heston as Moses? Couldn’t they at least find a Jew? Oi vey.

Me: Now about this bold and courageous thing. You know I’m a Piglet, right?

God: I’ve known you before you were born. I saw you in your mother Lois’s womb. I saw you born, and I can see when you die. I can see all the places and spaces in between.

Me: Oh. So you know about…

God: Yep.

Me: And the other time. . .

God: Cindy Lou—I know you. I know your failures and your successes. I know your heart and your mind. I understand what makes you tick. I’ve got you. Do you hear me? I’ve. Got. You. And you are fully forgiven and fully loved and fully mine.

Me: I heard you that time, Lord. I heard you in the whispering birds and moving trees. I see you in the blossoming life and dark clouds. I hear you repeated in songs by Audrey Assad and through the words of others who love you. But…

God: No buts. Cindy Lou—be bold and courageous.

Me: I don’t have any Hittites surrounding me. Just life.

God: You do though. Every time you are confronted with something from your culture that goes against my Word and you reject it as truth or you turn off the television or refuse to conform to trendy morals, you are fighting the Hittites. You are being bold and courageous.

Me: I need a tee shirt that says “I fight Hittites in my sleep.”

God: How about just relaxing and trusting me…even when you’re nauseous and you don’t know why. Even when your body is swollen and throbbing with inflammation. Even when you don’t know what you’ll be doing in two years or tomorrow. Even then. Be strong, bold, courageous and walk.

Me: I’ll try. I really will. But I’ll fail.

God: Hey, it’s ok. Remember Paul—everyone has sinned—failed to live up to my desires for them—fallen short of my glory. But I’m a pretty compassionate God. Very patient. Long-suffering. Merciful. And righteous.

Me: That’s a bit scary. The righteous bit.

God: Don’t be afraid, Piglet. I’ve got your back.

Me: Resurrection, right?

God: Resurrection. It’s coming—and I don’t mean on ABC.

Me: Ok. 100%. I’m sure of you 100%. I’ll try to live like it. I will.

God: I know. I love you. I love you more than the moon and stars and the mountains—some of my best work. You are my best work.

Ok, so that’s a silly conversation, but it’s real. It’s based on my own fears and God’s truth. As Lent climbs towards Resurrection, I will meditate on Joshua 1:6-9. I will walk in 100% certainty of God’s existence and covenants. He has never broken His word. Ever. It’s not in His nature.

 

 

 

DP Challenge: Names: The Girl Who Lived in Trees

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            I have a beautiful name—Lily. The name belonged to my great-grandmother, and it should have stayed buried with her because it doesn’t fit me too well. My mother, the lovely Rose, had been a bit optimistic while she was pregnant with me. When her sister Daisy, a midwife, had laid me in my mother’s arms squalling and shaking my fists and toes at the world, Rose had written the lovely name “Lily” with her fingertip across my forehead. Maybe she had hoped that by rubbing that name into my egg-shaped head, she could erase the plainness that was already etched into my bone structure. I think I even remember their conversation at my birth:

            “Now Rose, stop that cryin’. All babies are ugly at birth. Shoot, they’ve been squished up inside of you for nine months—give this child a few weeks to shape herself and she’ll be a pretty lil’ thing. Just wait.”

            “But Daisy, she doesn’t look a thing like me at all! She’s all dark-skinned and wrinkled and scrawny looking. Look at all that hair stickin’ out every which way! She looks like Papa Charlie. Good Lord, she looks like some papoose!”

Well, maybe I don’t exactly remember the conversation, but I can imagine it. I know my mother, and I know her expectations. She wanted me to look like her, and her mother Violet, and Violet’s mother, Lily. As if by giving a child a beautiful name she would be assured of future beauty. Only my great-grandfather understood the burden of that name. He was called Charlie Treetalker, though his real surname was Ross. At some point in his life, Papa Charlie’s Cherokee blood quelled his weaker Scottish blood and proved to be his true ancestry—and mine as well.

Papa Charlie had married the beautiful Lily over the objections of Lily’s lily-white family. Oklahoma, still a toddler state in the 1920s, was not overly proud of its original status as Indian Territory, and though many of its inhabitants had intermarried with the Native Americans who were forced to live here, few admitted any mixed blood. My grandmother Violet used to tell me she was “Black Irish.” When I told Papa Charlie what his daughter had said, he laughed.

“Dadburn stupid nonsense. We’re Cherokee with a touch Scots for fierceness. Black Irish, my ass! My daughter has a stick up her rear—walkin’ around town actin’ like she’s somethin’ she ain’t.”

Well Grandmother Violet had given birth to a daughter that had the same stick up her butt, and it didn’t matter how much I plumped up over the first few years of my life; I never lost my dark hair, dark eyes and light brown skin. And I never got any cuter—certainly not pretty enough for one of the Treetalker (or Ross, as they preferred) flowery names for their women. First there was Lily, then Violet, then Rose (my mother) and Daisy (my aunt). And of course, there was me, a rather wilted Lily.

You may ask about my Daddy—did he think I was all right? Was he happy at my birth? I think so—I remember his smiles and soft voice. But I think maybe he was invisible. We were the Chapel family: Terrence, Rose and Lily. We were a family for five years. I remember my mother crying all the time, and then yelling at my dad. My dad never yelled back; it was like he wasn’t even there. He was only a soft murmur of sound. My Aunt Daisy said he was a quiet, gentle man and was too good for my mother. My mother wanted a different sort of life apparently. So she changed her life; she ran off with a traveling evangelist who was conducting a revival at a local Baptist church. Created quite a scandal. Grandmother Violet had some sort of conniption fit and had to go live in a home, and Daddy just curled up into a hard, little ball of pain and eventually disappeared into himself.

Aunt Daisy and Papa Charlie took him to Vinita and left him in the care of the State’s mental facility. After a few months, he found a way to kill himself—pretty creatively, too. He tied his sheets to the bed like he was trying to escape or something, and then took strips of his clothing and a belt he’d hidden somewhere to form a noose. Then on the weekly visitation day when all the patients were cleaned up and paraded around outside with the sunny forsythia like they were rare blossoms that had just wilted a bit, he jumped out of his fourth floor window and hung himself. Seems he’d pushed his dresser up against the door of his room so that by the time the orderlies had broken in, it was too late. Unfortunately, Daddy’s room was right over the entrance to the mental hospital, and they’d had quite a turnout for visitor’s day, as it was Easter Sunday. I remember Daddy hanging there, dangling like he’d fall just in minute and bounce right up to give me a hug and exclaim over my flowered dress Aunt Daisy had sewed for me. And oooh and ahhh over my white patent shoes and my little hat that had pink ribbons hanging down the back. Aunt Daisy turned me around quickly and hugged me tightly to her bosom. My hat fell off. We left it there while Papa Charlie went inside to “make arrangements.” I’ll never forget that Easter. Christ rose, and Daddy fell. It was a tough year.

I’d been living with Aunt Daisy and Papa Charlie out on their farm near Wagoner. Papa Charlie was getting old, and since Aunt Daisy was a spinster (I never understood that word then—I thought it had to do with her spinning wheel in the back room), she volunteered to help Papa Charlie on the farm. It was small farm and I was small girl, so I fit there just fine. No one in Daddy’s family wanted me, so Papa Charlie was stuck with me. We were both happy about the situation. So happy that I had my name legally changed from Lily Marie Chapel to Lily Marie Treetalker. Funny how a name transforms you.

This is my submission for the Weekly Writing Challenge.

Photo credit:  <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/beautyofafrica/2060435288/”>Elis W. Alves</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

You know those giant pill holders? I have one.

A little basket of essentials.
A little basket of essentials.

Welcome to middle age, better known as the descent into strange and not-so-amusing bodily changes. First a bit of an introduction: My husband is 65 and I’m 56. This week has been interesting so far. Monday morning we threw on clothes and avoided any food or drink because Steve had a colonoscopy scheduled, and I had a physical scheduled. 

QUESTION: Why would anyone want to stare at butts all day long, running scopes in and out of old, saggy, gray butts? I don’t trust these doctors; I think they are twisted, or paid extremely well.

 The colonoscopy went fine and I drove Steve home where he crashed on his favorite recliner and proceeded to snore. I showered and went to my own doctor’s appointment. 

Doctor: Well, Cindy. You are on a lot of medications.

Me: It hasn’t been my best year. First there was the psoriatic, rheumatoid arthritis flare (more like a volcanic eruption with molten lava searing my joints), my allergic reactions to Enbrel, Humira, and Orencia. The steroid shots and the discography.The nerve pain in my left arm and hand. And then the surgery—want to see the X-ray? Just a double disc fusion of the C7, C6, C5 vertebrae. No biggie. Payton Manning had one and he’s amazing. Me? I’ve still got burning nerve pain in left hand. I call it “Burning Hand Syndrome.”

Doctor: Hmm. (continues typing on computer without ever making eye contact. I think about adding a brain tumor just to see if he looks up, but decide it wouldn’t be in very good taste. Sigh.)

Me: By the way, my sense of smell is off. I have this weird odor that I smell all the time—and it’s not me! I don’t like coffee smells anymore and coffee was my signature drink. It was my holier-than-thou snotty prima-donna signature. What? You don’t buy locally roasted coffee? What? You don’t grind it daily and then use a french press in order to taste the fullness of the beans? You buy (cough cough cough) Starbucks?

Doctor: I don’t think your surgery caused your sense of smell to change.

I wait to see if he offers a suggestion—some sort of explanation as to why my sense of smell changed. Nada. I’m ready to find a witch doctor.

Me: Oh…and I’ve lost about a third of my hair, and by the way, see these kinky ringlet curls? I’ve NEVER had curly hair before. Maybe a slight wave, but are you seeing these curls? Really? I have to use intense hairdressing just to keep the frizz down.

Doctor: That’s weird. Hmmm.

Me: And then there’s the nausea. I’ve been nauseous for two months now and I don’t have the equipment to be pregnant anymore. In fact, I’m not sure I’m actually qualified to be a woman since don’t have the equipment. Doctor—this nausea is wiping me out. I’m cranky and snippy. Please fix me. Please fix me.

Doctor: Hmmm. We’re going to get a blood and urine sample today. I want to check your thyroid levels.  I’m also going to schedule you for an upper GI.

Me: No.

Doctor: We need to figure out what’s going on. It could be your gall bladder or ulcers.

Me: I have no relationship with my gall bladder. It doesn’t bother me and I ignore it. I just want you to find out why I’m nauseous. I don’t want more tests. DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY DID TO ME IN AUGUST? HMMM? THEY STUCK FOUR DIFFERENT NEEDLES INTO MY NECK TO REACH MY DISCS IN ORDER TO SHOOT THEM FULL OF DYE? It was not a pleasant adventure. I really don’t want any more tests. Can’t you just give me a ballpark diagnosis?

Doctor: (He said nothing because he’d left the room).

So, this Thursday I have to have an upper GI. I get to drink some sort of chalky barium stuff to make everything glow when they take X-rays. Joy. I can see how this is going to go down. The doctor won’t be able to find anything conclusive, so he’ll schedule an endoscopy. Down the throat with a probe looking for problems. If that is inconclusive, I’ll be the one with my tush in the air while some twisted doctor probes my intestines with a scope.

Meanwhile, I’ll trim up my growing fuzzy facial hair, pluck the hair out of my ear, use my neck creme to prevent further gobbler growth, find t-shirts that have long enough short sleeves to cover the wobble, and learn to love this sagging, bagging body. Oi vey, Lord. Couldn’t you have made growing older a bit more—dignified?

Tomorrow I’m going to check into prices for coffins. I figure it’s time to find a cemetery plot. Shoot, I may have to go lay on a few vacancies until I find the one I like best. Under a tree would be good.

This is my submission for The Weekly Writing Challenge

A Stranger in a Strange Land

*This is response to the three photos by Marissa Othon. I realize her pictures are set in Panama, but I’ve never been to Panama and I have been to Washington State. I fell in love with it and so I’m transposing these photos (and adding one of my own) to Washington.

The mossy woods north of Seattle.
The mossy woods north of Seattle.

She liked looking at the boats. There was something so alien about them—nothing familiar to a landlocked Midwesterner. She imagined the fisherman’s life as hard and stinky and wet and cold—with more than a touch of danger. A few of them stared at her from their colorful boats as she walked slowly up and down their dock breathing in the fishy oxygen, trying to acclimate herself to a different sort of life. This was her home now and these were her new people; her first congregation.

Annie never pictured herself as a pastor. A teacher, maybe—but never a pastor. In her staunchly Baptist Midwestern family, men were the pastors. Women were great with children’s ministry and women’s studies, but not in the pulpit. And yet after she graduated with a teaching degree, she had felt an urge—almost a physical push to get her Master’s of Divinity. Now, three years later, she was going to pastor a small Methodist church in a tiny town about 30 miles north of Seattle. She had never been to the Pacific Northwest, so she was trying to soak in everything she could. She’d taken a ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor and then did some island hopping, loving the way the islands rose out of the ocean like large green eggs. She even saw some whales—just the top of them and a few “spoutings”—but miraculous. Even Anacortes was enlightening. There was this sort of hardware store for boats. Its windows were dusty and filled with old lights, oars, nets—all the strange accouterments of boats made to cut through the ocean. She found a pair of rubber boots in bright yellow and laid claim to them. She felt a bit more like a native wearing the bright boots until she realized that everyone else wore the dark red or dingy orange. She exchanged them for the dark red—she didn’t want to stand out as an outsider. She longed to be native—to belong to this forested and magical place where mist hugged the ground and deep green moss grew with impunity. She’d already found a few trails near the parsonage where she was expected to live. She liked to wander, but sometimes grew afraid. The forest was so tightly woven and secretive. There was a fallen log covered in moss that covered one part of the trail behind her new place. She hiked just that far and then sat and listened. So many sounds and so much creeping and growing vegetation. Fertile. The land seemed rich and fertile.

Her new church hunkered down on a blue-green hill covered with what Annie now knew were Red Alder, Western Hemlock, and fragrant Douglas Fir. She’d immediately bought a guide to the trees and vegetation of her new home. As she wandered the trails, she tried to identify the different types of trees. Another way of laying claim to this new place—the naming of things. The church itself was a dingy white clapboard with a steeple and bell tower complete with bell. And like the English churches of the 19th century, it even had a cemetery attached to the west side filled with the ghosts of fishermen past. Mist-covered for the last three mornings in a row, the parsonage hung back a ways—another dingy clapboard. Five rooms. Eight hundred square feet. It needed some work. Paint primarily. Maybe a few new fixtures. Definitely a new toilet and some more furniture. Her graduate school, garage sale decor didn’t fill up the space very well. She wondered if there was an Ikea in Seattle. She’d Google it later. The house’s one saving grace was the porch. It was big enough for a small table and chairs. (Another reason to find an Ikea!) Annie had sat on her steps for the last few mornings drinking her coffee and thinking about Luke.

First, a female pastor without a husband is asking for trouble–especially a female pastor not quite thirty. Somehow marriage had missed her in college and graduate school. It seemed to her that there were very few men that actually came marriage-ready. Lots of flitters and flirts. So after much coaxing and reassuring, Annie had ventured into the world of on-line romance. It was really hard for her—she was a very private person and throwing her photo out into cyberspace seemed a bit too irresponsible. Plus she felt extremely vulnerable, but her friends from graduate school insisted it was safe—you just had to be wary and careful.

It took her three friends two hours to dress her up, and “funkify” her cropped, dark brown hair with gooey paste. They then added some eyeliner and pale lipstick. She looked so different . . . not at all like a pastor. She wasn’t really comfortable with that look—Annie had convinced herself to avoid any sort of tight, possibly provocative clothing. She liked tights. Heavy, black tights under a loose-fitting pencil skirt. And boots. She had two pair of cowboy boots that she had worn in and now fit her feet perfectly.

The photography session began, and after several tries, Annie’s best friend Joy was finally satisfied. Thankfully, Joy was great with the computer and managed to get her profile up quickly. Then Joy, Debbie and Sydnie sipped some red wine with her while they waited for any responses. There was a few that first night–mostly middle-aged, balding men without a steady job. She passed. This was not going to work, so she didn’t check the computer until Joy came over a week later wanting an update.

Of course, there was more wine and more searching through her latest responses. They immediately tossed out about 20—they were kind of creepy and way too “hey baby.” But there was one—Luke. Luke Fewster from Seattle. A fisherman. His profile said he was 31, divorced five years earlier, no kids, a boat of his own called “Lois Jean” named after his mother. He liked to read, hike, and bike, go salmon fishing (of course—Washington, duh.), kayak—basically do all of the things that Annie rarely did, except for reading, biking, and hiking. Short hiking. More like a jaunt then a hike. She’d only been fishing a couple of times out on her grandfather’s pond. Not her favorite activity. The thing about Luke that pulled her in was his love for Jesus. Luke was kind of a radical, long-haired (blond) Jesus follower who was big on social justice issues. He led a group called “Fishers of Men” that worked with the poor, helped the other fisherman out when needed, and mentored at-risk kids in the local schools. Joy immediately pooh-poohed him saying, “This guy is all machismo and not looking for a wife…plus, what would you do in Washington? That’s ages away from here. And you can’t know if this guy is for real—he sounds too good. He’s lying.” And Annie had agreed for the moment. But as soon as Joy left, she’d pulled up the website, found Luke’s profile, enlarged it and stared at his eyes trying to see if she could tell what type of man he really was.  Sort of convinced (the brown eyes did it), she sent him a message. “Hi, I’m Annie. I thought your profile was interesting. Love Like to get to know you better.” Simple. Should she be perkier? Add some humor? Should she change “interesting” to “intriguing”? No. Intriguing implied mysterious which definitely implied a sort of sexual intrigue. Nope. She stuck with “interesting.” She stared at her message for a couple of hours, getting up and doing some laundry and cleaning the kitchen. Finally she realized that if she didn’t at least try, she’d never know. So she sent it.

And now, four months and hundreds of emails and phone calls later, she was actually in Washington . . . with a job . . . with a future that both scared and excited her. She could not believe it when the school had suggested her for the job. It was so far from her comfort zone. She’d thought Missouri or Kansas. Maybe Colorado. Never Washington. Washington was like another country. But within a matter of months, she’d visited the church, flown back to Texas, been asked to take the church and here she was—in the middle of a green-blue forest in a tiny house that overlooked a worn out church and mist-covered graveyard.

And of course there was Luke. Luke who lived just 30 miles away. Crazy.

She thought about meeting him in person for the first time as she wandered through the town’s harbor, peeking in the fresh fish booths and trying not to breathe too deeply. A few townspeople said “hi” to her. A bunch didn’t. She was already missing the Midwestern friendliness. These folks seemed wary, and she obviously was a fish out of water. Ha! She’d never been on the ocean until she’d taken the ferry from Anacortes. Today she was wearing her shorts, dark red boots and an OSU t-shirt, but she obviously didn’t blend in. The boots weren’t doing it for her.

Still she needed dinner. Luke was coming for dinner, so she needed what else, fish. And she needed to get to know these fishermen and women. One booth towards the middle seemed less crowded than the others, so she walked in and looked over the catch as if it was normal for her. She had to turn away from the slimy looking squid or octopus or something with long tentacles. Nope. Annie was not up for anything squiddish. And no lobster. She didn’t even know how to open one. Oi vey. What was she doing here?

–Help you with something? Need a fish for dinner? These are fresh—right off my boat. He was dark, maybe Hispanic. He seemed to know she had no idea what she was doing.

–Yes, thanks, she stuttered. I’m afraid I don’t know much about what is easy to cook or how to cook it or what to serve it with . . . I’m new here. I’m the new pastor for First Methodist Church. (Wow, she thought. I really impressed him with my verbal prowess.)

–Well, I’ll be. We got us a woman pastor. That’s somethin’. I’m Charlie Mendez. This is my wife, Ginny. We’re glad to meet you.

Ginny was small, with dark eyes, narrow lips and a wide nose. Her gray curls snuck out from under a Seattle Seahawk ball cap.

–I’m Annie Sinclair. Glad to meet you both. I afraid I’m having a bit of culture shock. I’m from Oklahoma. Not much salmon and halibut fishing around there. No ocean—you know.

They laughed lightly with a friendly sort of rumble.

–We can help you pick out your dinner. It’ll probably be lunch for a couple a’ days, too. Here’s a little recipe paper. It’s got some ideas on it that Ginny wrote up. How about you just let us choose for you?

–Thanks so much. I’d appreciate that.

Annie watched as Ginny and Charlie picked out a salmon and then gutted it, filleted it and chunked it into good-sized portions.

–Now you take this home and follow one of them recipes and you’ll have you a fine dinner. Get some rice and vegetables down at the market and you’ll be set. Charlie handed her the white paper-wrapped salmon.

–Thanks again Ginny and Charlie. Do you come to the church? I mean . . . it’s ok if you don’t, I was just wondering.

–Well, it kinda depends on the week. Sometimes I have to go out on my boat even if it is a Sunday. But Ginny here usually takes the boys.

She looked at the dark eyes and narrow smile. I look forward to seeing you then, Ginny. Bye.

She glanced back and waved while they watched her walk out to the gravel street and over to a bike that was chained up against a lamppost in front of a hair salon.

–Hey there, Pastor Annie, Charlie yelled from across the street. You don’t have to lock up your bike—nobody here will take it.

He waved and then turned to some customers.

She put the salmon in her basket, pulled her backpack tight and headed back home. First I’ll figure out which recipe I’m going to try, then I’ll get out the rice and cut up the veggies . . . She sighed, all of sudden nervous with anticipation and fear. A silent prayer shot up to Heaven. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. What am I doing? He didn’t answer. Typical. Oh God, Oh God, Oh God! What am I going to wear? A dress? No—that’s trying too hard. Jeans and a sweater? It’s July—too hot for a sweater.” She looked down at her shorts and Oklahoma State t-shirt and now muddy red boots. Maybe that maxi dress…

She kept pedaling, adjusting gears for the small hills. It wasn’t a long ride—only about three miles. Most of it was fairly level and graveled. Not too bad. She looked around her as she pedaled; forgetting for a moment that she was preaching to a new congregation in three days and she was about to meet “the man.” Instead she noticed that the mist was coming in again. She loved it and she loved riding through it. Sort of like riding through a cloud. The forest looked magical in its blue-green haze, while the ocean kept up it’s murmuring roar as she sweated up the hill to the church. That hill was the hardest part. She hadn’t made it up all the way yet and she wasn’t going to make it today. She got off and starting pushing the bike the rest of the way up to the church. She took out her keys and went in. The stone floor was smooth and cool. She wandered up to her pulpit and stood behind it for a while, looking out at the empty dark wooden pews. The stained-glass windows were dark and she could hear the ocean outside as the tides shifted with the moon. It was 5:00. Time to start cooking. Time to see if the flesh and blood man lived up to the emails and phone calls. And would she live up to his expectations? Crap. Why did she let Joy talk her into this? Annie locked the door to the church and pushed her bike through the cemetery towards the parsonage.

Through the mist, she could see a grey pick-up sitting comfortably in her driveway. Then she saw the man sitting on her porch—one leg stretched out with a book in hand. She pushed more slowly unsure of what she wanted to do. Run back to the church? Hide behind a tombstone? Jump on the bike and ride back into town as fast as she could? Then he looked up and saw Annie on her bike and smiled. She saw how he moved when he stood. How he wasn’t as tall as she thought he’d be. How his hair was shorter now, just sitting on his shoulders. How his dark brown eyes creased when he smiled. How one front tooth sort of turned a bit toward the other. Just a bit though. He spoke as he moved to take her bike and push it towards the porch, and his voice was gentle and honest.

–Hi Annie! What do you have in the basket?

–Salmon. For supper. I’m not sure what to do with it. Charlie gave me some recipes.

–Charlie Mendez? She nodded. Charlie’s a good guy. And don’t worry—I’m an expert with salmon. I’ll show you how to cook it.

And just like that, Annie relaxed and smiled. Luke took her hand and they walked inside together.

This is my post for the Weekly Writing Challenge.