Advent: The Path to Christmas

“Comfort, comfort my people,”
    says your God.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
    and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over
    for all her sins.”

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
    for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
    for our God!
Fill in the valleys,
    and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
    and smooth out the rough places.
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
    The Lord has spoken!”  Isaiah 40:1-5

Christmas treeComfort. Forgiveness. A path. The glory of the Lord. What an incredible invitation God offers us.

Advent begins a season of waiting and expectation and preparation and I find myself thinking about the Christmas story, God’s story about how He came into our messy world and our messy lives to invite us into something amazing. I don’t know about you, but every year December arrives and the days pass in breakneck speed and it seems I can barely catch my breath let alone prepare my heart for Christmas.

This year I refuse to repeat that pattern of hustle and bustle and running and racing around in an effort to create something special. This year, I choose to find the quiet of Christmas and to open my heart to the glory of the Lord and to bask in the joy that comes with the birth of Love. The amazing, unconditional, overflowing love demonstrated by a God who gave up His place in paradise to step into my messy life in this broken world.

This Christmas I choose to follow the path through the wilderness and through the wasteland. I choose to walk the filled-in valleys and the leveled hills, the straightened curves and the smoothes rough places. This Christmas I choose to find my part in the Story into which God invites us all.

This Christmas I choose to draw near to Mary during the visit from Gabriel and to listen to the words of her faith-filled prayer.

This Christmas I choose to marvel at the prophesies that foretold of a Savior’s birth.

This Christmas I choose to gather with the shepherds in the field when the angels sing of the glory of the Lord and to travel with them to Bethlehem.

This Christmas I choose to seek the star and the babe in the stable, snuggled in His mother’s arms and held in her love.

This Christmas I choose to prepare my heart and to draw near to the God who was Emmanuel and treasure that miracle in my heart.

There is a path that beckons us and a God who invites us and a Savior who welcomes us.

There is a Story that each of our stories is intricately connected to and this year I choose to seek and to discover the ways my story unfolds into God’s greater Story. Perhaps you’d like to join me and together we can weave our stories into the revelation of the glory of the Lord.

Day 20: Rewriting Destiny

my nano photo

A Note about NaNoWriMo: Despite the joy and the draw of this story, my writing efforts have been quite often derailed by life and motherhood. There is still perhaps an opportunity to complete the story, to reach 50,000 words and to meet this personal goal. However, no matter what happens in the pursuit of winning NaNoWriMo by finishing 50,000 words, Willow and Poppy have grown too dear to my writer’s heart for me not to follow them to the end of their adventure. And, so, here is more of there journey.

Greed and Power

Without hesitation she turned to the back of the book, seeking to see what illustrations were included in the way of the rest of her journey and was disappointed to find that there were no paintings in the final chapters of the book. She turned to the words, hoping that she would find something to which she could cling, something that would offer her some sense of what came next, but it was nothing more than the familiar story. But the story must hold some meaning, she thought.

“You cannot see what has not yet been written.” It was Judah’s voice from just outside the mouth of the cave where she sat.

“This book is about me?” said Willow.

“That book is about truth,” Judah told her. “It is about what is happening and as for what has yet to be, it is about principles and hope.”

“My mother,” she began.

“What you suspect is true, young Willow,” Judah replied.

“I do not understand,” Willow said.

“You do not yet understand,” said Judah. “But the time is coming when you will see what you cannot see in this moment.”

“Surely the Elders knew the true cause of my mother’s death,” said Willow, “and yet they said nothing. They did nothing.”

“Fear is not the only factor that motivates men,” Judah said. “There is also greed and power.”

And with those words, Judah left her.

Willow let the words, greed and power wander around inside her mind as she recalled the Elders who guided her village in its daily happenings, and she considered each one in light of the idea of greed and power. She wondered how greed and power influenced a group of men entrusted with the well-being of entire populations and their course in life and community.  What more power could they require, she wondered, but it did not take too long for her to consider the power that the angels of darkness offered such smaller, lesser men. Her mind’s eye pictured each of the men that she had grown up with in her village, each one participating in the festivals around the fire and sharing stories or those who gathered each year for the Ceremony of the Fates.

Her mother had been such a gentle spirit and had been adored by everyone in the villages, not just their own, but in all of the surrounding villages as well. How could the elders have allowed the angels of darkness to take her away for nothing more than her love of her daughter, her love of Willow. Willow’s breath caught in her throat as she considered the idea that she was in some way responsible for her mother’s death. Her mother’s face appeared inside her mind and she felt weepy with the loss of her mother’s gentle spirit and love. Her sadness turned quickly to anger as she considered her mother’s funeral, the outpouring of sadness from the village, including the Elders. She considered how the Elders dared to feign such sadness and loss though clearly some of them were a part of the conspiracy that resulted in her death.

She squeezed her eyes closed and drove the images from her mind. She had too much information that she still needed to review before morning. She turned to Poppy’s book Beyond the Legend and left her mother’s journal for another time, perhaps tomorrow morning or perhaps later. She could not bring herself to consider her mother’s warning, the secret message her mother had obviously painstakingly created within the pages of her journal and she wondered what the truth was. Was it Poppy or was it something else?

With tired and weary eyes, she picked up Poppy’s book and began to thumb through the pages, wondering where she fit in to its story. For a moment she considered waking her friend who knew the story of this book so much better than she, but decided that she would do well to read the pages herself, scanning through some of the detail to discover what she might about her role in this battle against the angels of darkness. She could not recall any part of the story in the book that involved angels of darkness and hoped that her efforts were not a waste of time. She wondered briefly what her mother would tell her to do if she sat here beside Willow in this cave: would her time be better spent sleeping or reading?

With little else to go on but her instinct, Willow chose to read at least some of the book in hope of discovering at least some semblance of help for her journey. She held the book in her hands and decided to let it fall open where it may. With it open in her lap she peered down at the passage on the pages in her lap and began to read.

Kiera looked out over the horizon and steadied herself for the journey. Her mind swirled with too much information and she could not discern which of it to believe and so she chose to take all of it at its word. In the darkness she sought the speaker of Truth but she found him not and so she opted instead for whatever instinct she could muster in light of the challenges set before her. Despite the dire circumstances, young Kiera smiled and found that she uncovered a confidence that she had not expected and she stood boldly facing the darkness before her. Up until now she had traveled by the light of the day, but tonight, she steeled herself to head boldly into the night and to face down her doubts and fears.

Above her she saw the shadow of the beast as it flew back and forth above her in the light of the moon. It cast an ominous shadow and its presence caused Kiera to tremble, but she refused to be lowed into fear and doing nothing. She watched as the dragon-like figure circled above her and drew closer to the ground where she stood. Though she was sure that it could destroy her in a single breath of its fire, it did little but circle above her in the night, reflecting the light of stars that shimmered in the distance.

Kiera walked slowly and steadily, her hand poised upon her sword and her eyes upon the circling dragon of darkness.

Willow paused in her reading and looked to the sky, expecting to see a dark figure circling overhead and her breath caught when she saw a winged figure cast a shadow against the moon. For several moments she sat, holding her breath and watching the figure loop through the sky. She wondered how far away it was and if it knew she was bedded down in this cave. She squeezed her eyes shut and took a moment to picture things that gave her joy and when she opened her eyes once more she saw nothing above her in the sky. She turned her focus back to the book.

The eyes of the dragon glowed a fiery green against the darkness of the night and the moon gave its scales and its wings a luminescent shimmer. Kiera stood firm beneath its circling figure, her sword now ready in her hand. Behind her she heard the deep breathing of yet another darkened figure, but she dared not flinch. Instead she stood ready for either of the dark figures to draw near, her heart never missing a beat as she watched with her feet firmly planted and her courage steeled against whatever danger threatened.

Willow grew weary and found that she could read no further. She acquiesced that the book indeed told her tale as well as Kiera’s and she hunkered down into her blankets, her best friend barely a breath away and her thoughts circling far above with the angels and the stars. She stared into the heavens and sought the One who had called it all together, including herself and the angels of darkness. Certainly, she thought, the Ruler had ways of protecting those who sought to free the realm from darkness.

(Day 20 word count: 1150 for a total of 26,253/50,000)

A Faith Too Small


photo credit: fergus currie

photo credit: fergus currie

The other day I was spinning my wheels on Facebook, pretty much just scrolling through but not really seeing much of anything except that there are so many things I’m not doing compared to others. Have you ever had a day like that? A day where you feel like you are made for so much more but you can’t put your finger on what that is, and so you spend your time looking at what others are doing and what you’re not. A day where your dream feels small and your faith seems even smaller.

And then I read this from Jon Acuff:

Just because other bloggers blog a certain way, doesn’t mean you should.

Just because there’s a “right way” to write, doesn’t mean you should.

Just because peers dream one way, doesn’t mean you should.

We don’t need you to photocopy who someone else is and try to live out of that picture. We need your picture. The one that’s messy and doesn’t fit in and doesn’t make sense to anyone else but you.

We full up on other people trying to be other people.

We’re currently missing one you.

Be that.

And then I watched this video from Louie Giglio, How Great is Our God:

And I realized that my faith doesn’t just feel small, it is small. In fact, too often, it’s too small.

Too often it’s too small for me to dream big.

Too often it’s too small for me truly to trust God.

Too often it’s too small for me to be thankful in all circumstances.

Too often it’s too small and I forget that I am fearfully, wonderfully, uniquely made by the Creator who breathed the cosmos into being.

Too often it’s too small and I forget that I am unconditionally loved (and behave as if my actions determine my worth and the Creator’s love).

Too often it’s too small and I stand frozen in my Egypts rather than follow God into the desert and then into my Promised Lands.

Too often it’s too small that I live trapped in my worry and the fear that I will do nothing more than exist.

Too often it’s too small that I forget that this life that I’m living is not about me or my accomplishments or my goals or my list of things to do before I die. This life that I have been given, that was gifted to me by the God whose greatness I cannot even fathom, is so that I might know God and bring Him glory.

And that sounds really cool, but you know what? I have no idea what that means. I have no idea what it means to glorify God in my choices and my words and my actions and the daily life I lead.

But I am all too familiar with what it means to fritter away my time in search of meaning and purpose and acceptance and accolades and retweets and likes on social media. And the motivation behind that frittering is not what it may seem. It comes from a deep need to be accepted, to be connected, to be deemed worthy. And as I sat and watched the video by Louie Giglio and then another with a similar message, the Spirit of God cracked open the hardness of my heart and dripped its life into mine with a new understanding of the ancient Truth of God.

This understanding is not yet words as much as it is a deep conviction and leading that causes my heart to beat faster and chill bumps to inch across my skin and my breath to catch in my throat. As if this understanding of the ancient Truth of God is a glimpse of the Creator Himself breathing life into the stars, a glimpse of the Son of God sitting upon His throne in dazzling light, a glimpse of the Spirit moving through the world and the brokenness and calling wandering hearts to know the One who knows them by name.

He called my name today, like He has on so many other days when I have not heard Him or chosen to ignore Him.

He called my name today and today, I caught my breath and realized anew that God is too big for my faith to be too often too small.

Day 14: Rewriting Destiny

my nano photo

A Secret Message

Willow ran a hand over the front of her mother’s journal and she called to mind all that she had learned in just the few days on this journey. Something inside her told her that her mother’s words held an even deeper bit of truth than what she had come to know from Judah and the lores of the land. She could not quite define what it was inside of her but it had something of uncertainty to it, something of foreboding and she hesitated several more moments before diving into the words that were scrawled across the page in her mother’s writing. She decided to read the entries in reverse this time hoping that she might pick up on something she had not before.

Not more than three pages into her reading, she began to piece together a cryptic bit of information that stood out based on the way her mother had written certain words. She had not noticed it before and she carefully scrutinized each entry searching for the strange printing of certain words. From her rucksack she dug out a pencil and began writing the words down on a blank page in the back of the journal. Dear. Willow. There. Is. Danger.

Willow stopped reading and stopped writing and took several deep breaths as she realized that her mother had left her a coded letter. Although she was desperate to know its words, she found herself hesitating and fearful of what she would discover with each word from her mother’s journal entries.

“Willow, are you okay?” Poppy crouched beside her, looking into her friend’s eyes.

“Oh. Yes. No. I will be,” Willow told her. She did not want to tell Poppy of her discovery until she knew all of what her mother had hidden in this message to her.

“Shall I sit up with you?” asked Poppy.

“Thank you, my dear Poppy,” said Willow. “But that will not be necessary my friend.”

Poppy bedded down not too far from where Willow sat with the small torch that Galeal had affixed with a few rocks to allow Willow to read without holding the light over the book. She watched Poppy as she began to fade into sleep and into her world of dreams and she yearned to know what it was that Poppy held that threatened the angels of darkness that sought to stop both of them on this journey. When she was certain that Poppy had drifted deeply into her dreams, Willow continued putting her mother’s message to her together.

Dear. Willow. There. Is. Danger. Everywhere. Trust. Truth. Always. You. Cannot. Quit.

Willow felt the tears building and erupting from deep inside her chest and inching their way to her eyes. She had begun to consider her mother’s death in the last 24 hours and now she found herself considering it again. Considering it as not quite the natural death as it had first appeared. She saw her mother as a threat to the realm of darkness and the angels of darkness because she saw what they did not want anyone to see. She saw truth and she saw what people could do and what they were able to do. It was no wonder that her mother had never left on her own journey, Willow thought. Her mother’s destiny was too tightly tied to those who would walk with her on this journey.

She returned to her mother’s journal and wrote out t=more of the words.

Dear Willow, there is danger everywhere. Trust truth always. You cannot quit thought you may find the journey difficult. You travel alone, but you are not alone. Poppy holds the truth that you need. Always protect the truth.

Willow looked over at Poppy who slept peacefully not more than two feet away from her. What did Poppy know that Willow did not? And did Poppy know what she held that threatened the realm of darkness? Or was Poppy like Willow, ignorant to what she had been given and with what she had been entrusted. Willow shivered in the darkness, wondering whether she would indeed be able to protect her friend, protect the truth and do what she was called to do. Her eyes grew heavy and she longed for sleep, but she also longed to know again the story contained in the book, Beyond the Legend. She wondered if there were things within the words of the story that held meaning in a way like her mother’s journal entries. And she knew that if she did not at least take time with the book tonight, she would miss the opportunity for she knew that tomorrow the journey would begin in earnest.

With care she opened the cover of Poppy’s book and traced the words with her finger. How many times had she and Poppy read this book together since they were young girls, she wondered. Suddenly, she found herself wondering where the book had come from, who had given Poppy the books she treasured. With some trepidation, Willow turned the pages, studying each word on each page, wondering if they contained some kind of message that she was intended to decipher for this journey. Beside her Poppy stirred in her sleep and became restless, as if her dreams were vivid and causing her some uncertainty in sleep. Willow was not used to such things with Poppy for never had Poppy recounted dreams to Willow; it was always the other way around with Willow telling Poppy about the dreams that kept her running and hiding as she was pursued by unseen evils.

“I pledge that there be truth beneath the Rock of Balance,” Poppy mumbled in her sleep.

Willow wrote down her friend’s words in her mother’s journal and wondered about the Rock of Balance.

“Never quit,” Poppy said as she tossed and turned. “I shall never quit.”

Willow wrote this down also and then laid a hand on her friend’s forehead, shushing her as she did her younger siblings and as her mother had often done when she had bad dreams as a young girl. Poppy whimpered and fussed in her sleep and Willow considered waking her, but before she could decide, Poppy fell back into silence, leaving Willow to wonder what visions Poppy’s dreams held.

Willow turned back to Beyond the Legend turning pages and glancing at the words and the painted pictures that were so vivid and filled with energy and color. As she peered more closely at the picture on the page before her, she realized that she what she was seeing was familiar. It was of the small lake by which they were camped and it included the rocky crags of the surrounding mountains. Where had this book come from, Willow wondered. She turned each page, studying the words and seeking the ones with illustrations and painted pictures. As she made her way from the back to the front of the book, she saw that many of the illustrations in the beginning of the book were of the places she had traveled. She found the Bridge of the Angels and the meadow where she had seen all of the amazing wildflowers and the hillside that she had climbed with Poppy and the rocky area where she had met Sentiary. Her mind could not entirely grasp the meaning of what she was seeing within this book.

Without hesitation she turned to the back of the book, seeking to see what illustrations were included in the way of the rest of her journey and was disappointed to find that there were no paintings in the final chapters of the book. She turned to the words, hoping that she would find something to which she could cling, something that would offer her some sense of what came next, but it was nothing more than the familiar story. But the story must hold some meaning, she thought.

“You cannot see what has not yet been written.” It was Judah’s voice from just outside the mouth of the cave where she sat.

“This book is about me?” said Willow.

“That book is about truth,” Judah told her. “It is about what is happening and as for what has yet to be, it is about principles and hope.”

“My mother,” she began.

“What you suspect is true, young Willow,” Judah replied.

“I do not understand,” Willow said.

“You do not yet understand,” said Judah. “But the time is coming when you will see what you cannot see in this moment.”

“Surely the Elders knew the true cause of my mother’s death,” said Willow, “and yet they said nothing, did nothing.”

(Day 14 word count: 1438 for a total of 25,090/50,000)

Day 13: Rewriting Destiny

my nano photo

Galeal’s Pledge

The four gathered around the fire for a meal and Willow kept mainly silent, still trying to process all that Judah had shared with her on their walk around the lake. She had so many questions that circled through her mind, but she was unable to put them into words. She looked over the group: Poppy, the Teller of Tales and the Keeper of Truth who was in danger for reasons that Willow had yet to ascertain; Judah, the keeper of the Legend and the Advisor to the the Keeper of Truth and the Defender of Truth; and Galeal, the quiet but ever-present dwarf who had an understanding of much but spoke of little. And then there was Willow herself. She was not yet sure what she thought about her role in this journey or this destiny. And what of her mother?

Her mind continued to turn over question after question and she found that she wanted to draw away from the others, the others that she had yearned for only hours before she now wished to be apart from so that she could read through her mother’s journal and read through Poppy’s book, Beyond the Legend. She wondered what she would find there now that she had heard all of these things about the lore of the land and the part that she was supposed to play in it all. She looked about at the far side of the lake and up to the mountains, scanning all that surrounded her and wondering if there were eyes watching her in the darkness. As if sensing her apprehension, Judah spoke.

“There will be no need to worry tonight,” he said. “This night will be a night of rest for we are protected here. There will be no visits of angels of darkness to this place, young Willow, of that you can be assured.”

Willow spoke not, only nodded.

“Galeal has many with him to watch over all of us this night,” Judah told her.

Willow looked to Galeal who only nodded.

“Why do you put yourself in such danger for me?” Willow asked Galeal.

There was only silence among them except for the popping of the fire until at last Galeal spoke at some length.

My people have long been oppressed by many in the land. We have been perceived as wrong-doers and as a blight upon the land and yet all of this without cause. All of this only as the result of the angels of darkness who have sparked doubt and fear among the creatures of the land, aligning us upon the bottom tier as though we are but dross to be tossed away. Because of this we have trained to become warriors in our own right, wielders of swords and defenders of those who defend others. We have awaited the One so that we might assist her in her journey, though she travel alone.

Though you travel alone, young Willow, we are but a breath away so that we can provide as safe a passage as possible to the place of the throne and the inner space of the light that you seek to restore to the realm. We have awaited this journey and your destiny to restore not only the Ruler but us, to our rightful place among the creatures and people of the lands. And so, I do not see it as danger, young Warrior. I see it as honor and great privilege.

Willow stared at him for several moments as her mind processed his words and she came to understand the lies that had lived in the villages and in the stories of the Elders as truth and as history and that were not. They were but a shadow of the truth and she was ashamed to know that she had been afraid of Galeal and that she had wrongly disliked his presence simply because he was a dwarf.

“I owe you an apology,” Willow told him. “I have been so very wrong in my thoughts and my attitude about you and your people and I pray you can forgive me my ignorance, dear Galeal.”

Their eyes met and she saw that there was a glimmering of wetness around them and so she looked away until he spoke her name.

“Young Willow, you have done me no harm. I forgive you though there is nothing to forgive. I forgive you because you need to hear the words that I do, but you have done nothing more than believe the stories that were told to you as a young girl. That is why young Poppy is so very different and so very important. The words that she shares and the stories she holds and that she will tell will provide truth where before there was none.”

“Still, I thank you for your forgiveness and for your service. You do me an incredible honor. Please, tell your people that I am indebted to them for their protection.”

“Indeed, I will,” Galeal told her and bowed his head.

“If you all would excuse me,” Willow said, “I would like to sequester myself with my mother’s words and with Poppy’s book so that I might discover the understanding that I have missed up to this point.”

“As you wish,” Judah said. “Galeal will set up a small torch in the cave just off to the right so that you can read as you wish.”

Galeal rose from the group and headed into the cave where Willow would spend the night with all the materials she would need to read and to sleep. She was pretty sure she saw him carry a couple of small packets of food for her as well and she smiled to herself that he had come to know how much she enjoyed food just in the the past few days’ time.

“Poppy, you are welcome to join me, I hope you know that,” Willow said. “As long as you don’t mind my reading for many more hours tonight or perhaps rambling on with nonsense in my sleep.”

“I would have it no other way,” said Poppy. “Nor do I believe that I need an invitation to join my best friend on this night of coming back together.”

“Indeed not,” Willow said and the two hugged. “I will see you in time for sleep then.”

(Day 13 word count: 1061 for a total of 23,649/50,000)

Day 12: Rewriting Destiny

my nano photo

Your Time Is Come

“Ah, young Willow.” Judah stood and walked toward her. She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him for several moments before stepping back and looking up into his face.

“I was not sure I was going to want to see you again,” she said, “but indeed I am happy to see you and Galeal here. It has been an adventurous time without you.”

“You did well, young Willow,” Judah said. “And, after you and young Poppy have had time to catch up and share some bread together, we will talk more deeply about what faces you on this journey.”

She paused a moment before turning to join Poppy at the edge of the lake. “Though, I was never truly without you, was I?”

“Not entirely,” he told her. She nodded her head and went to meet Poppy, who was dipping her feet in the water as she waited.

“It is almost like a holiday,” Willow said to her, causing Poppy to laugh.

“If we do not take into account the attacks on you by the angels of darkness, I dare say we might consider this a holiday indeed.”

The two friends hugged tightly and Willow found that she had to hold her breath to keep from sobbing into her friend’s shoulder at the idea that they were united once more. Carefully, she pulled off her boots and put her weary feet into the water, gasping at the coldness of it and causing Poppy to laugh again.

“The shock wears off and the coolness becomes almost a balm,” Poppy said.

“How long have you been here?” Willow asked.

“Since yesterday afternoon. Judah and I were here and Galeal was back in the forest area watching over you and Sentiary.”

“You know his name?”

“Galeal learned it when he found him in the forest after the dark angel left him tied there. Galeal started him the fire and then awaited your arrival in the forest,” Willow told her.

“I guess we did not truly understand what we were planning when we first determined to rewrite our destinies and leave our villages,” Willow said. She stared at the incredible sight before her, the smooth surface of the lake that seemed to absorb the stillness from the sky and the mountains that surrounded it. The beauty was like nothing Willow had seen to this point in her life.

“I suppose not,” Poppy agreed. “What do you think about what you are expected to do?”

This time it was Willow who laughed. “Of that I am not certain. In the two times I have faced one such angel of darkness I have not felt prepared nor did I fare very well on either occasion.”

“Judah believes you have done well,” Poppy said.

“I look forward to my opportunity to speak with him when at last he is ready and we have had time to talk,” said Willow.

“And to eat,” Poppy added.

“Indeed!” Willow pulled the food packets that Sentiary had given her before they parted company earlier. “Have you had these berries, yet, Poppy?”

Poppy’s eyes grew wide at the sight and she smiled. “I have not. May I?”

“Of course.”

The two shared the collection of berries until they were gone and then they moved on to the grilled meat and green vegetable that Galeal had provided for breakfast, it’s flavor remaining as rich and succulent upon Willow’s tongue as every meal that Galeal had made and shared with her. She was amazed at what he was able to do out here in the land, catching and preparing food that would be fit for a feast back in the village.

“Sentiary told me that I must make this journey alone,” Willow said. “Does that mean that Galeal and Judah will no longer make the journey with us? After all, it was Judah himself who told me that once we left the villages we could never return and that once we departed from him we would see him no longer.”

“He has not spoken of the journey that takes place from this point,” Poppy said.

“Has he told you why you must be protected?”

“He has offered me some of what he knows, but he has requested that I not share that with you until after you and he have talked about the journey and your role in it,” Poppy said.

“Was it mentioned when we were atop the hillside? Or was it referenced to you the night at the bridge?” Willow asked.

“A little each time.”

“How did you know where to leave the book where I would find it?”

“It was not I who left it,” Poppy told her. “Judah requested that specific book and Galeal was charged with making certain that it ended up with you for your journey.”

“A curious choice Judah chose, Beyond the Legend,” Willow said.

“Perhaps you will find it less so after you speak with him,” Poppy said, and she nodded toward where Judah approached.

“Young Willow, let us take a stroll around the water that we may discuss your journey and your destiny,” said Judah. “Your time is come.”

“I have so many questions,” Willow began.

“And we will address them within our time, but allow me first to begin with a time before you and Poppy and even before me,” Judah told her. He walked slowly and spoke with no haste, his eyes looking out over the horizon as they made their way around the small lake. Willow found his words and his voice as mesmerizing as the scenery that surrounded them, and as he talked she became lost in the world he created for her with his words.

There have not always been angels of darkness in the land. Legend has it that long ago there was beauty and goodness and light throughout the land, but that one of the angels of light became tired of his role and wished for more; he wished to rule. There was but one Ruler over all the land and as the lore has told, the Ruler’s throne sits only one above all the others. It mattered not to this single angel that he was like all the angels and that none were like the Ruler. He wanted to be the Ruler even if it meant that he had to do battle with the Ruler. His only desire was the throne, the control, becoming Master of the land and of the angels.

There was much magic necessary to create all that the land holds, the waters, the trees, the mountains, the meadows. And the angels. The Ruler took great care in forming the angels of this entire realm and providing them knowledge and understanding of the ways of light and beauty and goodness and they were sent out into the land and made guardians of all that was there, eventually including all of the creatures who now make their home in the various places of these lands. But as the worlds expanded and the creatures gained greater favor with the Ruler, the one angel began to plot against all that was good and all that was light and all that was beautiful. Every painting of the sky with the sun, every dew drop that glistened in the evening gray, every rustling of every leaf that combined to create music and beauty drove this one angel into madness, seeking to undo all that the Ruler had done.

Although there were angels who protected the throne and the others who protected the source of all goodness and light, the one angel wormed his way into the confidences of angels who he convinced that they were not receiving as much of an audience with the Ruler as those angels who protected the throne and those that protected the source of goodness and light. As his words settled into the minds of these other angels, he began to gather them into his plan to steal the source of light and goodness and to take over the throne and oppose the Ruler.

When he had at last gathered as many angels to his thinking as he could he positioned himself with the power for which he longed and led these new enemies of the Ruler into an all out battle against the Ruler and his angels for the throne and the source of all that was created. Although the Ruler was a powerful force, his goodness was overcome when the one angel managed to make his way into the innermost space where the Source was kept under guard by the Ruler’s angels. According to legend, the one angel all but destroyed the angels assigned to protect the throne, the source and the Ruler.

Because of the deep magic of the land, the Ruler lives still, but he has been forced into battle with the one angel, now the Dark Angel and his angels of darkness, a battle that rages every day throughout the realm and throughout the land and its creatures. There remains beauty and goodness and light, but now there also exists fear and doubt and darkness. What the Dark Angel fears is the Defender of Truth, the  Warrior of Light, for the Warrior is the one who can restore the source and return the throne to the Ruler.

Here Judah paused in his story and stopped walking so that he could look at Willow. Willow took a few extra steps even though she knew he expected her to stop beside him but she was unable to focus through the tears that rimmed her eyes.

“Young Willow,” Judah said behind her, “You are the one and your time of destiny is come.”

Willow turned around and blinked away her tears and stared back at Judah. “What happens to all of this legend if I choose not to accept my destiny?”

“Your destiny is something that relies not on your acceptance of it, but on the choices that you make. It is your choices that have led you to this place for such a time as this, young Willow. You are not the legend, young Willow, you are…”

“Beyond the Legend,” Willow said, more to herself than to Judah, but he nodded, having seen the understanding seep into her eyes.

(Day 12 word count: 1709 for a total of 22,588/50,000)

Day 11: Rewriting Destiny

my nano photo

Together Again

“Perhaps you might show me the places to gather such berries as we travel together today,” Willow said after she’d finished all that he’s shared with her.

“Perhaps after your journey, we might spend some time collecting berries together,” Sentiary said.

“I would like that, too.” Willow began collecting her things so that they might set out on their way and noticed a pause in Sentiary’s preparations. “What is it?” she asked him.

“I am afraid, Girl Willow, that I cannot accompany you on your journey,” Sentiary told her.

“But, why not?”

“According to lore, the Defender must travel alone on this journey,” he explained.

“According to what lore? Defender of what? I do not understand what it is that you mean.” She sat down upon the log beside Sentiary and he took one of her hands gently in his and looked her into her eyes.

“Ah, dear Girl Willow, before we part company, I will offer you a small glimpse of what I know.” He went on to tell her that many of the creatures of the land had heard tell of the tales of the Defender, a warrior who would travel from a distant village, far beyond the hills and forests and meadows of this place to do battle against the angels of darkness. According to the lore that Sentiary had learned growing up, the Defender was a young girl who would travel with another, but that companion was part of what the young warrior must protect.

“Poppy? I am to protect Poppy from the angels of darkness?” Willow could not absorb what Sentiary was telling her. “But why?” Sentiary considered this question for a moment before responding, as if he had something was not quite certain how to tell her. “Please, Sentiary, I need to know what it is about Poppy that I must protect her from the dark angels.”

“She is a teller of truth. She holds stories and history and her truths and stories threaten the realm of darkness. Like you, she is an important part of protecting all the land from the cunning and evil of the darkness,” he told her.

Willow sat thinking on these things without moving and almost without breathing. She and Poppy had not considered anything like this when they began their plans to rewrite their destinies a year ago. They were only now 16 and Willow could not imagine that two 16-year-old girls could do battle against the realm of darkness that she had heard tell of ever since she was a girl and that she had not believed in until this moment. Galeal’s words from the night before came back to her, She is safe for the moment. What was this once-simple journey transforming into this day even as Willow prepared to continue on. Was she indeed making her way to the realm of darkness and, if so, why had the Elders never once spoken of this journey to her.

“Girl Willow, are you okay, dear one?” Sentiary asked.

She offered him a smile though her eyes glistened with the tears of all she felt she was losing as a result of this journey to redefine who she was meant to be. “Thank you, Sentiary,” she said. “I am certain that I will be okay in a moment or two. I have never heard these tales until this day.”

Sentiary nodded with understanding and helped her to her feet. “There is much daylight and you should not waste its moment in the darkness of the forest,” he told her.

“Indeed I should not. Especially if I am to enter the realm of darkness soon then I shall revel in the beauty of the light and the warmth of the day and of the sun.”

He held out two small packets wrapped in tanned leather. “For the journey,” he said. She peeked inside and realized that he had saved his breakfast from Galeal for her and that he had included many more berries for her to enjoy as she trekked through the meadow into the rocky cliffs that lay ahead of her.

“Thank you, my dear Sentiary, for all you have given me,” she said, and kissed his cheek. He hugged her and wished her well, telling her not to fear.

“You will have the things you need when you need them,” he said.

“Words of Judah?” she said.

He smiled. “Indeed they are. But they are mine, too, because I believe in you, Girl Willow. Go with care.”

Willow made her way out of the forest with its darkness and chill and stood for several moments in the sun absorbing its glowing warmth through her skin and into her soul. The rather enjoyed the sense of energy that it provided her and she instinctively took hold of her mother’s necklace in her hand and wondered if this was what her mother had seen when she looked at Willow when she was a young girl. Was this why her mother had refused to leave and to embark on her own journey, because she had realized what her daughter would have to do one day? This thought made her want to sit and read through her mother’s words with this new information and see if they read differently to her than they had before, but she knew that she had not the time and that she must press onward.

She tucked the food from Sentiary into her bag and took out the journal for just a moment so that she could hold it and feel close to her mother and draw strength from her mother’s words and her mother’s belief in her. Finally, she looked ahead at the tall rocky faces that stretched toward the sky in the distance and began walking through the meadows, keeping close to the tree line on her left and drinking in the incredible beauty that shimmered around her in the meadow and in the sky and in the very air itself.

As she walked along, she remembered the days just after the Ceremony of the Fates, when she and her mother had walked alone for an afternoon, not speaking much to each other, but there was something about her mother that day, as if something weighed upon her mind and upon her heart, but she did not share her words with Willow. Instead, she held Willow’s hand in hers and led her into the surrounding cove of trees near the small stream that gurgled behind their village. When they were away from everyone, they sat and her mother turned to her and held her closely, whispering almost inaudibly in Willow’s ear. “When the time comes, dear Willow, you will know what to do. Trust in yourself and trust in the truth,” she’d said. “Always trust in the truth.”

At the time, her mother’s words had been confusing to her but she had not asked her mother to explain and she did not realize at that time that her mother was addressing what had happened at the Ceremony of the Fates and what would become this journey of destiny. How often had she replayed those words and wondered what her mother intended that day, and then, she was gone and Willow no longer had the opportunity to ask her for her understanding or explanation. For the first time she wondered about her mother’s death, how sudden it seemed, how surprising to so many because her mother and father were both young and healthy. The thought caused her to shudder in spite of the sun’s warmth upon her back and she stumbled slightly at what she was considering, falling forward to her knees. Had her mother actually been a victim of the angels of darkness? And, if so, how would she continue toward the danger that surely awaited her?

She felt a hand upon her back and jumped in a crawling motion away from the hand, fearing another encounter with one of the dark angels. But the voice that spoke was familiar.

“Willow,” Poppy said, “It’s me.” Poppy knelt beside her friend and Willow collapsed in Poppy’s arms shaking from a mixture of fear and relief and joy.

“Is it indeed you,” Willow said.

“It is,” Poppy replied.

“Where have you been? How are you? I have so much to tell you, oh, and I found your book.” Willow felt like she needed to tell her best friend everything that had happened in the last day and tell her far more quickly because she was afraid that time would require Poppy leave her again.

As if reading her mind, Poppy said, “We have time, dear Willow. There is a small lake just around this bend where the rocky crags begin where we can sit and have some food and we can talk about the journey that awaits us.”

“We will travel together then,” Willow said.

“From this point forward, we shall not be separated,” Poppy told her.

The two friends rose and clasped hands tightly as they headed toward the rocky crag of cliffs they would soon need to climb. But for this moment, Willow was content in knowing that she and Poppy would rest together and that they would talk and eat together and then they would proceed together. In the back of her mind, she did wonder about keeping Poppy safe, but she was determined that she would do whatever it took to do so and that it would be worth every effort if they were able to travel together.

(Day 11 word count: 1589 for a total of 20,878/50,000)