Prayer’s Unexpected Answers

I don’t know about you, but as a Christian, I’ve heard that God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we expect. Maybe that feels ambiguous at best to you. If so, I’d like to share a concrete glimpse of what that can look like from a moment in my life just last week.

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As many of you know, we have an eight year old who is on the spectrum. For those of you not sure what that means, it means that she was diagnosed with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Asperger’s; and that translates into a level of anxiety and rigidity that most of us are unfamiliar with in our day-to-day lives.

For my daughter, right now, it translates into compulsive behaviors and meltdowns resulting from an elusive search for perfect that does not exist on this side of heaven: lining her chair up just so at the dinner table, wearing only one pair of shorts because none of the others feel right to her, wiping her face and hands repeatedly to avoid being dirty.

She knows perfect is not possible, even so, she seeks it with a fierceness that is too often heartbreaking. Like last Wednesday.

Because a trip to the indoor play space on Monday had not gone as planned or hoped, we left shortly after we arrived. This also led to my sweet girl wanting to go back and try again, and, because that in itself was an incredible victory (because she didn’t write off the play place due to one bad experience), we decided to return on Wednesday.

As I got ready Wednesday morning, I prayed; I poured my heart out to God, as I’ve done so often, lifting my daughter up and asking God to go before us and make a way for us, especially for my daughter. I prayed for peace, I prayed for His presence, I prayed for calm and for a lessening of the anxious compulsive need for perfect.

DSC04430Even so, she sat on the floor amidst seven or eight inside out socks cast aside because they didn’t feel right and her eyes welled with tears, her face betraying her anxious doubts as guttural sobs filled the space between us, piercing my heart.

Really? I thought. This is how God is choosing to answer my prayers. Really?

Anger that bordered on rage coursed through me, in an effort to beat back my tears, and the pain of my mama heart. Just one day, I begged Him. Just one day without all of this.

But in spite of my best efforts to remain calm and to guide her and to coax her and to sort through socks with her, the perfect her brain demanded eluded us both.

And so, my youngest daughter and I set forth for the indoor play space, leaving my oldest at home with her father and her favorite video. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and we’d been pretty certain that the most people would be traveling or otherwise preparing for the Thursday holiday.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

There were more people – kids and parents and grandparents and babies (a real challenge for my eight year old because of their unpredictability and crying) – than I’d ever seen before in that small space. Standing there, just inside the doors, Truth rushed over me and through me along with the deafening crush of noise: God had answered my prayers.

God had answered my prayers. But not in the way I was planning, expecting or hoping.

He’d made a way for us. He’d made a way for my daughter to avoid the very things that would have caused increased anxiety and deep disappointment. Instead, she was at home, enjoying a favorite video, loved on by her daddy and her sister got some much-needed time away from her sister and some one-on-one time with me.

It can be tempting to want to step into the place that God has and to answer our prayers our way. I was working diligently to manipulate the circumstances, and God, to get my eight year old out the door for a fun day at the play place. But God knew better.

And this time, He showed me with amazing clarity exactly what that looked like.

Just one day, I’d begged Him. Just one day without all of this.

That is exactly what He gave us. That, and the reminder that my life is always better when it’s in His hands.

Stormy Faith

Here’s what I know:

I don’t know what’s going to happen with this move that is right now set to happen between Tuesday and Wednesday.

I don’t know where we are going to live because we haven’t found anyone who will rent to us due to our current circumstances.

I don’t know how there can be so many people praying for us and yet I know nothing about what happens next.

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Here’s what else I know:

I know God’s ways are not my ways nor are His thoughts my thoughts.

I know nothing is impossible for God.

I know God created the heavens and the earth and the oceans and he placed the stars in the sky.

I know God cares deeply for me and will never abandon or forsake me.

I know my faith does not depend on my feelings or my circumstances.

Even so.

Fear battles faith with every flaming arrow the enemy has in his quiver and doubt swirls like a storm only Jesus can quell as He did for His disciples on the Sea of Galilee.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:23-27

The storm is fierce and my faith is not only little, like the disciples, it is shaky at best.

Even so.

God is faithful even when He seems silent; and I will trust Him and I will wait on Him. I will say yes, even when He says wait a little longer. I will say yes, even if He says no.

Though every ounce of my limited, broken, bone-weary, and fear-filled humanity cries out, “No!” and, “I can’t!” and, “I won’t!” and, “Where are you?” and, “Why, God, why?!” I will trust Him. I will look back at the places from which I have come and recall the ways He has provided and that He has always met me where I am. I will remember His faithfulness.

I will say, “Yes.”

I will.

No matter what, I will say, “Yes.”

No Dishonor in Dishonor

My mother tells the story of when I was four and I worked and worked and worked at signing my name so that I could get a library card. That moment when the librarian handed me that blue card with the small metal etching in the corner and my name proudly scrawled on the back was the moment my world changed.

Not only could I now check out as many books as my four-year-old arms could carry, I had access to a great wide world of adventure and discovery. It was then that I fell in love with stories.

That is a love affair that continues still. I have been known to stay in my pajamas in bed all day on a Saturday with a new book while my husband graciously brings me food and drink until I’ve finished the whole thing. I have been guilty of navigating the streets of Boston with my nose in a book because it held me rapt in its unfolding story. I have been known to stay up into the wee hours because to put down a compelling, page-turning story was not a choice.

dishonor bookStories have the ability to change our lives, inspire us, encourage us and share with us deep truths. And none of this could be truer than in David Mike’s new book, Dishonor: One Soldier’s Journey From Desertion to Redemption, which releases August 30th. With incredible honesty and raw emotion, David chronicles a journey laced with drugs, deceit and desertion that leads eventually to him behind bars in Leavenworth prison.

But his journey doesn’t end there because his story is one of hope, redemption and, more importantly, freedom. Not only freedom from a physical prison, but from the prison of shame and of his past; freedom in Christ. For anyone who’s ever messed up – and, who hasn’t? – Dishonor is a beacon of hope that shows us life doesn’t have to end with our worst.

Equally as moving and perhaps even more powerful than his story is Mike’s candor and style in bringing us into the narrative. He writes as though he were the biographer of someone else’s life. He shines a bright light into the darkest corners of his life, where he pulls skeletons out of hidden closets, and pulls no punches, but writes with complete candor and absolute transparency.

David MikeIn other words, he leaves everything on the page; so much so we can almost smell the blood, sweat, and tears that comprise every word, every chapter. And the result is compelling. Though every word is true, the book reads like a fiction suspense thriller wherein the main character is on the run from the army and the law until at last he is captured, convicted and incarcerated.

But then, at last, there is forgiveness, grace, and freedom. His chains are broken and he is set free, truly free, from who he was.

Because like my favorite stories, what truly captivates me about this book is the redemption that unfolds around this humble protagonist, David Mike. He is the prodigal son who has tried to make his own way, but is welcomed home unconditionally by his father. He is Jean Valjean who has stolen the silver place settings but receives even more gifts rather than condemnation from the bishop. He is the thief on the cross beside Jesus who sees the Truth,  seeks forgiveness, and receives grace.

For the greater good of us, his reader, Mike bares his brokenness and provides us with wholeness. He allows us to see inside the cracks of his soul and glimpse not only what God can do but what a life lived with Jesus and grace can look like in this messy, messed up world.

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Faith on the Move

We’ve lived in this rental house for just about four years, and, the thing is, from about the first three months, I vehemently disliked it and began thinking about moving. It’s poorly insulated and an oil-fueled furnaced (which was expensive to fill and when it ran, because of the poor insulation, barely kept us warm enough without space heaters; the landlord has since had to replace the system), it had a leaky roof (that the landlord replaced), several windows whose cranks didn’t work, and a laundry list of other things, including an uneven gravel driveway upon which I broke my leg and no backyard in which our now 6.5 and 8.5 little girls could play.

imageThe location was not ideal for homeschooling because the co-ops were at least 45 minutes away and the autism-related therapists and other resources for our 8.5 daughter were a 45-50 minute drive each way. We felt isolated and my husband was driving an hour each way to work for the first two years we lived here.

We talked about moving. Often. Still we put it off. We made the best of things. Even so, it’s never been a good fit for us, for our family and what we desire, like community and fellowship and friendships. We knew this. In fact we were completely convicted of it, and, yet, we stayed put. Until now.

Sometimes, you know what you need to do, even what you should do; but you don’t do it. Maybe because of fear. Maybe because of lack of resources. Maybe because it’s too much work or too hard. Maybe, just maybe, because of shaky, wavering faith.

And, sometimes, in light of these things, if you are so wildly bold as to ask God to increase, strengthen or otherwise grow your faith, you may find yourself walking on water despite your every inclination to stay in the boat.

Because, sometimes, unlike Peter, who immediately stepped onto the waves at the invitation of Jesus, when Jesus bids us to join Him on the water, we choose to sit and stare out at Him. Maybe we’re hoping to work up the courage it requires. Maybe we’re waiting for the storm to subside. Maybe we’re hoping He’ll change His mind and not ask so much of us.

Yet all the while we know this is our moment. Even so, we sit idly in the boat.

And so sometimes, rather than waiting on you to climb out on your own, Jesus allows circumstances to swirl into chaos and life’s storms to grow fiercer until you’re tossed out of the boat and into the raging sea.

Faith Like Peter

Then, you have no choice but to make a choice: walk on the water like He’s been calling you to do, or sink under the weight of your fear and doubt and uncertainty.

For us, walking on water looks a whole lot like moving to Wilmington, North Carolina. The storming circumstances have demanded we walk on water or sink. Those circumstances include a job layoff for my husband and the unexpected sale of the rental house we’ve been in for four years. Moving is no longer something we can talk about or consider; it’s a reality.

Walk on water or sink.

We’re choosing to walk on water. We’re choosing to keep our eyes on Jesus in spite of the swells that surround us. We’re choosing to trust Him even when everything inside us screams with doubt, even panic. We’re choosing faith over fear.

WHAT FAITH LOOKS LIKE RIGHT NOW:

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We have stacks like this all around our dining room and in several other spots. We are living in chaos now even as we cling to the supernatural peace that passes human understanding (Philippians 4:7).

WHAT FAITH SOUNDS LIKE RIGHT NOW:

I have two playlists that are in constant rotation right now. The first, Life is Hard, includes songs that remind me to hope in the face of struggle, with titles like, Breathe by Johnny Diaz and Worn by Tenth Avenue North and Glorious Unfolding by Steven Curtis Chapman and several selections by Andrew Peterson and Sara Groves and Sidewalk Prophets.

The second, Balm for My Soul, includes several hymns covered by some of my favorite artists, including Sara Groves, Mark Schultz, Casting Crowns, Chris Rice, and Bart Millard. These songs are rich in tradition and hope and faith and they keep my eyes, my mind, and my heart turned toward Jesus.

WHAT FAITH FEELS LIKE RIGHT NOW:

Faith in the midst of a storm tends to feel like a hundred things at once. The “right now” moves through myriad emotions, but even so, one thing remains true through this roiling rollercoaster: faith is not based on how I feel in any given moment. Faith is a choice, and it’s one we sometimes have to make from moment to moment. And I believe God appreciates and understands and even honors that.

Faith feels like truth. It feels like solace. It feels like an adventure. It feels like a whole lot more God and less me. Faith feels like walking on waves that swell, crest and trough. But mostly, faith feels like the hand of Jesus reaching down to pull me back out of the depths whenever I misstep.

Prayer For The Weary

(note: The Faith Like Peter image is a print of my words on a gorgeous photo taken by a fellow writer, David Bouchard, during one of his mission trips to Brazil. This print, and the one above, Faith for the Weary (my words also over one of David’s photos), are for sale for $15 and you can contact me about them on Facebook. More information to come in a separate post.)

The Force of Faith

One by one, our friends and colleagues were called into managers’ offices and let go. The rumors of layoffs were no longer rumors and tensions and second guessing were running rampant as folks gathered in small groups to discuss who would stay and who would go.

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You’re safe. They’re not going to let you go. They need you.

These words were echoed by several of my co-workers as we waited to meet with our boss. Although there were two other paralegals and two law school interns, I’d been with the company the longest and Mike depended on my litigation experience.

Even so, when I sat across the desk from Mike, he said the words nobody expected me to hear: Judy, I have to let you go.

I smiled. I mean, how could I not? I’d talked about leaving this job to pursue writing and I didn’t really love being a litigation paralegal. After all, I’d left my job at a New Haven law firm three years earlier in order to attend graduate school in Boston to get my MFA in creative writing. I’d taken the in-house paralegal job at this engineering firm because Mike was super flexible with my class schedule and pretty easy to work with as well.

But this wasn’t where I wanted to be, so, when Mike said those words, I smiled. When he offered to fight for me to keep my position with the company, I smiled even wider, and shook my head. I appreciated his willingness to do so (it meant a lot to me), but what I knew about what was happening was God was at work, not the company.

God was pushing me out of Egypt because He’d heard my grumbling and listened to my prayers and He knew I wasn’t going to go without a well-meaning shove. Faith works that way in my life sometimes. I like to think of it as the force of faith.

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The force of faith is when I pray and I know what I probably need to do. Actually, I know without the probably what I need to do, but I hesitate. I cling to what I know and I stick around my Egypt a little bit longer and, then, I wander in the desert and grumble about God’s plan and yearn to return to the now-glorified memory of my Egypt.

Like the Israelites, when Moses showed up and led them from Egypt with promises of a land flowing with milk and honey, I longed for freedom in the promised land as long as it came with the constraints and safety of my comfortable Egypt. But we all know that’s not how life with God works; that’s not what living by faith looks like.

Thus, the force of faith.

Because sometimes faith looks like a layoff in order to set your feet upon the path that will lead you toward better things. And when we take that step (even if we are sometimes forced into that step), faith can propel us in ways we cannot know when we are standing still.

Quite often I reflect on the moment I was laid off and the journey it started for me. It was a journey that involved learning to say, yes, to God when God said, no, and when He said, go. I find myself thinking about that moment even more these days because it reminds me that God truly keeps His promises and He is who He tells me He is. That time in my life drew me into a deeply personal place with God and I still marvel at how He worked in me and my life; it was a time of deep abiding and it was a wild adventure, too.

And that is something I need to hold fast to in the days to come because God is at work again with another well-meaning push, only this time it involves leaving the rental home we’ve been meaning to leave for over a year now. But, moving is overwhelming and expensive and brings a host of unknowns.

Except God knows. God knows we need to go. God knows where we should go. God knows how we’re going to get there.

And He’s calling us to trust Him. He’s calling us to say, yes, when He says, go. I’m fairly certain there will also be some noes along the way, too. But my experience reminds me to trust Him without hesitation.

So, it isn’t all that surprising that the couple who came and looked at the property on Thursday last week had a contract to purchase the place by Friday and that we have to move by the end of August.

It wasn’t surprising, but still it was overwhelming. At least at first it was. It was until I remembered that day in Mike’s office and how God began yet another good work in me then, like He is now. Because now, I see it as another adventure in faith with God. And, so, we go. We go in faith. We go with God. We go with prayer.

We go…

Through the Forest

(I do a one-hour #WritingSprint each Friday and share those words here, fully unedited, with you. Yesterday, I logged 1,227 words during the sprint and then added a couple hundred more later in evening. Here is the result of those efforts.)

Just as Sophia scooped the last of her stew, Anrái returned, signaling to Luiseach to meet with him outside. “You made it seem as though you would be gone for quite some time,” Sophia said. “FaerieName has not even yet arrived.” At first, she smiled, but as she watched the silent exchange between Anrái and Luiseach, she sensed that something was amiss and she moved toward Anrái.

“The night has brought about some additional news,” Anrái told her, “and so we must address such things first. And for that, dear Sophia, I need a few moments alone with Luiseach outside.”

Luiseach touched Sophia’s face gently with her hand. “Warm yourself by the fire, dear one, for I will be but a few moments.”

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But Sophia could tell by their eyes that something was quite wrong and she wondered again what danger lurked in these woods. She waited several moments before moving to the window next to the front door. A brief flash of memory ran through her mind and she saw Anrái opening this same window to the summer sounds and stillness when once she visited him here in the woods. With care, she pushed the paned mosaic of colorful glass open enough so she could hear the exchange between Luiseach and Anrái. Though their voices were muffled slightly, she picked up their sense of urgency and concern as well as two names, Ulleam and Myrddin. At mention of the name Ulleam, Sophia slid the window open wider so that she might catch greater details of this man whose picture she had seen in the Book of Lore & Legends.

“He insists he is well enough to resume as Chief Guardian,” Anrái told Luiseach.

“He remains not yet fully healed,” she replied. “Have you instructed the guardians to keep him at my house until I return?”

“They are subject to his orders, not the other way around,” said Anrái.

“He knows not the strength Myrddin has gained since he left our world.”

“I believe he has such knowledge and has at least once encountered the Dark One.”

“Indeed, but Myrddin could not have shown all his secrets else Ulleam would most certainly have perished already.” These words caused Sophia’s heart to race, though she knew not how she knew this man, Ulleam. She wondered, also, if she knew this Dark One, Myrddin, of whom they spoke in such hushed tones, as if he might hear their words. “We must protect Sophia from what is coming.”

Despite the fear these words stirred in Sophia’s heart, something inside of her compelled her to seek out Ulleam and she felt certain that if she followed her heart’s whispers, she would find him not far from where she was. She took the time to close the window before fixing the bed in the back room to appear as if she were resting beneath its carefully stitched quilts and then sneaking out the back door of Anrái’s cottage. She stood on the step in the dark tuning her ears to the night sounds, including the waning conversation between Luiseach and Anrái. If she were to reach Ulleam, she needed to move quickly, before Luiseach started home. With a deep breath, Sophia fixed the picture of Ulleam from the Book in her heart and her mind and set forth into the woods led by her heart’s truth.

The sense of danger was thick around her and she was almost certain she could feel it in the darkness that filled the space between the branches and leaves and flowers and crevices of the rocks beneath her feet. Even so, she moved forward with purpose and a growing sense of calm in her spirit, as if her feet and her heart knew where they were leading her. The rustle of leaves in the wind whispered caution to her senses and she left the worn path of the small village for the trees and brambles, again relying on unseen flashes of memory that she could almost feel with her fingertips as she felt her way through the night. To either side she saw cottages similar to Anrái’s and took comfort in the familiarity of them even as their locations spaced out as she moved deeper into the forest. At times, she was certain she was being followed, or at least watched, but she tuned into her heart and the picture of Ulleam she had fixed there.

She moves. Myrddin became deeply aware of Sophia’s movements in the woods and mirrored her movements even as he maintained enough distance that his presence was masked by her own. Unlike earlier, she moved with a clearer sense of purpose and confidence and he risked not alerting her to his desires by proximity to her. The shift of powers in the woods thrilled and concerned him; the Guardians were on the move, but it was Sophia herself that seemed to be emanating a power that had long since gone missing from Dearbháil. That it had returned instilled a desire unlike even Myrddin had known until now.

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Aware of shifting winds and whispers within the surrounding woods, Sophia paused in order to listen to her heart and to the darkness. The Dark One, she thought, surprising herself. What had earlier been an ambiguous sense of dread now came to her in murky images of a man, someone her memory seemed to recognize for having seen him once when she was a girl still living on the Isle and twirling about with Anrái in the meadow that separated her home from his. At that time, his shadow had loomed over the meadow, his presence seeming big enough to overshadow the moon and the flickering hue of Anrái’s faerie glow. Despite its dark danger, Sophia had been unafraid and danced and twirled and laughed, reaching out and touching Anrái’s aura and infusing it with a power Anrái had never experienced before. Her presence and Anrái’s transformed aura had been enough to banish the Dark One from the meadow and Sophia held fast to that moment to infuse herself with the courage necessary to continue toward Ulleam.

With a renewed energy, Sophia moved in the direction her heart led, feeling a strong pull through the night toward what seemed a lost part of herself, so much so that it caused her to smile at the knowing that she would see him soon and learn who he was. Her hands traced along the tips of branches and her feet treaded lightly over rocks and roots as her memory of these woods seemed to grow with each step closer to Ulleam she came. She stumbled only when she sensed a presence moving toward her from where she’d already come. For a moment she questioned herself, wondering whether she was leading the Dark One to Ulleam but guessed he knew already Ulleam’s location and it was her that he sought.

“Where are you?” The words whispered along the winds and Sophia stood, contemplating her options. Should she show herself? Should she fix her heart and mind upon Anrái so that he might find her here and the two of them once again could together overpower the Dark One?

“You are near.” This declaration caught her unaware and she turned in a slow circle seeking its origin, recognizing that it did not carry with it the sense of danger or foreboding with which she had become familiar since arriving on the Irish Isle and yet caution encircled her thoughts. Could the Dark One be such a cunning shape shifter as to cover his dark presence with concern for her whereabouts?

“Ah-ha!” These words penetrated her thoughts, her heart, and the circle of her courage, and she felt a familiar fear inch through her fingers and her skin, causing each to tremble and tingle. “Be not afraid, angel.”

At these words, Sophia’s fingers sought the pendant around her neck, the gift her father left her all those years ago that had given her such strength and courage through the trials of this lifetime. Does he call me angel, she wondered. How could he know those words and what they mean?

“It is I, angel. Do you not know me as once you did?”

Sophia stood in the midst of the silence unable to move as the presence attached to the words drew nearer and nearer still to where she was. Overhead, raindrops fell and tapped out an almost familiar melody and thunder rumbled in the distance, drawing Sophia’s focus to how close she must at last be to Luiseach’s dwelling and Ulleam. In her mind, the falling rain reminded her of her mother’s evening piano lullabies until she realized that it was not the rain but a voice, singing the notes of her childhood memory. Despite her uncertainty and the fear tingling beneath her skin, Sophia was drawn toward the source of the song, clinging to the hope it stirred within her.

“Papa.” Her heart and mind projected an image of him and with her eyes closed and her heart seeking him, her hands reached out as if she might touch him here amidst the trees. When her hand brushed the cloak of another beside her, Sophia’s eyes flew open and she stumbled backward.

Departing Dearbháil

Liam watched the boy move through the shadows and noted that his movements held the familiar grace of the faerie world he was leaving behind. The Book of Lore & Legends was tucked firmly in his pack and he wove his way through trees and thickets toward the sea where Luiseach would meet him and see him off on his departure from the Irish Isle. Like Liam had been years before, the boy was tasked with protecting the sacred magic from the Dark One. Of course, what none but Liam knew was part of the sacred magic remained here, on the Isle, and another part resided with someone known only to Liam. Despite its name and the history it held, the Book of Lore & Legends held little connection to the sacred magic now that those pages had been removed by Liam.

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As the boy neared the sea, Liam sensed the shifting darkness and willed the boy and Luiseach to move quickly through this final stage of the boy’s passage into the human world. For quite some time now, Liam had felt Myrddin, the Dark One, winding his way into Dearbháil seeking the ancient magic that had existed long before many of the faeries except for Dearbháil, Luiseach, and Ulleam (before he became Liam).

At last the boy stood upon the rocky shore and the cloaked figure of Luiseach approached from behind the dunes. Overhead the clouds closed in over the moon, leaving the sea and the forest edge in deeper darkness and Liam sensed the Dark One hidden too close by. The boy must have felt it also within the Book’s power, for his head looked to and fro as if in alarm and he clutched his sack closer to his chest, searching for escape.

“Luiseach,” the boy called to the approaching figure. She did not respond and Liam realized that the figure was not, in fact, Luiseach, but Myrddin himself. How had he known where the boy would be, Liam wondered.

“Run!” Liam shouted from the tree line. Liam, too, began to run, but unlike the boy who ran from the shore at Liam’s insistence, Liam ran toward it, and toward Myrddin. From the dunes, the boy watched the aura surrounding the cloaked figure shift and grow, a menacing darkness swirling around the figure and overtaking all that it touched with ink-black dense darkness until the boy could no longer see either figure on the beach.

“You must go now.” Luiseach appeared beside the boy from the surrounding darkness.

“Who is that on the beach?”

“Myrddin is seeking the magic. There is no time for anything but leaving now,” Luiseach told him.

“To where?”

“Ulleam did not say your destination in his instructions except for an address in Boston.”

“Boston,” the boy repeated.

“And, dear Anrái, your human name will be Henry, as close a connection to home that you will have aside from the Book,” said Luiseach.

“Henry,” he said, trying on the name.

“You will grow into it,” Luiseach assured him. “Now, you must go. And, remember, the Book’s portal to Dearbháil must only be used as a means to protect the sacred magic.”

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Henry nodded. Behind them, on the beach, the storm of darkness intensified until it exploded across the sky like a tempest. The sizzle of lightening in the sky gave Luiseach and Henry a brief glimpse of the two figures on the beach, and they could see that the one who had run down from the trees and was holding off the Dark One was weakening. Luiseach turned to the boy and anointed him with a tincture she pulled from within her cloak and chanted the ancient verses that would send Anrái into the human world to become Henry where he would protect the sacred magic. [Insert an Incantation later]

As Luiseach spoke the final word of the Incantation, thunder rumbled and lightening split the sky and Henry disappeared into the night. With haste, Luiseach cloaked herself in the essence of hyssop and lavender and flitted swiftly into the deep center of the forest of Dearbháil. Behind her, weak and worn, Liam lay half dead from his effort against Myrddin and yet he gave thanks that Myrddin left him in pursuit of the boy and Luiseach, neither of whom he knew Myrrdin would find. With great effort, he, too, covered himself against the night and made his way toward the town he’d left much too soon to hide himself from all those who still sought him.

Henry stood in the middle of the Public Gardens with only his pack and an address. He wondered again at the distance between Boston and the Irish Isle and how being here related at all to the sacred magic, but for the moment he sat enchanted by the misty essence of the pond, the weeping willows, and other looming and bending trees that stood like sentries along the pond’s edge. Henry had chosen one such weeping willow as his temporary haven from the human world. Hidden from the people who were walking with determined gaits through the garden, Henry stared at the address and wondered what he would discover there. For this night, however, he chose to bed down beneath the tender branches that stretched toward the ground and gave him a small sense of being at home in Dearbháil.

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“Hey!” Henry awoke to someone rocking him to and fro with a booted foot on his legs. “This is my spot so move on.” With a groan, Henry sat up and looked at the man whose face was now inches from his own. “Didja hear me, boy?” the man demanded.

“I did,” replied Henry.

“Then move on out,” the man said.

“If you’ll just help me out with something, I’ll certainly move from this spot.”

“I don’t owe you no help.”